Village Voice 1969, FILM    |    Village Voice 1969, MUSIC    |    Village Voice 1969, THEATER    |    Village Voice 1969, MISCELLANEOUS



This collection of Village Voice came from our vault in Dixon Springs Tennessee. Much of what was found appeared in bad shape, but we salvaged an iconic and pivotal year; 1969. With thoughtful curation, we sorted the collection in  to four bite-sized categories; film, music, theater and miscellaneous. The front covers were omitted due to their poor condition (and not our sheer laziness).

Founded in 1955 by Norman Mailer, along with Dan Wolf (editor), publisher Edwin Fancher and John Wilcock, the Village Voice was only available downtownand cost 5 cents. The original logo was designed by Nell Blaine. Mailer eventually departed after about four months, citing creative differences in the direction of the paper.

The Voice boasted a formidable roster of names who contributed over the years; Jules Feiffer, Wayne Barrett, Jill Johnston, Michael Musto, Robert Christgau, Nat Hentoff, Ellen Willis, J. Hoberman, Amy Arbus, Andrew Sarris, Jonas Mekas and Jay Levin (future LA Weekly founder) to name just a few.

The Village Voice is a little New York journal which energetically does its iconoclastic push-ups, once a week, and sort of looks about, whee! at its audience, as if to say: Have you EVER seen anybody as irreverent as us-folks?

The editors do it all with considerable panache, and although readership is confined largely to adolescents who blush with the mischievous delight of seeing four-letter words in print, it also has a readership among bitter-end belletrists who enjoy the abandon of its criticisms, and Carthusian leftists who devour its dogmas even unto the fourth generation. William F. Buckley, 1968.

By 1970, circulation rose to about 140,000 and ran to 80 pages thick. Some of the early success was due to the end of the Herald-Tribune and two other dailies, leaving the New York Times, the Post and the Daily News to serve New York city. Of course, the Voice wasn't the only bohemian anti-establishment rag which appealed to students and longhairs - there were few other titles, albeit slightly rougher around the edges; Avatar, Scenes, The East Village Other (founded by former Voice co-founder John Wilcock and edited by Allan Katzman) and Rat.

The newspaper changed ownership in 1977 when Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch went on a purchasing spree. The ruthless magnate snapped up three major New York titles; the Village Voice, New York magazine and its California counterpart New West - all of which were run by Clay Felker. One problem pointed to New York Magazine Co. - the parent company of the Voice - which was losing money over expenses attributed to the startup costs of New West. Some put the figure at around $4 million.

Despite an array of new owners and staff changes, New West continued up until the mid-1980's. Among the notable staff were film critics Stephen Farber and Kenneth Turan. The publication lasted a little longer than New Times, which folded in 1978 (then owned by MCA).

Back in New York, Rupert Murdoch's publishing empire increased considerably since his acquisition of the New York Post - gobbled up from Dorothy Schiff for almost $30 million. And now Murdoch engineered a takeover battle with Felker, and the bitterly-contested powerplay between them played out in the Manhattan courts. Felker wasn't willing to have his titles abducted and fought to stop the impending takeover. He lost. The beleaguered Felker even enlisted help from British financier Sir James Goldsmith but was turned down.

Despite the rather humbling loss to Murdoch, Felker - who passed away in 2008 - remained busy. The former reporter for Life magazine was hired in 1980 by the Daily News, returned to Esquire magazine as president and joined Adweek as editorial director.

The Village Voice meanwhile endured its own carousel of ownership. The new buyer was Leonard Stern. The wealthy pet food mogul purchased the newspaper in 1985 from Murdoch at a reported cost of $55 million. Stern was worth close to a billion dollars, thanks in part to Hartz Mountain - the company his father Max began.

In addition to owning several real estate holdings - including the SoHo Grand Hotel (built in 1996), Stern's media empire included the Long Island Voice, the LA Weekly and various titles in Minneapolis, Seattle and Cleveland. In 1986, Stern toyed with the idea of emulating his flagship publication in Washington D.C., an idea that never materialized.

Stern put the papers up for sale in 1999 with a price tag of $200 million. Stern hoped his children would continue his media empire, but they pursued other avenues (his two sons were already more involved in his real estate holdings). Circulation at that time was around 250,000.

The paper nevertheless continued to surge and racked up impressive accolades along the way. In 1980, author Teresa Carpenter was awared a Pulitzer for her article on Dorothey Stratten, 'Death of a Playmate', Jules Feiffer was recognized with a Pulitzer in Editorial Cartooning in 1986, and Mark Schoofs won for his 1999 article 'AIDS: The Agony of Africa'. At the helm as editor-in-chief was Jonathan Z. Larsen. The former L.A. bureau reporter for Time Magazine and editor of the defunct New Times magazine was married to Jane Amsterdam, editor at the New York Post.

Larsen resigned in 1994 and Karen Durbin took over the reigns (where she was once hired as writer). It was a relatively short tenure; amid staff turmoil concerning Stern's decision in switching to free distribution, Durbin quit two years later. Next on board was former Newsday editor Donald Forst. Changes were rapid; Forst expanded the number of news pages and brought back the sports section (previously killed off by Durbin).

There were also changes to the staff lineup; cartoonist Jules Feiffer quit over a salary dispute and feminist humour columnist Cynthia Heimel, as well as Matt Groening and longtime music critic Robert Christgau all received their walking papers.

Forst resigned in 2006. His predecessor Karen Durbin joined Mirabella as freelance film critic and moved to Elle in 2000.

In 2005, the Voice was bought by Phoenix-based New Times Media - the nation's largest publisher of alternative newspapers. Ten years later, Denver-based Voice Media Group took over and moved the paper from Greenwich Village to the Financial District.

By 2017, the Voice disappeared from newsstands and went digital. One year later, after 63 years, the paper ceased operations altogether.


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