"Nudity never rests," shrugs Jim McBride, better known by his moniker, Mr. Skin. It is 11:15 a.m. on a Thursday in his office, and he has been talking nudity in film since his 6:15 phone-in appearance on a Des Moines morning radio show. He has just wrapped his weekly stint on the "Playboy Morning Show" on Sirius Radio, during which he parsed that week's top box-office hit for nakedness (Gabrielle Chapin as Girl on Top in "The Final Destination"), recommended recent DVD releases ("The Informers" has "off-the-charts" nudity) and addressed the latest nudity rumors (he is "cautiously optimistic" that Darren Aronofsky's upcoming "Black Swan" will feature a sex scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis).
Up next is a conference call with consultants weighing in on offers for radio syndication, or should we say, skindication.
It's just another day at the office for McBride, 46, and his indefatigable staff who have built a multimillion-dollar empire on the boobs, butts and other euphemisms of some 17,000 actresses, from Aaliyah to Zouzou, who have appeared on screen in the nude, and all of whose skinematic exploits have been meticulously clocked and chronicled on www.mrskin.com. According to McBride, Alyssa Milano reigns as the site's most searched actress.
MrSkin.com recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. To mark the occasion, McBride produced a roundup of the 100 best nude scenes of all time, complete with video commentary. In November, the second edition of his "Mr. Skin's Skincyclopedia: The A-to-Z Guide to Finding Your Favorite Actresses Naked," was published.
Call it naked ambition, but McBride and company are laying the groundwork to further expand the brand beyond the website, which costs $29.95 a month to subscribe and gets approximately 4 million unique visits each month. His five-year plan is to become a male lifestyle brand and media company, with corporate-integrated sponsorships, syndicated radio, a television presence and mobile phone content. He has already branched out into producing DVD bonus features for such releases as the 1980s teen sex comedy "Screwballs."
It's a love thing
Mr. Skin.com is a snark-free celebration of female thespian nudity. "There is never a discouraging word," he said. "Does this mean actresses like what we do? I can't say that, but if they looked into how we present our content and saw the love with which we present it, I think most of them would be cool with it."
Most cool with it, he said, are B-movie stars who know the value of exposure. He cited Debbie Rochon, a Troma Films veteran whose latest direct-to-DVD film is "Colours From the Dark," as a shining example. "She couldn't be more happy that she's on our website."
And Rochon appreciates it. "He has a huge fan base, so it's terrific publicity," she said in an e-mail. "In a world where graphic, crude nudity is rampant, I am proud to be sans clothing on Mr. Skin's site because he has a healthy and well-adjusted view on the important things. Both of them."
McBride employs 35 people in his offices in Chicago's hip Bucktown neighborhood. In addition to production facilities, there is a video library containing a treasure trove of thousands of DVDs and rare VHS screeners sent by companies eager for McBride to talk up their titles during his up to 22 radio appearances a week or to feature them on the site (its status as a movie news and review site generally trumps copyright concerns). The site includes the clips, a blog containing news and features, original video content and an annotated actress database.
The company's keen-eyed reviewers, on the lookout for so much as a "nip slip," go through upward of 45 DVDs a day. And just when they thought they were out, the enhanced picture quality of Blu-ray pulls them back in to revisit previously screened titles. Suffice to say that there is more to "Road House," "About Last Night . . .," and yes, "Basic Instinct," than met the eye in standard def. (Why not some male flesh? "It's not my personal area of expertise," McBride replies.)
The Mr. Skin offices are energized by some R-rated feng shwing. Adorning the walls are framed one-sheet posters of such nudity hall-of-fame treasures as "Bobby Jo and the Outlaw," which was the first film that McBride ever taped, when in 1980 his parents got cable and bought a Betamax player. "Lynda Carter, 'Wonder Woman,' had four nude scenes in the first 33 minutes," he said. "I wondered, if Lynda Carter did nude scenes before she was famous, who else had done them? I've been on a quest ever since."
McBride's Raymond Babbit facility for recalling Hollywood nude scenes quickly made him a popular radio talk-show guest. It was inevitable he would appear on Howard Stern's show. His first appearance in 2000 generated 750 sign-ups and crashed the website. Another milestone was the site's major mention in Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up" in 2007. Traffic jumped 35%.
McBride considers the entire Internet to be his competition. "There's 30,000 different spots to find free video or paparazzi pics," he said. "But this is a one-stop shop."
McBride is married with three children. His wife joined her husband recently on the Stern show and gamely answered questions about the couple's own sex life.
In his capacity as Mr. Skin, McBride has red-carpeted it at movie premieres and visited the Playboy Mansion, home to one of his heroes, Hugh Hefner, whose annual "Sex in the Cinema" issues of Playboy first inflamed his imagination as a wide-eyed youth. A Hefner bobblehead graces one of the shelves in his office. On this day, he will make an appearance at a rooftop party across from Wrigley Field. But, he says in all sincerity, "There's no bigger perk in the world than doing something that you love."