My Favo(u)rite Magazine: LIFE, November 1983
Earlier this year I was asked to contribute to a project called "My Favo(u)rite magazine" to help raise money for our dear friend and comrade Bob Newman who was seriously injured, and is now on the long road to recovery. At the time I was going through the last stages of cancer with Muggs, my 11 year old Boston Terrier and was unable to pull it together in time. About a month ago I realized I could still contribute by posting my own story about my favorite magazine on SPD in effect extending the story of Bob's continuing recovery. By pure coincidence my favorite magazine has quite a lot in common with a pretty significant anniversary happening this weekend.
The November issue of LIFE magazine is my favorite magazine ever because it was the magazine that started my love affair with this ephemeral craft. As a kid growing up in Boston, I was a tad obsessed with John F. Kennedy. I would harass my mother to bring me to the JFK library in Dorchester bay so I could stare at his rocking chair and ogle over a giant model of the PT109.
I was collecting anything I could about JFK: newspaper cartoons, stamps, coins etc. I remember finding this LIFE magazine issue at a convenience store and I had to have it. I pored over the pages for hours and weeks and months and years. They showcased spread after spread of pictures I had never seen before. Photos of the actual people who captured Lee Harvey Oswald in the theater, graphic images of the bloodstained shirt as well as the frames of the Zapruder film not widely seen before. There was even an exploded view of the moment Kennedy was shot, I couldn't believe how viscerally it hit me. All of it paced over a four day flow, recreating the events on a timeline that helped me understand what that weekend must have been like.
Then something else happened. After poring over the Kennedy spreads I got lost in spreads of cool hot bands like The Police, movie stars like Mariel Hemingway and fantastical stories of giant wind turbine farms. One image I'll always remember is the second to last spread of a man hanging by his ankle, dangling from a kite line high up in the air minutes before falling to his death.
I've held on to this magazine for 30 years now. It represents the moment I fell in love with magazines. I still look at the spreads with amazement and reflect on that moment in time.
A few years back, having been working in magazines for a while, I decided to look at the masthead to see who the Art Director was and to my surprise it turned out to be a designer who played a pivotal role in my development whom I had worked with at a number of publications including The Industry Standard, Forbes ASAP and WIRED. His name is Bob Ciano, he's still a great friend and an awesome creative. One day back in 2006 or so I met up with him and threw the magazine on the table and he just gave a little smile and said "oh God, where did you get that?" He was amused as I told him my story and he gave me some anecdotes about the issue. Details like the nurse who was in the emergency room at Parkland Hospital when Kennedy died, featured in one of the spreads pointing to her head in a representation of where she saw Kennedy missing a large portion of skull, died just two weeks after the issue ran. She had never given an interview about her experience. He talked about what a process it was getting a hold of the rifle, spent bullet casings, Kennedy's shirt and the Lincoln town car windshield to photograph. He remembered with excitement being able to get access to the national archives, a perk of working for an institution like LIFE magazine.
The November 1983 issue of LIfe magazine is my favorite magazine because it showed me a new world past the deep dive into the Kennedy story, it delighted my senses and broadened my horizons. What every magazine should do.