Friday, April 16, 2004

25 George

Last week I had breakfast in my home town with friends from high school. Sylvia, now retired from nursing, is a church musician and Lynne works in magazine fulfillment. Lynne is also a cancer survivor, but recently participated in the Heart Walk in her area, and wore my name on her shirt. Her big heart also gave me the Inaugural Issue of George, October/November 1995, which I attempted to buy in 1995, but which was sold out.

According to the Editor's Letter, John Kennedy Jr. and his partner Michael Berman had attended a 2-day seminar called "Starting Your Own Magazine" and learned "you can successfully launch a magazine in just about anything except for religion and politics." But still they wanted to make politics accessible by covering it in an entertaining and compelling way, by making it a lifestyle magazine and defining politics broadly, and definitely outside the "beltway."

When it closed shop with the February/March 2001 issue, it was because it never really found its market, and was in financial trouble even before the tragic death of its founder in July 1999. Advertising pages had plummeted, dropping from 419 pages for January to November in 1999 to 251 for the same period in 2000, according to Folio. George actually did better than most start-ups, which have a failure rate of 50% in their first year, and 70% of those failures didn't even make it to the second issues.

Considering the age of this first issue, it does contain a very timely article: "Mother Teresa" by Stephen Rodrick, about Teresa Heinz' passion to change the world with her deceased husband's $675 million. Although mention is made of her marriage to Senator John Kerry in 1995, I believe the article was written and ready to go before that, because he gets little mention. What makes this article so interesting (and is completely confirmed in today's Wall Street Journal) is that it doesn't lionize her the way the Democrats do, nor demonize her the way some Republican pundits do. She comes across as a woman thoroughly changed by the tragedy of her husband's death, determined to bring his dreams to fruition, then making them her own.

The People section really brings home that almost a decade has passed--Bill Clinton playing the saxophone, Sonny Bono and wife Mary, Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, Tom Brokaw and Garry Trudeau, and so forth. Would we care today about Newt Gingrich's lesbian half-sister--but she got a huge article in George--and didn't even seem to think she was being used.

October/November 1995, Inaugural Issue
Status: Ceased with first issue in 2001
Subject: Politics, Lifestyle
Publication schedule bimonthly
Hachette Filipacchi USA Inc.
1633 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
$2.95; $9.97 6 issues
Editor-in-chief: John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Executive publisher: Michael J. Berman
Editor: Eric Etheridge
Publisher: Elinore Carmody-Gibbons