Writers for Soldier of Fortune magazine probably don't complain too much when editor/publisher Robert K. Brown monkeys with their stories. After all, how many editors keep a pair of Soviet assault rifles next to their desks?
Brown grabs the rifles to emphasize a point. "The anti-gun forces are fucking irrational, and their censorship is insidious," says Brown, his eyes hidden behind tinted glasses. "They lie, lie and lie about what a great threat assault weapons pose. It's an easy target, and what they're proposing is cosmetic bullshit. There's no difference between the guns produced before and after Clinton's ban on assault rifles.
"Here you've got the AK-47," Brown says, nodding to the worn rifle in his right hand. "And on my left you've got an AK-74. Now, the fucking anti-gun groups are screaming that the pistol grip on the AK-47 is what makes it dangerous, but can you tell the difference between the grip on it and the grip on the 74? There is none. And then they ban the bayonet stud on the AK-47. Why? I defy anyone to show me a report when anyone used a fucking rifle bayonet to commit a crime."
The 65-year-old Brown sets the rifles down amid several banana clips of ammunition, a shotgun and a couple of long knives. Why all the heavy artillery? Brown says he just got back from camping and hasn't bothered to take the guns home. (You probably wouldn't want to sneak up on his campsite unannounced.)
For 23 years Brown has been publishing SOF (monthly circulation near 250,000), a "pro-military, pro-strong U.S. defense, pro-police and pro-veteran" magazine that "opposes tyranny of all kind" and "supports the basic freedom of mankind." In furtherance of those goals, recent articles have included a guide to knife fighting, a look inside a Russian military training base and an on-the-scene report about the December '96 hostage rescue at the Japanese embassy in Peru ("fucking brilliant," according to Brown).
And all this from Boulder, that bastion of liberalism.
"You know," Brown says, as he pops two sticks of Big Red gum into his mouth, "SOF and Westword aren't that different. We both like to piss people off. We're on the same side of issues like government intrusion into private lives and the ever-increasing power of the federal government and law enforcement. I guess you could say we're part of the alternative press."
In fact, SOF might be the most alternative operation in the People's Republic of Boulder. "I've been in Boulder since Jesus was a pup," says Brown. "When I become governor, my first act will be to force legislation in Colorado so that everyone who showed up after me has to leave, because this place is getting too fucking crowded." He points across the table at his visitor. "That means you're fucked."
Brown kicks his sneaker-clad feet up on his desk and adjusts his two hearing aids (necessary after an explosive mishap years ago). "When I showed up here in 1953, I could ride my horse down 28th Street. It was a sleepy little college town, really quite boring. Now there's a new subdivision every time I come home from out of town.
"But for all the downside, like Rock Creek [subdivision], which is an abortion that makes me gag, Boulder is still all right. People always told me I'd have to move to L.A. to make this magazine successful. Why the fuck would I move to L.A.? I'm two hours from the best skiing and hunting in the U.S. And if it gets really bad, I've got eighty acres, which is my psychiatric release valve. That's why I'm still here."
Much to the chagrin of more than a few Boulderites. "SOF certainly doesn't fit into the 'liberal,' 'politically correct' ambience up here. But my attitude is, fuck 'em. I do my thing and they do theirs. In the Cold War we took a position not popular with local peace groups, and our work with the Salvadoran army caught us a lot of flak, but for the most part, it's worked out okay.
"But there is some stupid shit going on up here. My personal pet peeve is the fucking teahouse. The good citizens of Boulder have a sister city in Dushanbe [on the Soviet border]. It's a bunch of warm-fuzzy bullshit, but what they refused to acknowledge was the fact that this wonderful little city was home to a giant Soviet radar station. At any rate, Dushanbe decided to give fucking Boulder a hand-carved teahouse, and the city council tried to appropriate $800,000 to assemble the stupid piece of shit. I toyed with the idea of getting architectural plans for this thing and renovating it into a shelter for battered women or something useful instead of a place where the fucking yuppies can drink tea. The people up here are just not dealing with the real world."
But what Brown, a retired Green Beret colonel who fought in Vietnam, considers the real world probably differs from his neighbors' view of reality. His idea of a vacation is to head into a war zone. "I try to hit one Third World country a year," he says. "I like to go where the action is, and my idea of action isn't being on a fucking cruise ship with a bunch of purple-haired ladies."
He recalls a trip last year when he took a taxicab from Greece into Albania and got "extorted" by the driver. "I almost punched this guy out. He was trying to charge us $50 more than we agreed upon. I knew the guy had a pistol, because he showed it to me, but I figured I could get to him before he pulled it out. The thing that made me think twice was the fact that there were thirty people surrounding the car. I didn't know if they were the driver's friends, but I knew they definitely weren't mine."
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Brown talks wistfully about coming under sniper fire at the Sarajevo airport and dodging rockets in Africa, but perhaps the most treacherous spot he's visited recently is Hollywood. Jerry Bruckheimer, the producer famous for such action flicks as Top Gun and Crimson Tide, took SOF's mercenary theme and parlayed it into a weekly TV show, Soldier of Fortune, Inc., which airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on the UPN network. Brown has a videotape of the show rushed out to him from L.A. every week.
He gets up from behind his desk, which looks like he took it with him to war, and grabs the latest video and a couple of Budweisers from behind the wet bar in his office. After clearing away a nickel-plated .45 pistol and some bullets from in front of the forty-inch TV, he pops in the tape. Despite his knowledge about weapons of war, Brown can't operate the VCR and has to call upon his production director to get it going.
This week's show is about Libyan terrorists who blow up a commercial airliner. The Soldier of Fortune, Inc. cast goes out to even the score. Brown is clearly pleased with the program and even more so with a cameo he has playing a television reporter. "I'm not an expert on this Hollywood shit," he says, "but this show's got that 'big camera' look."
But when the final credits roll, Brown discovers that neither he nor his magazine gets a nod from the producers. "Fucking Hollywood," he mutters. "What a bunch of assholes. I'm going to have to give those bastards a call.