Las Vegas Weekly Covers: Cool Altweekly Design from Sin City

Las Vegas Weekly Covers: Cool Altweekly Design from Sin City Benjamen Purvis was the art director of alternative weekly Las Vegas Weekly from 2002-08. Confronted with a weekly cover budget averaging $250 and an extremely short production cycle, Purvis ended up doing a lot of the photography and illustration himself. He estimates that he photographed or illustrated over 225 covers during his stint at the Weekly. According to Purvis, "Covers were put together on the fly. I'd usually have two business days to execute them, and rarely got cover lines more than a few hours before the cover was due at the printer."

Las Vegas has three alt-weeklies, and its own unique culture. "I tried to do everything I could to make my covers stand out," says Purvis. "It was my hope to embrace regionalism, and mirror the spirit and history and mythology of Vegas whenever I could. There's more sin and skin on these covers than you'll see on a typical alt-weekly. We were trying to capture the 'what happens here, stays here' culture of Las Vegas, in as playful a way possible."

Purvis was laid off from the Weekly in October 2008 during a companywide downsizing. He's now the art director at Seattle Met, a monthly city magazine. We've collected some of his more memorable Las Vegas Weekly covers, along with some comments on how they were put together. Most of these covers were completely conceived, photographed, designed, and retouched by Purvis.

(Above): CineVegas 2003, June 12, 2003. Photograph by Benjamen Purvis.

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(Left): Vegoose, October 25, 2007. Illustration by Justin Wood. (Right): The Music Issue, April 26, 2007. Photograph by Benjamen Purvis.

Benjamen Purvis: Justin Wood is an illustrator I'd admired for years. His style seemed perfect for this The Day the Earth Stood Still concept for this music festival cover.

I was excited to put local punk hero Dirk Vermin on the cover, because I'd known about him since moving to Vegas as a teenager in 1994. It was my opportunity to take a stab at an Esquire-style type treatment. My concept was to make the cover look like the original art that would be reproduced on a photocopied flyer. Dirk wrote the word balloon in his own handwriting, and Angry Youth Comix creator Johnny Ryan drew those little Elvis impersonators that are scattered around the cover.

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(Left): Strip (Production) Shows, September 30, 2005. Photograph by Benjamen Purvis. (Right): CineVegas 2008, June 12, 2008. Illustration by Mark Thomas.

Benjamen Purvis: I didn't know much about Avenue Q, which had just premiered in Vegas, but I thought Lucy the Slut had the most potential for a Las Vegas Weekly cover. I used a Lil Kim CD cover as reference.

Because the company that owned Las Vegas Weekly also owned CineVegas, we had to do a cover for them once a year. I wanted this cover to look like a poster for the most extravagent B-move ever made, with zombies, UFOs and giant monsters, and complete with monochromatic "scenes" from the festival.

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The Centennial Issue: 100 and Still Hot, May 12, 2005. Photograph by Benjamen Purvis.

Benjamen Purvis: Vegas celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005, and I wanted to reference a historic photo for the cover of the Weekly anniversary issue. I chose one of the city's most iconic images: 1957's Miss Atomic Bomb. (Above-ground nuclear testing was a major public attraction during the 1950s, and hotels capitalized on the craze by hosting nuclear bomb watch parties, which usually including the naming of a chorus girl as Miss Atomic Bomb.) That desert landscape was just down the road from the apartment I was living in at the time, and not too far from Las Vegas Weekly's office.

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(Left): Jazz Hands, September 21, 2006. Photograph by Benjamen Purvis. (Right): The Dirtiest Story Ever Told, August 25, 2005. Photograph by Benjamen Purvis.

Benjamen Purvis: Mike Jones is an accomplished jazz musician, and the pianist for the Penn & Teller show. He has a reputation for having magical fingers. I decided to do a poor man's Platon shot, and asked Mike to stretch his arms out as far as they'd go.

Let me tell you what a good sport Penn Jillette is. Penn was promoting his new documentary about the dirtiest joke of all time, The Aristocrats. It was obvious that he needed to have a bar of soap in his mouth for the cover shot. Penn was joking and laughing about it until he realized we were going to use real soap.

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(Left): Warning: Curves Ahead, March 20, 2003. Photograph by Benjamen Purvis. (Right): Roller Grrrls, August 3, 2006. Photograph by Benjamen Purvis.

Benjamen Purvis: This, to me, is my first real "Las Vegas" cover--an homage to the classic Attack of the 50 Foot Woman poster. I shot a Weekly writer pretending to fall out of his car, photographed the model in front of her garage, added in the background, and then put a silhouette of her on the road curve sign.

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(Left): 50 Things You'd Damn Well Better Be Thankful For, November 24, 2005. Photo illustration by Benjamen Purvis. (Right): Fists of Fury, May 15, 2003.

Benjamen Purvis: A couple weeks before the Weekly's annual Things You'd Damn Well Better Be Thankful For cover story, Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman made national headlines when he said in a televised interview that anyone caught doing graffiti should lose their thumbs. I had a grinning headshot of the mayor I'd snapped at his office a year earlier, our editor had a pair of hedge clippers, and we used a co-worker as a body double.

I'd been wanting to try a boxing poster cover since I first started working for the Weekly, and I figured this profile of a UFC fighter was as good a time as any to try it.

Benjamen Purvis website here.

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  • Lauren S

    It's hard to say... Everything here has changed since Ben left. The magazine, the company who published it, the city. Ben's work was brilliant and synchronized with the growth and boom of Las Vegas. Those times are over for now. I worked adjacent to Ben for years and was also laid off. My favorite memory was of being in the next cubicle listening to him ask if it was possible to take the puppet's clothes off for the Avenue Q cover; still have a copy of that one, my favorite. I now art direct for "the competition," a new weekly magazine. What Ben left was a challenge to do good work, in a week, without simply knocking off the last month's cover of Esquire. Las Vegas is a city always trying to be bigger than its britches. Other cities and other "city magazines" don't compare. To put it on the cover every week means trying to blaze a new trail every week.

    -Lauren Stewart

  • Claibourn Hamilton

    Fantastic covers! Purvis' design aesthetic is a mirage of full on Pop Culture Banality. He uses the front of book positioning in a wonderfully, unconventional way. Is Las Vegas Weekly the same without his creative vision?


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