That's not funny, that's sick!
Nobody flirted with disaster, skated on the thin ice, or pushed the envelope more than The National Lampoon. Playboy Magazine was still turning out the best publication ever, but it quickly took a backseat to Lampoon. Lampoon was beautifully and exquisitely irreverent. Nothing was sacred to their banal, obscene, and ironic sense of humor. The National Lampoon probably made more use of the term "That's not funny, that's sick," than any publication I can think of. The humor was indelible, and eventually, if I had to give up anything on the magazine rack due to lack of funds, it was Playboy. Lampoon had forced me into that choice, and I was grateful.
There was no safe territory with NL. If it was noteworthy--or newsworthy--it got "lampooned." Each issue was thematic. The theme was described at the top of the cover such as the "back to school," "gay-ish," or "pubescence." topic. I've seen some of the most rigid and uptight people crack a smile at NL. It was nearly impossible to not to. The humor was buried deep within the human psyche, and sometimes it was so obvious you just couldn't believe a magazine would go that far. To this day I still consider the National Lampoon as the magazine the funniest adult magazine ever.
The joke was always on the reader-always. Just when you thought they'd slipped, made an error, or just didn't hit the humor mark, you realized that it was all done intentionally. Satire was the name of the game, and NL were at the top of theirs. The humor was biting, and ultimately intelligent, and struck home in a way that I find it nearly impossible to describe. Let's face it, they made us laugh at the things that were entirely disrespectful. What's worse than giving us a cover depicting a starving child in Bangladesh made of chocolate with a bite taken out of his head? Or the helpless dog with a gun to its head, or even the outrageously gay attack of "Queen Kong?"
Soon we would lose the magazine forever. Soon, there would be no more cartoons like the one with the frog in the amputee cart pushing its way along a restaurant floor with a sign on the wall that reads "try our frogs legs." Eventually, the great comic strips that were featured in the issues like "first lay funnies," "Nuts," "Trots and Bonnie," and the "Aesop Brothers," would vanish completely. The magazine went on to bigger and more ambitious projects such as the 80's releases of the "Vacation" movies, but in the 70's, National Lampoon was king.
To address the misguided impression that Playboy was all about naked girls is to say that this is an urban myth that lives on as a complete falsehood. I can't speak for now as I haven't touched a Playboy for decades, but in the 70's, Playboy Magazine was a culture unto itself. There existed no other in the world like it. It was full of art, writings, editorials, articles that tackled any topic, the best interviews in the world, in depth coverage of sports and music, and the greatest cartoons. Whatever men were into, so was the magazine. What Hugh Hefner did was to sit down in 1953 and create an exclusive men's world with an initial $600 and a typewriter. Naturally, I don't have to continue any further.
My friends and I decided that we were bored and needed a bit of excitement, an element of danger not quite heard of in 1969. There was a supermarket about three miles from our houses that had Playboy Magazine mixed in with the others on the rack. The real challenge was that everyone was too scared to actually go in and make the purchase. So, I decided to be the brave one. I walked in, laid the magazine down for the checker (thankfully, it was a guy). and dug out my 75 cents. I came out of that store empty-handed. My friends all seemed disappointed and hollered "I knew you'd chicken out!" I responded with: "No, I just need another 50 cents." Yep, I had to do the whole thing over again. I grabbed the magazine, laid down my $1.25, and came out with it. The guys were completely amazed.
We rode our bikes home like we were on fire. Once we got to my house, we peeled out in the gravel, laid those bikes where they fell, and rushed into my secret fort built off the side of the garage. From there it was decided to store the mag for safe keeping. Needless to say, going in and buying that magazine garnered me an entirely new reputation as the biggest dog on the block.
This was a great culture of my 70's. There's really no way to describe it except to say that it was like a club that only the most sophisticated of guys belonged to. Let's face it, we all fancied ourselves as sophisticados, but the true test was to be Playboy subscriber either by mail, or over the counter. The magazine catered to men of quality.
There were definite educational and sociological aspects to the magazine that, to the unreader, would never be comprehended, nor appreciated. Where else would I learn to tie a necktie? Playboy had illustrated instructions for the basic Windsor knot. There were recipes, movie reviews, music lineups, and the most incredible interviews on the planet. I also learned about people, places, events, and history that school never taught. I'm talking serious stuff here, not just the girls. But of course, there were the girls, and they were truly exceptional. Photographed with artistic endeavor, taste and flair, they made this magazine a connossieur's delight. Playboy was worth every single penny of the $1.50 (1972 prices) counter price.I no longer have any Playboy magazines. They've long since hit the dusty, used book store trail, but the memories remain.
One day I decided to branch out in my artworkand go above and beyond drawing the Beatles. So, on a large sketch pad, I penciled a rather striking portrait of Miss September of 1971. I was pretty sly, or so I thought, having this one cleverly hidden under my mattress. I had to hide it; I knew my mom would kill me if she found it. I'd won some high school art awards and a teacher came to our house to invite me to join a student art show. I didn't really have anything to enter, but he insisted. My mom then said "Why don't you show him Miss September?" Okay, I was stunned, mortified,...and surprisingly still alive. My mom, as it turned out, was so impressed with it (I gave this one a lot of loving care!), that she urged me to keep drawing nudes and learn anatomy. Here I was, in high school, and my mom encouraging me to draw Playboy centerfolds. She was great.
No other comics packed the wallop that the Warren Publications Vampirella did in the 70's. I was initially attracted to this magazine by the cover, but quickly found that the art works inside profoundly changed my entire worldview of pen and ink illustration. I dived as quickly as possible into my own comic and graphic novel renderings.
I soon ventured on to Creepy, and Eerie comics and devoured them with my eyes, feasting on each intricate line and patches of highly detailed shadings. I learned more about style and technique from these publications than I did with any other magazine, art school, class, or workshop. Nobody taught me anything like the Spanish artists that graced the pages of the Warren Publications. I even went toward the offspring books "Future World" and "1984" both of which were great mags as well.
The gist of these comics were all about sex with sci-fi and/or horror themes throughout. Even Vampi herself was an alien vampire who in the bulk of the comics, seemed as harmless as anyone could possibly be.
Life Magazine was the one publication that was closer to a news show than anything else. The stories were real, and the pictures were graphically to the point. I didn't read Life that often, but it did have some outstanding issues. My favorite was the Paul is dead issue detailing all the mysterious hub-bub about Paul McCartney being dead.
Life Magazine was clearly the go-to magazine in the 70's for current world events. So was Time, and Look Magazines, but Life just had a rep that couldn't be beat. If it was world-newsworthy, Life had it covered.
Circus & Creem
I really loved the rock magazines like Creem and Circus. I can't decide which was my favorite, and I loved it when they covered the more mysterious bands. I remember an issue from fall of '73 (I can't remember exactly which magazine it was, Creem or Circus), and an article about Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It was from that article that I learned what bands each one them started with. That magazine was responsible for my introduction to King Crimson. I remember the reporter quoting Greg Lake, and trying to mimick his accent in print by describing how he pronounced the name King Crimson by referring to it as "Kink Rimson".
Like the teeny bopper magazines Tiger Beat, and 16, these magazines were for the hardcore fans of hard rock and FM rock. I started losing interest when they began to take on the same look and appearance as the aforementioned teen mags. Once a magazine lost its visible credibility, and began to look like a trash mag, I was done with it.
It's not who you know, it's what you know. When it came to articles and interviews, Rolling Stone had a strong reputation for printing the truth. In short, like Playboy magazine, when reading an interview with a star or celebrity, you could pretty much take what was said to the bank. Rolling Stone gave us reliable info, and for that, I loved the magazine. Plus, the pulp newspaper presentation of it made it seem like an underground publication. I once got hold of a copy of the Berkely Barb, and Rolling Stone reminded me of that.