How many Loaded writers ended up in rehab? Why did it put Angelina Jolie’s dad in a murderous rage and why did throwing a dice lead a reporter to do heroin? Find the answers to these and many more fundamental questions below.
Issue one of Loaded in May 1994 promised to “cheer up Britain’s newsstands” in an ad campaign – because three weeks before launch Kurt Cobain shot himself. Much like the magazine, the ad was a fluke – the promo had been designed long before Cobain used a 20-gauge Remington shotgun on himself in his greenhouse. Loaded later featured one of Cobain’s final photoshoots, in which he posed with a handgun in his mouth.
The working title of Loaded was The Right Stuff as a tribute to gonzo journalist Tom Wolfe’s book of the same name about the space race. The magazine was eventually named after Primal Scream’s 1990 hit Loaded.
Gary Oldman smoking on the cover of the first issue was a photo based on an iconic 1964 shot of Michael Caine by photographer Brian Duffy.
Duffy’s image of Caine was recreated again on the October 1997 cover, which featured Kathy Burke ’avin a fag.
The publisher at IPC, the company backing the magazine, never thought it would sell. The day the first issues were shipped to newsagents he had a framed certificate put on his wall that read, ‘For the magazine launch most likely to cost you your job’. Colleagues called it ‘Folded’ before it was first delivered to newsstands.
By mid-1998 Loaded was selling almost 500,000 copies a month. Stars told writers during interviews if they weren’t busy being celebrities they would want to work at the magazine.
Loaded championed female writing from the start – one of the first regular columnists was Observer writer Barbara Ellen. Her column in issue one was about how she loved to get pissed and hit men.
By the December 1994 issue Loaded had passed the 100,000 sales mark. The December ’94 edition carried a revealing interview with now-convicted sex offender Stuart Hall. Jimmy Savile later popped up in Loaded for a 2,000-word interview at a hospital where he said he was helping out kids.
New Labour’s 1997 victory allowed Loaded to ride the wave of short-lived hope the win brought the country. The magazine marked the election by mocking up John Major and Tony Blair as Beavis And Butthead alongside the tagline, ‘Uh-huh huh-huh-huh, you said election’.
Vanity Fair included Loaded in its March 1997 Cool Britannia issue, gushing, ‘It’s a men’s magazine… but it differs from other men’s magazines in that it makes no attempt to seem cool or conform to anyone’s notion of journalistic propriety’.
Founding editor James Brown left the magazine in 1997 saying later he feared if he worked there any longer he would end up a drink and drug addict. Reporter Jon Wilde later told Brown, “I knew it was time to slow down and get out when I heard a discussion between other staff asking if there was enough heroin left for an office day trip to Brighton.”
During Euro ’96 England manager Terry Venables said he found it hard to get the players to stop reading it while he was trying to give team talks.
Two Loaded writers ended up in rehab. Another spent six months in a mental health institution. One was left brain-damaged after a motorcycle crash and, after getting £4million in compensation, needs 24-hour care for the rest of her life.
For a year writer Ben Marshall lived life writing Loaded’s Dice Man series. Based on the cult Luke Rhinehart book, Marshall handed control of his choices in life to a series of dice throws. Marshall went as far as doing heroin on the back of what the dice ‘told’ him.
Hunter S. Thompson got posted a copy of the magazine and agreed to work with it on the strength of the issue. John Lydon was another fan, and rang to tell staff, “It’s so good it should be banned.”
When Kylie was put on the cover, the staff thought her pictures spoke so loudly for themselves they couldn’t be bothered doing an interview.
Damon Albarn gave Loaded probably the greatest interview a musician has ever had with a magazine. He told how he dabbled in bisexuality, ate ladybirds, wanted to sleep with the Queen and had hygiene issues about cunnilingus.
The Loaded team once seriously discussed trying to find a reporter who would eat human flesh and report on the sensation in the form of a food review. One of the final issues saw Donal MacIntyre sent to investigate the phenomenon of Mexican drug gangs using cannibalism to intimidate rivals.
Questions were asked in Parliament about whether Loaded was corrupting the minds of men and a fertility clinic in Birmingham bizarrely blamed it for inspiring laziness in young men that it blamed on a drop in semen donations.
The magazine had an amazing run of shoots with the world’s most famous actresses. Cameron Diaz did her first and only topless magazine shoot with Loaded. Catherine Zeta-Jones also stripped in a hotel bathroom to chat about who she loved old Hollywood actors.
Angelina Jolie’s dad Jon Voight wanted to beat up a Loaded reporter when he saw him going into his daughter’s hotel room late at night, and mistook the hack for a drug dealer.
One of the magazine’s original staff Bill Borrows said he wanted to produce a final Loaded issue which would libel the richest celebrities, use photos from shoots they’d been barred from printing by publicists, have the price-tag of FREE and a cover picture of a stick of dynamite shoved up someone’s arse under the tagline ExpLoaded.