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IdleGuy Interview:
Wanting to know just what's up with idleguy.com, we went straight to the source and caught up with Fearless Rick, who touts his latest venture as "Playboy for the 21st century."

Rick Gagliano, as he's know to the world, is not exactly what one might expect in terms of a modern man's perspective. At home in his East Tennessee foothills enclave, Rick is a man who more or less keeps to himself, except when he's online, which happens to be most of the time.

His home is fairly modest, but sits on the side of a mountain overlooking one of the main tributaries of the Tennessee River. It's about as country as backwoods gets and Rick seems perfectly at home with wild turkeys, deer, and rabbits as he is with beautiful women, guitar pickers, or restaurateurs.

A man of diverse tastes, he was playing a recently-purchased vinyl Byrds Untitled album on a refurbished Magnavox stereo he claims was rescued from a nearby shack. Dressed in cargo shorts and a festive Hawaiian shirt, Rick welcomed us in and quickly got acquainted. Some of the furniture appeared to be lawn chairs and Rick escorted us out to the expansive deck overlooking a nicely manicured lawn, bushes and more trees than we've seen in a lifetime.

We settled into wrought iron chairs around the glass top table. Rick set out some beers and offered mixed drinks along with a plate of various cheeses, olives, Italian bread, summer sausage, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, and brie. He promised to treat us later to some chicken cacciatore, the smell of which emanated from the kitchen as it baked.

Rick Gagliano was born in Rochester, NY, the middle child of Nick and Molly, who moved from the city out to the suburb of Irondequoit when Rick was five years old. A product of fairly normal upbringing, Rick's father, Nick, was a prominent local attorney who provided for the wife and kids from a private practice. Molly was a capable stay-at-home mom, who managed the affairs of the house, kept track of the kids, and did all the cleaning, cooking, a good share of the disciplining and lots of sideline teaching. Such was the norm back in the 1960s in the single-earner household.

Educated in Catholic schools, Rick got his first taste of journalism when he and some classmates published a somewhat underground publication called the "Different Drummer." Involved in every aspect of the publication, from buying the paper on which it was printed to lining up the printer, to writing and editing stories and doing layouts, Rick and his pals eventually got in trouble for what the strict Christian Brothers of Ireland deemed considered subversive literature and the fledgling enterprise was shut down by authorities after just two issues.

Little did 16-year-old Rick realize it at the time, but he would face in his publishing career the same kind of controversy and battle against censorship as experienced in high school.

After dropping in and out of college at Syracuse University and the University of Rochester, Rick eventually entered the business world as an assistant manager of a Singer Sewing Center, a job he relished for its fast paced selling atmosphere and especially the clientele, which was nearly exclusively female and laced with young single women, the perfect situation for a 20-year-old on the make.

It was at Singer, under the tutelage of Al Rosenberg, whose motto was "nickel and dime your way to success," shorthand for taking a button or fabric buyer to the latest sewing machine and selling her on the spot, that Rick quickly became a salesman of high regard, consistently among the leaders in his district in volume and commissions.

The Singer position led to promotion, but eventually a distaste for the corporate world, as Rick claimed foul against upper management when he was deprived of a contest win by a cheating regional manager named Mr. Smeltzer, and subjected to the abuse of being moved from store to store after making his objections public.

Rick eventually quit the sewing business, moved back to Rochester, got into the real estate business for a year and eventually headed to the Big Apple, New York City, in 1977, where he learned the restaurant business as a bartender and waiter for a chain of eateries throughout Manhattan owned by National Restaurants.

Two years in the big city were enough for the young man and he headed back upstate to family and friends in Rochester, where he worked as a furniture stripper at his bother Nick's business, learned to make pizza, tended bar and took on a variety of short-lived jobs. Eventually, he borrowed some money from his father and opened a bookstore in the wrong part of town, and then entered the publishing business again, putting out a few issues of a tabloid called "Feature" until the business failed and Rick once again found himself unemployed.

It was in 1982 that destiny found its home. Working out of a small office in downtown Rochester, Rick began publishing a daily newsletter which he delivered for free to local merchants, making his way on dirt cheap advertising. After being threatened with a lawsuit by the Gannet company, owners of the morning "Democrat and Chronicle" and afternoon "Times Union" for calling his fledgling newsletter "What's Doing in Downtown Rochester", he changed the masthead to "Downtown, the Unbound Magazine", turned the 8 1/2 x 11single sheet into a weekly 12-to16 page tabloid, increased circulation from 1,000 to 5,000, and eventually to 16,000 as the enterprise grew by leaps and bounds. It was with what eventually became known as "Downtown Magazine" that Rick earned a reputation as an outspoken critic of government large and small, with a penchant for sensationalism, gimmicky, but always hard-nosed journalism with a smattering of features like Page 3 Girls, personal ads, unattributed odd quotes known as "Toast of the Town", sports coverage of local teams, and regular columns by lawyers, freelancers, and businesspeople.

In the Downtown Magazine years, Rick expanded to own his own print shop and web press in nearby Livonia, NY, publishing not just his own newspaper but the Livonia Gazette, Lima Recorder, Honeoye Falls Times and a few others, two of which he founded himself, the Genesseo Star and the Avon Comet. The whole business came crashing down after his journeyman press operator suffered a severe injury by getting a hand caught in the press, eventually resulting in the company's bankruptcy in 1987.

The years after that were something of a blur for Rick, defeated and depressed, he took jobs as a painter, carpenter helper, bartender and others, eventually moving to Maryland to escape the constant reminders of his failed success. There he tended bar at a country club and seafood place, worked in Baltimore's little Italy, but found his way back home to Rochester in 1999.

He took a liking to coding and the internet, seeing it as a way back into the publishing game and re-invented Downtown Magazine online, which is what he's done for now some 23 years, establishing the Collectible Magazine Back Issue Price Guide and doing sports and politics on various blogs, the most famous of them Money Daily, which has been published more or less continuously, every business day, since 2006, even through the death of both parents, a six-year legal struggle with banks over his father's estate, a number of moves, the last of which was out of the Empire State to the Volunteer State, in 2019.

That's where we found him. (IG is IdleGuy; FR is Fearless Rick)

IG: OK, you obviously like the publishing business and you've been somewhat successful at it. Why start something new, and why now.

FR: My online business is pretty well established despite not upgrading it for a long time until the past year or so, but I got involved selling Playboy magazines on eBay when I returned to Rochester in 1999 and have developed a good following. I kind of have a personal relationship with Playboy. I was born the same month, December, 1953, as Hugh Hefner put out the first issue, with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. It's a kind of destiny, or fate, for me to be his successor.

IG: You're 70? You don't look a day over 50.

FR: Actually, I'll turn 70 in December. I attribute my youthful appearance to heavy drinking, fascination with young women, and smoking cigarettes and other things since I was 15.

IG: I see you roll your own. Is that just tobacco in there?

FR: Yeah, I can't do the other stuff like I used to, and, by the way, I don't have any. It's still illegal in most states, you know, including here in Tennessee. And I don't drink until at least after 3:30. It's a habit I got into after getting too loaded before sunset too often. Now, I start late in the day and am a happy clam by eight or nine o'clock. I started rolling my own years ago when smokes started costing more than a couple bucks a pack. I even grew my own tobacco when the idiots in New York proposed raising the tax on loose tobacco to something ungodly, like $6 an ounce. The law never passed, but I raised some fine leaf tobacco, Virginia Bright Leaf and Kentucky Burly, as I recall.

IG: So, why "IdleGuy"? How did you come up with that name?

FR: Well, I was looking for a name that somewhat resembled Playboy. It needed to be one word, maybe two words, short, and to the point about what a 21st century men's magazine should be.

I have pages of notes on my computer with different ideas, everything from NipperBeau to Savor and LoungeLad. It drove me crazy until finally, one night, on my third or fourth vodka tonic, out of the blue, it hit me: IdleGuy. It wasn't exactly perfect, but it rolled off the tongue pretty well, expressed some of the concept, and I managed to make it one word. Plus, it was seven letters long, the same as Playboy, and here we are, about to make history.

IG: Interesting. What's the focus of this new enterprise?

continued on page 16

Playboy Back Issues
at Downtown Magazine


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