What Dutch Children bought in Secret
A while ago I heard a dirty rumor about Break Out!, the most popular Dutch teen magazine from the 90s with lots of nudity. Legions of Dutch teenagers furiously masturbated to it. Recently someone told me that the notorious spread “Love and Sex,” which contained a couple posing nude and talking frankly about their sex life, was fake. So we had a chat with the magazine’s former editor in chief Leo van Rooijen about it. Turns out the nude models weren’t normal Dutch adolescents, as was stated in the magazine, but poor Polish and Romanian teenagers, who were working as prostitutes near the border with Germany.
VICE: Why was Break Out! such a success?
LEO: The magic word is sex. Break Out! became famous because of its notorious spread “Love and Sex,” which contained two nude models who talked about such things as blow jobs. And of course the posters of celebrities. Break Out! always had a big poster of a boy band, and on the back of the poster a girl in really small pants…It was all a trick.
OK, let’s talk about "Love and Sex." How did you came up with that idea?
We stole the idea from the German magazine Bravo. Bravo became very successful thanks to the young nude models, so we copied that idea. They were quite a nasty magazine. Once they even had a minor posing nude. They were convicted for child porn. Now there’s a line even we wouldn’t cross.
How did you get away with that in the Netherlands?
It’s a long time ago, but….Well, I can tell you now. Most of the children of the "Love and Sex" spread were not Dutch, but Polish or Romanian. On the borders with Germany there were frontiers filled with young whores from poorer countries. Those whores were cheaper than whores from Germany. Every three months our photographer and stylist took a van and traveled for a period of five weeks to these frontiers to photograph the whores. For 100 Euro. Easy money, ‘cause they just needed to take their pants down. If you looked closely to the spread, you could see the models weren’t Dutch…
Yeah, I already heard something about that. Why didn’t you use Dutch people?
In the Netherlands is was impossible to find people who wanted to pose nude in our magazine. We occasionally had a lost girl who’d run away from home but that was it. The origin of the models was a best-kept secret. We didn’t talk about it, we’d never even mentioned it. And you know, everybody benefited. We needed nude children and they needed the easy money. And, of course, there was no way somebody could ever check it.
Did the publisher knew about the origins of the models?
Look, also for the publisher it was a win-win situation. We made millions.
I assume that the interviews with the models were fake?
We introduced the models as couples, but of course they weren’t. They probably met each other on the shoot. Those interviews always had a specific theme, like condoms, giving head…The editors wrote it partly, yes. There wasn’t anything they couldn’t write about, nothing was too much. But it always needed to have a different theme, because, you know, we also had an educational task.
Who were the editors?
We had many young people working. I was by far the oldest. Sophie Hilbrand [a famous Dutch presenter from public broadcast television--Ed.] also worked there.
Sophie, really? From public broadcast television? Did she wrote down the interviews of "Love and Sex"?
I can’t remember. I know that she interviewed boy bands…
What were the criteria for the nude models?
Well, actually only one: they needed to undress…ha ha. It didn’t matter if they were beautiful or ugly because the reader was also beautiful or ugly. Big dicks or breasts also didn’t matter, we needed to show the average body. Of course the models couldn’t look like they were 25. We probably once or twice had a model who was younger than 18. But never under 16!
How did Break Out! start?
The entire magazine was a ripoff of Bravo. We copied 80 percent of the formula. The introduction started off on a wrong foot. To introduce the first issue we’d launched an ad campaign; a semi-nude girl on a big poster throughout the city. We had permission of the mother (you need that if someone is underage ed.). What we didn’t know, was that her parents were divorced. In that case you need the permission of both parents, but her dad didn’t agree. He was furious that his daughter was semi-nude on big posters. We needed pay him a big amount of cash…
At least you're honest. A lot of people disliked Break Out!.
Yes, politicians even asked questions in the parliament. Some really thought of it as child pornography. But it wasn’t. Also a lot of angry parents complained that their 13-year-old children were reading this filthy magazine. We said that they should protect their own children, that it wasn’t our responsibility. Officially Break Out! was for 16- to 18-year-olds, but actually we targeted at 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls. That also was the trick, because hopefully 17-year-olds would already know how to kiss.
But that wasn’t what you communicated.
Look, the whole magazine was thought out very well. It was pure marketing. We sold a lot of separate magazines, but we almost had no subscriptions. Parents didn’t want their children to read it. So children bought it secretly.
Why did it stop?
Well, I left in 2000. Things were not looking so bright and the editorial work became a routine. And the times changed--the internet became very popular. Trends were also changing with sex. Nowadays you couldn’t make Break Out! for 13-year-old boys and girls. Now you should aim at 10-year-olds. Break Out! used to be ahead of the game, but you can’t stop the future. Due to the internet children already know everything about sex and it’s available – within seconds- whenever they want. To launch a new Break Out! would be very hard.
You have children yourself. Were they allowed to read Break Out!?
Luckily they were too small to read the magazine, but I can imagine that parents had a difficult time. Children and nudity are sensitive subjects. I guess parents are always prudish. But, you know, I was hired to make a successful magazine.
Last question. Who was the photographer?
Well, it wouldn’t be very nice of me to say that. He is now a respected photographer.