I had heard about this impossible-to-see episode of The Name of the Game—a cutting edge television show that ran for seventy-six 90-minute episodes from 1968 to 1971 on NBC—but until recently, I’d never seen it. The Name of the Game had the biggest budget of any show of its time and a very interesting concept. First of all each episode was, in effect, it’s own semi-standalone 90-minute movie. The series was one of the first of what was then known as a “wheel series.” A wheel series was mostly known as a time slot on TV that two or three different shows shared, alternating each week. With The Name of the Game‘s high concept though, this wheel was alternating between three different stars who were featured in their own episodes/movies. And what a high concept it was!
The series was based on the 1966 television movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, which was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and stars Tony Franciosa. The Name of the Game rotated among three characters working at Howard Publications, a large magazine publishing company. Jeffrey “Jeff” Dillon (Franciosa), a crusading reporter with People magazine (before there was a real-life People magazine); Glenn Howard (Gene Barry, taking over for George Macready, who had originated the role in the earlier film), the sophisticated, well-connected publisher; and Daniel “Dan” Farrell (Robert Stack), the editor of Crime magazine. Serving as a common connection was then-newcomer Susan Saint James as Peggy Maxwell, the editorial assistant for each.
Which brings us to one of the last episodes of the series, LA 2017 aka Los Angeles: AD 2017. This episode was the first long form directing assignment for 24-year-old Steven Spielberg. Written by well-known offbeat author Phillip Wylie (who wrote Gene Barry’s wild episode Love-In At Ground Zero in the first season). Wylie’s work is known to have inspired the characters of Superman, Doc Savage and even Flash Gordon (from his story that was later made into the film When Worlds Collide). In this episode, Glenn Howard is hunted down in a lethally polluted, frightening and sometimes hilarious Los Angeles of the future, where the fascist government is ruled by psychiatrists and the populace has been driven to live in underground bunkers to survive the pollution. Sounds about right, right? This was the sixteenth episode of the third season, and the cast included Barry Sullivan, Edmond O’Brien, and (in a brief cameo) Spielberg’s friend Joan Crawford.
It starts out with a car crash while character Howard (Gene Barry) is seen driving through the mountains recording a memo to the President to do with an important pollution scandal story that will appear in his magazine, and ends up being a dream, which allowed the science-fiction plot to fit into the modern-day setting of the show, though in the final moments he is still contemplating what happened while driving back in his car (cue close-up shot of his tail pipes chugging out 1971 style car exhaust fumes). In the end, we see a stiff bird hanging in a tree… a close encounter of the (dead) bird kind indeed!
Watching this 1971 pop culture prophecy in the actual Los Angeles of 2017 is a total mindblower. Some of it is insanely far-fetched and yet there are a few humdingers that really freak you out and make you think, the most well known being my favorite scene where we are taken into a truly “underground” club with a demented octogenarian acid rock band totally freaking out (or at least trying to):
We’re all owned. We’re bought, bartered, liked, sold, conned, shared and used everyday to make other people money. We’re all well and truly fucked. Welcome to the world of Luis Quiles.
Luis Quiles, aka Gunsmithcat, is a Spanish artist whose corrsucating satirical ilustrations take no prisoners. No one is safe. The right. The left. The good. The bad. Quiles takes them all down. He specifically targets the dehumanizing nature of capitalism, terrorism, and religion. His work is highly controversial. It’s been deemed offensive. But we shouldn’t be offended by Luis’s drawings rather we should be offended at the hard reality he depicts.
Initially, “Open Letter to an Open Letter” was written as a Facebook post, a goofy riff on the somewhat futile nature of ranting on the Internet. I wrote it after reading Sinead O’Connor’s “Open Letter to Miley Cyrus” where the former was chastising the latter for slutty twerking on the 2013 Grammys. I thought well, she makes some valid points but is this really helping anything? Then I thought, you know the real culprit is the Beast that feeds on all our infighting; the clickbait monster that every media site has turned into which has transformed the whole system into “a vortex that can never be filled”!
When I started recording my recent album Dream Girl I decided to include “Open Letter,” but then it didn’t really fit on the finished product so I decided to release it later as a separate track. I wanted to bring the “Open Letter” words to musical life and create an epic track that was in the spirit of “Folk Song” (initially written for one of my one-woman shows, and then ended up on the Bongwater album The Power of Pussy).
For the recording, I was partly inspired by Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” as well as by Ken Nordine and a host of other spoken word pieces from the psychedelic past. I recorded the whole thing in one take and then added embellishments later, mostly with my engineer Mark Wheaton at the Echo Park studio CATASONIC. My drummer Joe Berardi provided percussion and various sound effects and The Millionaire (Michael Cudahy) from Combustible Edison did the orchestrations and guitar work.
In the three years since the piece was written the mad chatter on the Internet has become so voluminous, so unhinged, so ugly and combative that there can be no doubt that we really are in the midst of a Civil War. And that battlefield is getting really bloody. The longer it goes on and the crazier it gets the vast void everyone is screaming into feels vaster than ever. While there are so many great things about the Internet (baby goat videos for example) it’s brought out the worst aspects of humanity. So much so that we’ve elected an Internet troll as our President!
Every time I look at the news I start singing the “Open Letter” chorus: “Seriously WTF?!” Has that become the new E Pluribus Unum? #sad
I do think the Internet has changed our brain chemistry and not for the best. There is no denying the Internet has changed the zeitgeist. It IS the zeitgeist.
The way “Folk Song” (and a lot of the Bongwater stuff) riffed on the zeitgeist of the Reagan/Bush years, “Open Letter” riffs on today. Particularly as it relates to women - though the current madness is gender-neutral, and bi-partisan to boot!
If there is one thing that everyone can agree on it’s “SERIOUSLY WTF?!”
Hear “Open Letter to an Open Letter” after the jump…
One of the more startling musical transformations in our era was the one that Radiohead pulled off between their 1993 debut album Pablo Honey and their 1995 follow-up The Bends.
It wasn’t just Thom Yorke’s blond locks that cause quite a few critics to liken Pablo Honey to watered-down Nirvana. Pablo Honey got generally lukewarm-to-good reviews at the time—3 stars out of 5 from Rolling Stone, which is the same rating it currently receives at Allmusic.com (it must be admitted that Stephen Thomas Erlewine’s brief review is far more charitable than that rating suggests). And Radiohead’s later successes haven’t shielded the album from vitriol. At Pitchfork, notoriously one of Radiohead’s most unshakable defenders, Scott Plagenhoef gave it a piddling 5.4 out of 10 as late as 2009.
Even that tepid Rolling Stone review ended with the words “Radiohead warrant watching,” but if you had said in 1993 that in less than a decade, Radiohead would be doing arenas with a highly worshipful following and the most ironclad critical reputation in all of rock music, that possibility would have seemed remote indeed. The Bends and OK Computer in 1997 were the astounding one-two punch that few saw coming and set Radiohead up to be the top rock band of the 2000s.
So when I come across a piece of Radiohead press from 1993, I’m inclined to pay attention. I was at the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland recently, thumbing through a stack of old copies of Ray Gun magazine from the 1990s, something you can only do at a place like that. One of the 1993 issues had a little piece on Radiohead that was inexplicably formatted in an actually readable typeface (rare for that magazine). Here it is (if you click on it, the image will get quite large):
The last bit of the piece reports Yorke’s feelings on whether Radiohead qualifies as “pop” thus:
“Yesss,” he says slowly. “My definition of pop is tapping into something…. my ideal pop song is one that says something people want to hear lyrically and that grabs them by the neck musically. And one that has some sort of depth that moves it beyond a happy tune that you whistle at work. Songs like ‘Under Pressure,’ something that makes you want to fall down on your knees. That to me is the perfect pop song.”
From 1977 to 2000, one of the strongest voices in the zine community was an artist and writer going by the name “Teen Angel.” Several years of working at a magazine called Lowrider delving into the details of Latino car culture convinced him that there was a market for a zine catering to broader issues in the Chicano community, which inspired him to start a zine with a name based on his pseudonym—Teen Angels.
Teen Angel sought to expand the Lowrider concept into areas like fashion, art, and politics, and adopted a thoroughly unpretentious style with strong ties to Chicano prison art and tattoo design. Any young person seeking to find an identity in the Varrio was inevitably going to gravitate towards Teen Angels magazine. Chain stores, finding its offerings vulgar and limited in appeal, refused to carry the title, so Teen Angels was forced to find space in the places regular people actually congregated—in liquor stores and bodegas. Teen Angels gave young Chicanos an way to connect to other Chicanos using a catch-as-catch-can variety of strategies, including poems, doodles, photos, art, and a forum for pen pals.
Designer Christian Acker believes that the name of the magazine is “a reference to the 1950s doo-wop and early rock ‘n’ roll song by Mark Dinning. There is a very heavy retro fifties influence in the entire culture of Southern California. And the way cholos dress and the hot rods and music are still very heavily influenced by that fifties, sixties early youth culture.” He adds, “It seemed to give a medium and a voice to people who may not have had a way to get their art, poems, and writings out to an audience. It no doubt also gave inspiration to countless kids within that lifestyle to express themselves in these ways, or provide a model that was acceptable.”
Teen Angel went on to create over 200 issues, which today fetch high prices among collectors (especially tattoo artists). In 2005 a passionate fan of the publication named David De Baca stumbled upon some of Teen Angel’s art at an art fair, and realized, after spotting a signature on some of the art, that Teen Angel’s real name was actually Dave Holland—somewhat surprisingly, not himself a Chicano! De Baca and Holland struck up a friendship, but unfortunately Holland passed away in 2015.
This weekend, there will be a special exhibition focusing on the prolific output of Teen Angel, which will be held at the LA Art Book Fair at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Kill Your Idols will also be publishing a limited edition book on Teen Angels magazine (500 copies).
It’s amazing when you consider what we might now view as quaint, familiar photographic imagery was once a serious no-no. We’ve all seen photos of Betty Page bound and gagged to the point where it’s no more shocking than a LIFE magazine cover image. When John Alexander Scott Coutts aka “John Willie,” publisher of the original Bizarre magazine and the author/ artist of the iconic art comic The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline started, excuse me, basically invented fetish photography as we now know it, it was a punishable crime.
Possibilities!, a massive 472 page coffee table book of John Willie’s photos, published by J.B. Rund’s Belier Press is the be-all, end-all last word from the world’s greatest expert on the subject.
Belier Press has been in existence since 1974 and the publisher’s own story is as interesting as the subject of the books he puts out. J.B. Rund was a young teen running around in the original rock ‘n’ roll era (1955/56) looking for second hand rock ‘n’ roll 45s to buy cheap from juke box distributors in Times Square. One of these stores also had “adult books” and this is where the author first saw a John Willie photo. The afterward of this book goes into great detail about this discovery period and the history of Belier Press. Belier Press has published all kinds of books, not just fetish photography, though I can say that the first time I ever saw a photo of Betty Page was on the cover of Belier’s Betty Page Private Peeks volume two. He also put out R. Crumb’s Carload o’ Comics, The Complete Fritz The Cat, all of the reprints of the Irving Klaw catalogs (Bizarre Katalogs), Eric Stanton and Gene “Eneg” Bilbrew and other fetish artists in Bizarre Komix (24 volumes!), The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline and the recent deluxe reprint. An amazing run.
Possibilities! has more than 1,360 photographs basically giving a visual history of John Willie’s fetish coming of age and, in fact, the birth of what we take for granted now as an art form, a style, a distinctive look and feel all which can be traced back in these photos to something that sparked excitement in one man’s mind (and loins) and the fact that he wasn’t afraid to act on that idea, even though for all he knew he may have been one of the only people on earth to feel this way.
John Alexander Scott Coutts (or JASC as the author refers to him) was born in 1902 in Singapore, the youngest of four children of William Scott and Edith Ann Spreckley Coutts. His father, wanting to go into business for himself moved the family to St. Albans, Hertfordshire, a northwest suburb of London in June 1903. As a very young child Coutts was drawn to a particular type of children’s fantasy literature called “Fairy Books,” where he developed an attraction for “damsels in distress” and the want to rescue these damsels. At around this time he also showed a talent for drawing.
To quote the author:
At about the age of puberty he became aware of another attraction—for women in high heeled shoes—which had a strong sexual connotation for him. In his fantasies John wanted these women in high-heels to be tied-up (in order to rescue them?).
In September of 1921 Coutts entered Sandhurst (the Royal Military Academy), graduating in 1923 with a commission as Second Lieutenant and joined the Royal Scots regiment. In 1925 he married Eveline Stella Frances Fisher, a nightclub hostess who he decided needed “rescuing.” They were married without the required permission of his regiment and against his the wishes of his father (who cut him off), so he moved to Australia in late 1925 or early 1926. The marriage disintegrated soon after. One day in 1934 Coutts stumbled upon McNaught’s, a shoe store on King Street that had a sideline catering to shoe fetishists. He also discovered in that establishment the existence of a weekly British magazine called London Life.
London Life was, as Rund puts it:
...a weekly British magazine that openly dealt with a range of fetishes, but in a conservative manner that would seem quaint by today’s (lack of) standards. Suddenly John Coutts realized that he was NOT alone!
At this point he was introduced to a locally based organization for shoe fetishists, possibly called “The High-Heel Club,” run by a retired ship’s captain who went by the name “Achilles.” He then met Holly Anna Faram around 1934, a woman that shared his his interests in bondage & high heels. She became his first model, and his second wife.
“Coutts was frustrated by the refusal of London Life to print any of his letters on the subject of bondage and arrived at the conclusion–in 1936 or ‘37–that he could produce a superior and more liberal publication, which in 1946 would come to called Bizarre.
In the decade in between coming up with the idea of Bizarre magazine and getting the finances to put that project together, he came up with the idea of selling high-heeled shoes, though he actually wanted to market his photographs of women wearing those shoes and not the actual shoes themselves. But it didn’t work out that way.
In 1937 Coutts got access to “The High-Heel Club” mailing list and started his career as a photographer. He also acquired the right to use the name “Achilles.” At first, using the list, he offered rather pedestrian photos of women wearing high-heels. He then added Holly Anna Faram who turned out to be an amazing model and started offering bondage poses, but in a veiled manner. Like many artists, writers and musicians Coutts was not a good businessman and not very good with money, a problem that would follow him throughout his life.
Early in 1938 he placed a series of ads in London Life magazine for his sexy shoes, charging what he felt would be too much for any potential customer (wanting to push his more reasonably priced photos instead) and naturally people started to order them. Now he had to do something, or return the money. So Coutts added shoe maker/designer to his list of accomplishments. He also put the money together to make his dream magazine but World War II broke out and that ended that dream, at least for a while.
In 1940, John Coutts volunteered for service in the Australian Army (listing his religion as “Pagan”). In 1945 he decided to move to America to once again attempt to bring his Bizarre dream to life. At the end of that year he travelled to Canada on a merchant ship to subsidize the trip. In Montreal he found a printer that not only had an allotment of paper (remember this was wartime), but was willing to take on the job. At that moment both “John Willie” and Bizarre were born.
As far as Coutts’ new name was concerned and what it meant—“Willie,” of course, being British slang for the male sex organ—but “John Willie” was also a Cockney rhyming slang term for a little boy, so ummmm… take your pick! At last he was on his way. Willie moved to New York City in 1946 or ‘47, trying to work on Bizarre with not a lot of luck. He postponed publishing after four issues and started again in 1951. He sold the magazine to a friend in 1956 after publishing 20 issues. He also did business with infamous fetish photographer and mail order dealer Irving Klaw, famous for his Tempest Storm and Betty Page photos, bondage photos, fetish cartoon serials and of course, the photos by John Willie. Klaw made two color full length films (Teaserama and Varietease) which survived and can be seen on one DVD from Something Weird Video.
To quote Rund again:
In April of 1961, after moving to Los Angeles, Coutts/Willie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, followed in May by a confrontation with a Postal Inspector concerning his photographs. He then decided to put an end to his activities as “John Willie” and destroyed all of his negatives as well as his mailing list sending this announcement to his customers:
“On this occasion I will forgo the usual editorial “WE” (which is more businesslike) and instead, as this is the last letter you will ever receive from me I am reverting to “I”. I got sick (it happened very suddenly) and had to undergo a major operation (of course I’d have no insurance). As a result, there will be no more “Gwendoline,” and the whole business will be closed as of June 25th. (I have a few weeks grace—I hope.) I would like to inform you that on that date everything, but everything, including the mailing list will be destroyed… It’s been nice to have known you and I wish you the very best in your games of fun and nonsense.”
This was followed by a quotation from John’s favorite book (his “Bible”), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, from which he had also quoted at the beginning of each issue of Bizarre: “Ah, with the grape of my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.”
John Alexander Scott Coutts passed away on August 5th 1962, at a doctor friend’s house in Scottsdale Arizona, on the same day that Marilyn Monroe died.
Little could Coutts have known the impact his art and life would have on the future of human sexuality. This impact is mostly due to Bizarre magazine and his The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, both of which have been documented. According to author and publisher J.B. Rund:
The former (Bizarre) in the disappointing reprint of the magazine. The Latter (Gwendoline), together with a substantial amount of previously unpublished and uncollected artwork, in The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, (Belier Press, 1974 and 1999). And to a lesser extent, as a photographer, which heretofore has been poorly and disrespectfully done. The present work will expand on this other talent, and provide an extensive—but not a complete—record of his prodigious output in that medium.
The photos in the book are culled almost completely from just two sources, the author/publisher’s personal collection and that of the Kinsey Institute. It’s separated into three huge sections, geographically (Australia, New York, Los Angeles) which match his life’s timeline and it’s just incredible to see it all in one massive artistic survey. The notes, introductions and afterward are riddled with the most minute details that seem to leave no stone unturned. If you have even the slightest interest in pop culture, photography, women in distress, art, bondage, or the history of alternative culture, then you owe it to yourself to own this book—the only one you’ll ever need on this subject. Trade edition available from Belier Press for $70. Deluxe limited edition of 150 numbered copies each in a custom made cloth slipcase containing an ORIGINAL print of a photograph taken by John Willie in Los Angeles circa 1958-61, a different photo in each book, plus reproductions of two previously privately circulated photographs taken by Willie in Sydney circa 1938 (not in the book). Plus John Willie Speaks–John Willie Sings!?!, an audio CD, just under forty-eight minutes, consisting of a monologue from Within A Story, his only known speaking part in a motion picture from 1954, and excerpts from the only known interview with Willie from 1961-62, excerpts from A Bawdy Recital–Poems, songs and stories performed by John Willie in 1962. Whew! A serious bargain if you ask me, as only Belier Press could whip up.
A fantastic, gender-bending cover of ‘Female Mimics” magazine, 1971.
Launched in 1963, Female Mimics magazine was the very first glossy covered cross-dressing publication of its kind. In the past magazines of this sort tended to be the size of “digests” so this was a rather significant advancement for a magazine catering to the crossdressing/transgender community.
The first issue featured Kim August a popular drag performer at the equally popular 82 Club located in the East Village of New York City. August was well-known for his spot-on impersonations of Bette Davis, drag icon Judy Garland and the then emerging star (and another drag favorite) Barbra Streisand. The cover of Female Mimics debut featured opposing photos of August as a man and all dolled as his female alter-ego with a blonde wig, red bustier and leather skirt. Over the course of its first few years of publication the magazine routinely homaged other stars of the professional female impersonator nightclub scene not just in the U.S. but all over the world such as the renowned Madame Arthur’s in Paris and Le Carrousel. When it came to the “writing” inside the pages of Female Mimics it was as over-the-top as the flamboyant entertainers it featured, though it’s important to note that much of the editorial information wasn’t necessarily based in fact and, as you will see in the images from the magazine in this post, Female Mimics tried very hard to assert a strong “heterosexual” vibe when it came to how their drag-loving subjects were presented.
Here’s more on how FM walked that “straight” line direct from the pages of the magazine discussing the case of “Joi Fulnesee,” who was allegedly an autoworker in Detroit who liked to dress like a woman after-hours:
Recently Joi Fulnesee’s wife gave him a Dior gown for a birthday gift. Joi spends his evenings gloriously gowned female attire. Can you imagine how surprised his co-workers at the auto plant would be?”
Any “writing” in FM was generally not credited although I did come across a name that was familiar to me, Carlson Wade. If you follow my ramblings here on Dangerous Minds you may also recall Wade’s name as it is attached to many salacious publications on the subject of cross dressing, transvestism, fetish and the “dangers” of homosexuality. Given Wade’s track record (he also published trashy literature under the name of “Ken Worthy”), it’s not surprising that the background information on the performers and drag enthusiasts in the magazine were perhaps spurious at best, if not just totally made up. FM would continue to publish its provocative content under different names for sixteen years until 1979.
I’ve included many images of the colorful covers of Female Mimics for you to peruse below. Some are slightly and delightfully NSFW.
The premiere issue of ‘Female Mimics’ magazine featuring entertainer Kim August, both as a man and in drag, 1963.
“Ignore the sex slave tumbling out of my monitor, it is a standard feature with this brand of personal computer…..”
The Serbian word računari means “computers”; thus Računari was the natural name for a long-running periodical in the Balkans catering to software and hardware enthusiasts in the burgeoning age of the “personal computer.”
It’s hard to remember now, but while Apple was getting all the critical plaudits, most workplaces considered their devices too esoteric and expensive for scaled use—back then it was Windows and IBM clones that got all the love and money, and most of the programmers designed their offerings for the MS-DOS market. Nearly forgotten today, names like WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and Visual Basic once constituted core components of the consumer computing landscape, and they all were featured prominently in Računari. That’s why you won’t see much attention paid to Apple products in these images—they had to weather the tough decade of the 1990s before resurfacing with the iMac and beyond.
It’s often been observed that Sarajevo went from being a proud and prosperous Olympic host city to one of the most hellish places on earth in the short span of time between 1984 and 1994. The end of the Cold War around 1990 brought unimaginable horrors to Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia, and it’s worth noting that Računari, which started in 1984, never went out of print during all of that tumult, persisting through to the late 1990s. So it is that these otherwise mirthful images have a darker story to tell, of consumers seeking out computing products during a bloody civil war and the advertisers and retailers wishing to serve them.
The editors of Računari surely were well aware that their product sector was a little on the dry side, so they spiced up most every cover with a sexy lady draped over this or that piece of mechanized future landfill. As you’ll see, some of the images get a little bizarre, but hey, all the better to get those copies moving off of the newsstand and into your living room, right?
“I am the Windows 3.1 go-go girl…..”
“We hope this bizarre bondage scene incentivizes you to purchase WordPerfect for Windows.”
More fun with Balkan computer cheesecake after the jump…...
It seems like only yesterday I was at a double feature of 200 Motels and Baby Snakes in Santa Monica and Gail Zappa was taking questions from the audience between movies. A scruffy guy sitting in front of me wanted to know: like, what did it mean that Frank’s birthday was December 21? With commendable equanimity and poise, she replied that her late husband had been a Sag, for sure.
Has it really been seven years since those innocent, care- and money-free days? No picnic, but I’ll say this for the Great Recession: at least it was more “Cheap Thrills” than “Concentration Moon.” Gail Zappa was then breathing air, as was Negativland’s Don Joyce, whose KPFA radio show “Over the Edge” became my first podcast subscription right around that time. But look at Don now, resting in that plastic baggie on my shelf. A picture of health he is not.
In March of ‘95, a little over a year after Frank Zappa’s death, Joyce and Phineas Narco devoted an episode of “Over the Edge” to the composer’s life and work. After playing a tape of Zappa’s 1963 appearance on The Steve Allen Show—the whole thing, with a minimum of manipulation—the pair then go full Negativland on a treasury of primary and secondary sources. For five hours, everything Zappa goes into the blender, from Lumpy Gravy and the Synclavier to interviews and glib, stupid obituaries delivered by 1993 media personalities.
Earlier this week DM posted a notorious rejection letter that EMI may (or may not) have sent to Venom in 1980; the letter (real or not) is a simple example of typewriter art, with the words “FUCK YOU” being spelled out with the respective letters (“F” “U” etc.) typed several dozen times to spell out the well-known phrase, much like the ASCII art of the mid 90s internet era.
Some have claimed, pretty reasonably, that EMI never sent out any such letter. We don’t really know one way or the other. Today’s artifact is a little bit better verified, I believe, and also not nasty or obscene in the least; in fact it is delightful.
It takes the merest glance at any issue from the heyday of MAD (1960s-1980s?) to realize that the editors and writers there were probably real mensches—they might have been irascible but they would be dead set against any kind of corporate hardassery or uptightness. The freewheeling, exuberant, and nonconformist (fun) tone of editor-in-chief Al Feldstein’s shop is perfectly captured by a rejection letter that is undated but appears to have been sent in the 1960s, as we’ll see in a moment.
In it, Feldstein does his duty of rejecting the submission but it’s quite long and detailed and takes the trouble to treat the “contributor” as an individual (quite remarkable in what must be a form letter) and actually tells him/her to ask “What, me worry?” and contemplate the awful alternative fate of being—shudder—“ACCEPTED!”
Here it is (transcript below):
I mentioned that we know that the letter is not an Internet-era fabrication and that evidence suggests that it existed, for real, in the 1960s. I took the trouble of searching on a key phrase in the letter and was rewarded with a hit from Google Books, a periodical called The Writer dating from 1967 that references the missive as an praiseworthy example of a humane rejection letter.
Leave to the “usual gang of idiots” to identify with and empathize with the angst and pathos of submitting material to a national magazine.
Sorry, but we’ve got bad news!
You’ve been rejected!
Don’t take this personally though. All of us feel rejected at one time or another. At least, that’s what our group therapist tells us here at MAD. He says we shouldn’t worry about it.
So that should be your attitude: “What-Me worry?”
Besides - although you’ve been rejected, things could have been a lot worse. Your material might have been ACCEPTED!
Then where would you be?
(Signed, ‘Al Feldstein’)
P.S. Our group therapist also mentioned that many people are so rejected by a rejection that they don’t try again. And we wouldn’t want THAT! We really WOULD like you to keep sending us your article ideas and scripts. . .so we can keep sending you these idiotic rejection slips!