By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
Perfectly chiseled pecs just don’t pay the bills anymore.
After a hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDNY Foundation has decided to scrap its once wildly popular Calendar of Heroes, which highlighted the city’s hunky and hot first responders, the Daily News has learned.
The FDNY confirmed the calendar’s cancellation, claiming that the eye-popping pin-ups didn’t draw in the dollars it once did.
The decision comes as the FDNY strives to become more diverse and Laura Kavanagh was named the city’s first woman fire commissioner in the department’s 157-year history, but the Foundation says the decision was about dollars and cents, not ongoing global social changes.
“Unfortunately, the calendar was not a great fundraiser in recent years,” FDNY spokeswoman Amanda Farinacci said. “The sales, and therefore the money in brought in for the Foundation, declined significantly.”
The Foundation is a nonprofit organization that, while independent of the Fire Department, raises money for FDNY equipment and training.
“[The calendar] was always a fun project, but the Foundation is solely focused on fundraising to support fire and life safety education, and training for FDNY members,” the spokeswoman said.
Rank-and-file firefighters aren’t too upset with the calendar’s departure, said one FDNY official.
“We’re not weeping and gnashing our teeth that the calendar’s not coming out,” he said.
The calendar was the butt of a lot of jokes at neighborhood firehouses, the FDNY official said.
“We would always want to know when the tryouts were,” he said. “We’d send our heaviest guys down there and have them try to sign up.”
There was always a double standard about the saucy calendar, the official remembered.
“If you had a Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar in your locker, it would have to come down, but they never had a problem with this calendar being up in the firehouse,” he said.
First published in 2003, the $16 calendar was an FDNY mainstay for two decades and would generate between $150,000 to $250,000 a year for the Foundation, officials said.
The Foundation photographed its 2021 calendar, its last edition, before the city went into lockdown in March 2020. No attempt was made to put together a 2022 or 2023 calendar while the pandemic remained a threat and FDNY members responded to a massive surge of emergency calls.
“We had other things to do at the time,” another FDNY official joked.
Late last year, the Foundation decided to scuttle the project entirely.
Farinacci said there are no plans for a 2024 Calendar of Heroes to be published at this time, but left the door open for later years if interest in the calendar returns.
“If it does, we’ll be sure to get the word out,” she said.
The calendar was a major FDNY event. Each year more than 100 FDNY members would “try out” for a spot. Scores of hard-bodied bravest were then whittled down to a dozen lucky models.
The models were photographed at the beginning of the year — usually in front of FDNY equipment or city landmarks — and would take part in promotional events in Times Square in the spring where they signed autographs for smitten fans.
The Foundation suspended the calendar for four years after it was learned that it’s 2007 cover boy, Firefighter Michael Biserta had appeared nude in a steamy “Guys Gone Wild” video three years earlier.
After a decade of serving nothing but beefcake, the FDNY started putting women firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians in their calendars in 2014. Three years later the Foundation began offering two smoldering calendars: a men’s and a women’s edition.
In 2019, the Foundation decided to add animals into the mix and photograph the heartthrob hunks and heroines with animals adopted through the Animal Care Centers of NYC, but that backfired when Big Sexy, a feline model, got spooked and bolted from a lower Manhattan firehouse during a photo shoot.
Big Sexy was on the run for about two months before he was found in Staten Island and returned to his owner Leslie Silbert.
Silbert hoped the calendars, or at least the pin-ups, were continuing, at least online.
“Maybe on TikTok or Instagram? Making it more personal, with short videos instead of just stills?” Silbert asked. “Last month I shared a new Australian calendar online — foxy firefighters posing with different kinds of animals — and people swooned so hard for them. Including me!
“But there’s something nicer about doing said swooning for our local fire foxes,” she joked.
Without the calendar to prepare, the Foundation will be focused on its new fundraising event, the 1st Annual FDNY Foundation Climb to SUMMIT set for April 23, when people will raise money while racing up 1,100 feet to the top of the glass-enclosed SUMMIT One Vanderbilt in Midtown.
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