L.A. Magazine

It was said that by the late 1950s there was no specific Los Angeleles city magazine. That changed in 1958 with Myron Roberts. The college professor and former editor of the West Covina News and Manhattan Beach Tide began recruiting writers, essayists, and poets to contribute to his new creation, LA Magazine.

Along with staff writers Sasha Gilien, Lincoln Haynes, and Myron's wife Estelle (former journalism students at Los Angeles City College in the 1940s), the magazine's inception was a grassroots affair. Based out of the Roberts' Claremont living room -- and with $4,000 of pooled capital -- the new title with a satirical counterpoint put out the word they were seeking “effective style and original ideas rather than gimmicky, slick pieces.”

Talking to the Redondo Reflex in July 1958, Roberts explained, “We are looking for stories, articles, poems and essays of normal magazine length. The subject matter will vary, but we are naturally interested in material with a local theme or setting.”

Reviewing the first issue (with cover by Otis Art Institute alumn, Joseph Mugnaini), Los Angeles Times Book Editor Robert Kirsch wrote, “The writing is sharp and lucid, the design and format attractive.”

Despite being labeled “a bit literary and leftist”, Roberts and his wife Estelle would have been pleased knowing the first press run of 6,000 copies sold out (another 3,000 were published). The modest affair garnered the right attention when Roberts was honored for his outstanding achievement with a Pomona Valley Literary Award in 1959.

With difficulty increasing circulation and rising print costs, the city magazine widely read by Dixie frieds cats at Chez Paulette or the Unicorn ended its run after fourteen issues. Toward the end, Roberts experimented with dropping advertising altogether. The magazine's subscription list was sold to Harper's and the Southern California Prompter.

Founding editor Myron Roberts continued writing, became editor of the college quarterly, Pomona Today and taught English at Chaffey College. He also contributed articles to Los Angeles Magazine. His novel In a Nation of Strangers and Other Essays was published in 1965 - which included a few pieces from former LA Magazine writer, Sasha Gilien. The pair collaborated with Lincoln Haynes three years later for The Begatting of the President (Vulgate Press). The biting work of fiction was made into an album (“You may never hear it on the air... But you must listen to it!”). Released on Alan Livingston's independent label Mediarts, the LP was narrated by Orson Welles.

Gilien underwent a heart transplant in 1969 and passed away at the of 46 in 1971. Myron Roberts passed away in 1992.



Los Angeles Magazine

On the heels of two other city magazines folding; Fortnight and Script, came the Southern California Prompter (referred to by the cats as simply “Prompter”). Founded by David Ral Brown, the city-oriented publication changed its name in 1961 to “Los Angeles Magazine”. The early years were considered “starchy days”, and Brown admitted the magazine was “loyal without distinction, an awkward cross between New Yorker and Town & Country.”

After a wobbly start, the magazine was on its feet, fueled by a roster of notable names; Jim Murray, Charles Champlin (under the pseudonym Charles Davenport), Ray Bradbury, Jack Smith, and William Pereira. After a few years, founder David Brown sold a majority interest to Harry J. Volk, chairman of the board of Union Bank. He left in 1974 but returned to prepare the official guide to the Olympics in the 1980s.

The magazine's original publisher was Pacific West Publishing. They were snapped up by Community Health Corporation (CHC), a Baltimore nursing home company looking to expand its publishing division. Interest was also shown by former New York Magazine president Clay Felker, though his efforts were unsuccessful. Brown sold his interest in the magazine to CHC and Geoff Miller took the reins. A year later, CHC bought the privately held firm University Park Press as well as the religious record label, Sparrow Records.

After a failed buyout from McCall Publishing Company in 1976, CHC reached a deal with American Broadcasting Company (later Capital Cities), which purchased University Park Press in 1977. The media company also nabbed two other titles; American West and National Insurance Law Service (which seldom featured Suzanne Somers on its cover).

For the next few years, the magazine remained healthy, with some issues coming in at around 370 pages (put in today's terms, that's about a year's worth of LA Weekly). During this time, another title was looking to tap into the luxury Pacific Ocean demographic. Published by Perry Grayson, newcomer Angeles was confusing for some Westside readers (and a headache for Geoff Miller). Its sister publication was California, evolving from the ashes of New West in 1976.

Special mention to Lew Harris, who reined as editor in chief from 1989 to 1995 and wrote the introduction to the 30th anniversary edition in 1990.

Both Angeles and California folded in 1991. Back in Los Angeles, the masthead looked a little different. Founder Geoff Miller (replacing D. F. Delle Monache in 1989) left to pursue other ventures. Taking over was former VP of advertising for National Geographic, Joan McCraw. More change was around the corner.

The magazine recruited Robert Sam Anson. Hired to take over the troubled magazine (losing readership to newcomer Buzz), the pugnacious writer — known around the office as “Ebola Bob” — didn't waste time cleaning house; longtime film critic Rod Lurie packed his bags. Anson's attempt at making “Los Angeles” the Vanity Fair of the West saw the “broad-shouldered, bare-knuckled” writer out of a job. Taking over temporarily was future Buzz editor, Marilyn Bethany.

The permanent seat was taken by New Yorker, Michael Caruso — for the next 14 months at least. Despite being credited with a boost in circulation and the popular feature “L.A. to Z”, Caruso's tenure came to an end. And in the wake of Disney's $19-billion acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC in 1995 (which included control of Fairchild Publishing), McCraw made her exit. New names on the door included editor-in-chief, Spencer Beck, and publisher Liz Miller - formerly with W, Vogue, and Elle.

In 2000, Indiana-based Emmis Communication bought the magazine, installing former L.A. Times staff writer Kit Rachlis as editor. By 2009, Rachlis was replaced by Mary Melton. Eight years later, the media company focused on its radio division (which included the immensely popular Power106FM) and offloaded the magazine to Hour Media Group. In the process, Mary Melton and fellow staffer Amy Wallace were gone.

The magazine's roster changed one last time; former Radar founder Maer Roshan entered the picture in 2019 as the ninth editor-in-chief — a position he still holds.

Founder David Brown passed away in 1989 at the age of 62. Geoff Miller passed away in 2011.



Buzz Magazine

Founded by Allan Mayer, Susan Gates, and Eden Collinsworth, the glossy magazine with double-spaced text launched with Carrie Fisher on the cover in 1990. Admiring its tone and format, the L.A. Times called Buzz “the best journal yet on the local scene.”

But the magazine had a precarious start. Original investor Lawrence Ellison pulled out and Buzz folded after three issues. However, the “Talk of Los Angeles” returned when Thai media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul invested $4.5M. Two years later, Buzz acquired the troubled L.A. Style magazine from American Express (previously purchased from LA Weekly in 1988). It was reported that Los Angeles Magazine was also offered a deal to snap up LA Style but declined.

Ownership changed in 1998. After Limthongkul cut his losses, technology investor Sharon Chadha arrived with fresh capital. Despite a solid talent roster that included Hubert Selby Jr., Harlan Ellison, George Christy, Cheryl Crane, Catherine Seipp (as Margo Magee), and Sandra Tsing Loh, Buzz faced difficulties. The magazine that rarely turned profitable soon filed for bankruptcy (and declined an offer from troubled Detour magazine) and its assets were purchased by newsstand nemesis Los Angeles Magazine for around $5.3 million.

To make matters worse, Buzz had just won two “Maggie” awards from the Western Publications Association — one for best city magazine and another for best consumer publication.



Egg Magazine

A publication that could best be summed up as fleeting, was the Egg — described by Spy magazine as “targeted at a readership of free-spending urban insomniacs”.

Announced in mid-1989, the square-shaped title from Malcolm Forbes chronicled New York nightlife and launched in early 1990 (soon after the death of its wealthy publisher). Overseeing the magazine for nightcrawlers were Forbes' son Timothy and Hal Rubinstein as editor.

Talking about his latest creation, Forbes remarked, “Symbolically, the egg is the source of everything new.” The bard of business added, “Psychologically, you can never be sure what's inside an egg. You have to open it. It might be a Fabergé egg.”

Whatever protein lurked in the pages, the Egg was hoping to compete with Rolling Stone, L.A. Style, Spin, GQ, and Andy Warhol's Interview (which Forbes tried unsuccessfully to purchase for a reported $12M). With much fanfare, the newsstand nutrient launched with a circulation of approximately 40,000 and a robust amount of ad pages. One review called the premiere issue “A bit overcooked.”

Reporting on the magazine's hasty demise, the culinary quips in the press were put to good use: “Scrambled Egg”, “the cracking of the Egg” and “fried before it ever had a chance to soufflé”. Executives simply cited “the deteriorating economic climate” and the Egg spoiled within a year. Boston-based P.O.V. briefly revived the bi-coastal magazine in 1997.



Wigwag Magazine

In an era where opulence was considered out, soft-spoken Wigwag magazine arrived in late 1989 (following a test issue a year earlier). Designed to celebrate everyday life, Wigwas was the brainchild of former Yale Law School student Alexander Kaplen. Assisting were editor Nancy Holyoke and publisher Samuel Schulman (formerly with the New England Monthly). The magazine about “hometowns all across America” explained its editorial policy, saying the magazine won't “engage in celebrity worship, long-winded examinations of esoteric subjects, meanness for its own sake...”

Early reviews were positive. The Los Angeles Times Bob Sipchen wrote, “With a dollop of the New Yorker's sophistication, a dash of Spy's unpredictability and a spritz of water from Lake Wobegon, Wigwag wants to be, and may well be, the magazine that defines the 1990s.”

Despite critical acclaim, the publication suffered financial losses (one figure listed $3M), faced reluctant advertisers, and saw unwilling investors deal with their troubles. The magazine ceased publication in early 1991, joining a host of other titles which succumbed to the downturn in the economy; Seven Days, Taxi, Savvy Woman, Psychology Today and the Yale Review. Even two formidable favorites experienced hardship; National Lampoon had been losing money and readers, while E. Graydon Carter's Spy magazine sold a controlling interest to European investors.

Wigwag's managing editor Nancy Holyoke hit the 7-10 demographic with American Girl magazine in 1992. Co-founder Alexander E. Schulman was associated with a number of titles including In Character, Commentary Magazine, and The American. Alexander Kaplen moved on to charitable causes, notably with the New York Philharmonic, and passed away in 2015.



L.A. Style Magazine

Along with philanthropist and music manager Pete Kameron (co-founder of LA Weekly), editor and publisher Joie Davidow launched L.A. Style Magazine in 1985. The new magazine that celebrates Los Angeles, LA Weekly's sister publication was bestowed with five awards from the Western Publications Association in 1987, including Best City and Metropolitan Magazine.

The following year, American Express Publishing paid roughly $4M to purchase L.A. Style, which was added to their roster of titles, including Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, D Magazine and New York Woman — the last two folding in 1992 and 1993. With the sale complete, American Express looked to double circulation of L.A. Style, then sitting at 50,000.

After Davidow departed, Buzz magazine acquired the assets from American Express. The popular L.A. Style folded for good soon after. Founder Joie Davidow focued on the Latino market launching Sí Magazine in 1995. After the magazine folded, Davidow wrote several novels.

My thanks to Degen Pener for kindly donating some issues.





Honorable mentions

Exposure Magazine

Founded in 1986 by USC grad Henry M. Shea Jr., Exposure was a large format, bi-monthly magazine. Up for sale in 1989, Exposure was purchased by Fairchild Publishing but folded in 1990. Shea later published Shop Lift Magazine.

Detour Magazine

Started in 1987. Founded by Luis Barajas and Jim Turner, who met while both students at the Fashion Art Institute of Dallas. The duo later moved to Los Angeles. The large format magazine was heavy on fashion, entertainment and gay culture. The pair started Flaunt magazine in 1998.




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