Years in print:
New Directions for St. Louis Magazine
By Elizabeth Johnson Freeman
The glossy, glitzy, and somewhat fluffy coffee table St. Louis Magazine is changing. Previously, it had been aimed at the upwardly mobile, west-county crowd. But that is certainly not going to be the case from here on out, says Tom Wood, newly appointed president of St. Louis Magazine, Inc. The magazine, which was formerly owned by Libby Ferguson, was recently purchased by the St. Louis Business Journal.
“I don’t believe in fluff, and I don’t believe the magazine is going to be glitzy. We will be featuring people – people who are not just famous personalities, and we hope to be expanding our use of photography,” explains Wood. “What the new magazine will be, we hope, is the essence of a good city magazine that reflects the city. St. Louis is a fantastic city, and we want to tell people about what a really phenomenal place it is.”
Wood indicates that the March issue was produced in three weeks with a combination of old and new staff members. The March issue’s cover story takes a look at successful college football coaches who got their start coaching area high school teams. It also offers a profile of Harriett Woods, a “Lazy Sunday” photo fashion layout. Familiar features like “The Observer,” “Backstage,” “Calendar,” and “Touts” remain.
The changeover is not quite so evident in the March issue, says Wood. But in April, readers will be seeing the new editorial product, assembled under the direction of new editor Barry Murov, who formerly served as editor of the St. Louis Business Journal.
Mona Von Trapp is the new advertising director. Formerly she served as an ad representative at the St. Louis Business Journal.
Meanwhile, Mary Hassig, formerly advertising director for St. Louis Magazine under Ferguson’s ownership, has been appointed advertising director at the St. Louis Business Journal.
“No one left when we bought the magazine, although we reduced the number of staff by about three or four people,” says Wood. He indicates that the most recent ABC audit shows a circulation of 27,000 for the magazine. Murov says that the magazine will be paying in the neighborhood of $300 for major features and cover stories, $125 for columns, and under $125 for other editorial items used in the magazine. This is about less than half paid by the previous publishers but considerably more than most local publications. The magazine has used free-lance material extensively in the past and will continue to do so.
Both Murov and Wood are a little fidgety when asked what changes readers can expect. Murov good naturedly fesses, “Just wait until April. We believe the magazine should speak for itself.”
(Originally published in the St. Louis Journalism Review 3/1986).
Will Ray Hartmann Resurrect St. Louis Magazine?
Former Editors Offer Words of Advice
By Don Corrigan
St. Louis lost its conservative daily newspaper, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, in 1984. St. Louis lost its laptop daily of the future, The Sun, in 1990. And the media obituary for the Gateway City in 1993 is the city’s monthly, St. Louis Magazine, which was pronounced dead in June.
Losing a city magazine is probably not as traumatic for a big town as, say, the loss of a football team – or even a couple of daily newspapers. Nevertheless, a city magazine can be the source of civic pride, and its loss must inevitably inflict a bit of tarnish on the metropolitan image. After all, just as many smaller American cities than St. Louis are supporting football teams so, too, are smaller markets providing sinecure for their own city magazines. But St. Louis is not a town to trifle with, nor to write off too quickly. After all, as Carl Sandburg might have said, this is a city with “relatively big shoulders, even if it’s not the hog butcher to the world.” And just as some folks are convinced there’s a sugar daddy out there who will bring us back a football team, others are certain there’s a publishing visionary out there, somewhere, who will bring us back a city magazine. At this point, his name would probably be Ray Hartmann, media mogul of the Riverfront Times.
Hartmann acquired publication rights for the St. Louis Magazine trademark after American City Business Journals (ACBJ) discontinued publication of the monthly. ACBJ bought the magazine in 1986 but was never able to turn around a downward trend in circulation numbers and advertising dollars. The company made a last-ditch attempt to breathe new life into the publication in the spring, when it changed to a newsprint format and it debuted as an insert with the April 26  edition of the St. Louis Business Journal. Two issues of the magazine were put out under the new format before ACBJ pulled the plug on St. Louis.
“It’s a matter of semantics as to when it actually died, but we feel there’s a void without the magazine,” said Hartmann. “We’re looking at the possibility of reviving it, but we think that any move will require some serious study. The real issue to me is not whether there’s a void for us to fill, but whether a magazine can be financially viable. We have no timetable for when we might get something started. We’re studying it now.”
SJR interviewed a number of past editors of St. Louis Magazine regarding the monthly’s past, the highlights and lowlights of their tenures as editors of the magazine, and why they think the magazine’s slow, but steady, plunge to oblivion could not be halted. These editors of yesteryear were also asked if they had any advice for Ray Hartmann as he contemplates the revival of St. Louis Magazine.
John Heidenry was at the magazine from 1976 to 1982 in one capacity or another. He served as editor-in-chief of the monthly publication from roughly 1979 to 1982. According to Heidenry, he started doing some free-lancing for St. Louis Magazine in 1976 after bringing his family back from an extended adventure in Mexico. At that time, he said, his kids were wearing Salvation Army clothing, the family was dining on food stamps, and he had become an expert at finding bargains in every errant corner of St. Louis.
“In fact, my first piece for the magazine was titled ‘Second-Hand St. Louis’ and was well-received enough to get me many more assignments. Before long I became ‘John Quinn’ as writer of the restaurant column. I started hanging around the magazine office pretty regularly, and one day Libby Ferguson, the publisher, called a meeting of the staff at the Cheshire Inn and essentially named me editor-in-chief.
“Around that time the magazine changed its name from St. Louisan to St. Louis and took on a new, slicker look,” recalled Heidenry. “The biggest issue I ever edited was 224 pages, which was a record for the magazine. I was fortunate to be at a city magazine when they were flourishing all over the country. The magazine reached a peak of about 67,000 readers during that period and then the recession hit in the early 1980s, and I don’t think the magazine ever came back from that.”
Heidenry said his strongest point as editor was seeking out and putting together a strong stable of writers. He is most proud of the offbeat articles published during his tenure, such as a memoir of Gaslight Square by Chuck Ellis, a true bohemian who would frequently be found holding court at O’Connell’s. Another one of Heidenry’s favorite pieces was a story by Marvin Florence about the heyday of black pimps operating in St. Louis during the 1940s and 1950s.
Heidenry helmed the magazine along with his wife, Pat, who served as managing editor, through the early 1980s. The Heidenry family then pulled up stakes and headed east where they landed in Queens, across the East River from John Heidenry’s new post as an editor at Penthouse International in Manhattan.
Heidenry spent eight years at Penthouse where he used almost a dozen of his St. Louis stable of writers to pen material for Penthouse and subsidiary publications such as Forum. Heidenry had a fiery departure from Penthouse, whereupon he launched his career as a full-time book author. His first major book, “Theirs Was A Kingdom: Lila and DeWitt Wallace and the Story of the Reader’s Digest,” came out in 1993, published by W. W. Norton.
The St. Louis expatriate has another book on the way about the sexual revolution in America, and he does not expect to return to magazine work anytime soon. But he did offer some observations on why St. Louis Magazine failed, and some words of advice for Hartmann, should he choose to revive the publication.
“City magazines are in trouble all over,” said Heidenry. “The reason is a diluted editorial product, a stretched advertising dollar, and a civic pride factor that says it’s no longer a big deal to have a city magazine. One thing we were quite good at when I was there was headline packages that brought us rack sales, sometimes as high as 18,000.
“My advice on a re-start by Hartmann or whomever would be to avoid boosterism. I love St. Louis, but St. Louis has a bit of an inferiority complex,” noted Heidenry. “It’s very defensive and prickly about criticism. If I were to do it over again, I would not run any articles that are simply crapola such as the ‘Best of St. Louis.’ That kind of stuff really trivializes the culture of a city. I think the upward circulation of a quality, sophisticated magazine in St. Louis is about 40,000.”
Barry Murov was editor of the magazine from 1986 to 1989. He followed a succession of editors after Heidenry, including Greg Holzhauer and Dawn Hudson. Murov left St. Louis Magazine in 1989 to take a position with Hill and Knowlton Public Relations, where he edited Monsanto Magazine. He later became an account supervisor with Fleishman-Hillard where his major client was Anheuser-Busch.
“It was a difficult time to be at the magazine because circulation had been declining for a number of years,” noted Murov. “We managed to stabilize it, and actually increase it some beginning in 1987. I’m proud of some of the editorial things we did, especially the piece on the rise and fall of an inner-city basketball star, Marshall Rogers, which was recognized by The Sporting News as one of the best sports features of the year. That was written by Steve Friedman, who followed me as editor.”
Murov declined to talk about low points at the magazine, except to say “there were some.” He said city magazines were in trouble at that time all over the country, and many were surrendering their editorial space almost exclusively to service articles.
“Many of them had simply become service magazines: where to eat, where to shop, where to be entertained. We tried to do that in the most professional manner we could – trying to eliminate any connection between advertising and the articles,” noted Murov. Service articles are interesting to people and there’s a lot to do and talk about in a major market like St. Louis. But it can get repetitious and it’s a challenge to find a different way to do the same thing every year.
“I really don’t have any advice for Ray Hartmann if he wants to do a start-up of the magazine,” said Murov. “He’s been in publishing now for 15 years, and it would be presumptuous of me to give him advice. I hope he succeeds because a city this size should have its own magazine. It’s a point of pride, but on the other hand, I don’t think it makes a lot of difference in anyone’s lives.”
Like Heidenry, Steve Friedman is a St. Louis expatriate who found his way to the Big Apple after a rocky tenure at the magazine. Friedman said he spent about seven years at the magazine between 1986 and 1992. Some of those years were as managing editor, and two-and-one-half years were as editor. He now works in one of Manhattan’s Madison Avenue towers as a senior editor for a Conde-Nast publication, GQ.
Friedman said he’s proud of some of the articles he either wrote or assigned while he was at St. Louis Magazine, including muckraking pieces aimed at the questionable practices of some St. Louis doctors. But he said the muckraking pieces raised the ire of the management folks from ACBJ, who would have preferred some fluffier stuff to fill the column inches between the ads.
“My last 18 months there were particularly stressful,” recalled Friedman. “There was always a lot of tension between the business side and the editorial side. On the editorial side, we were interested in doing some exhaustive, in-depth , investigative pieces that nobody else in town was doing. The business side was primarily interested in doing things essentially to please advertisers. I found myself in disagreements quite regularly.”
As to the quality of those muckraking articles, Friedman points to a number of journalism awards received during his editorship and the publication’s gold medal for best city magazine of its size received from the City & Regional Magazine Association.
“We won some great awards, but we were never doing that well financially,” observed Friedman. “The questions that then have to be raised are: Was the editorial product not good enough to attract support? Did the ownership make the necessary investment in promotion and marketing? Are the salad days for city magazines over with? I would say that looking at the last two questions will explain what happened to St. Louis Magazine.
“Some publishing experts say the late 1970s and early 1980s were the heyday for city magazines. So much of the niche that they filled has been co-opted by newspapers,” said Friedman. “I don’t know what advice I would give to Ray Hartmann on starting it up again. I would say, if you’re going to do it, you have to put the money into promotion, marketing and advertising to bring the support needed for a good editorial product. I hope that it would have a respectable editorial product. The last thing St. Louis needs is another Ladue News.”
‘We Couldn’t Do It’
A number of former St. Louis Magazine personnel were reluctant to talk, saying their experiences were difficult and best forgotten. Repeated attempts to reach Greg Holzhauer were unsuccessful. Holzhauer headed the editorial end of the magazine for a period both before and after Heidenry’s tenure as editor-in-chief. During the period that Heidenry directed Holzhauer’s efforts, a Cold War existed between the two that occasionally broke out into heated skirmishes. Heidenry blames Holzhauer for undercutting him with publisher Libby Ferguson, which led to an earlier-than-expected departure to New York City for him and his wife Pat.
The financial position for St. Louis magazine deteriorated throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, resulting in increasing strife between management and editorial people. Editors who followed Steve Friedman’s departure from the magazine in 1992 did not stay long.
Ellen Sherberg, publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal, served as the last publisher of the magazine for ACBJ. Sherberg’s editorial staff, under the reorganization in the spring of 1993, consisted, in large part, of journalists wearing hats for both the magazine and the BusinessJournal.
Ron Janecke of the Business Journal became editor of the magazine. Janecke was to report to Thomas Wolf, Business Journal editor and executive editor of the new, improved St. Louis Magazine. Sherberg declined to discuss the magazine’s final days.
“I really just don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” said Sherberg. “Obviously we couldn’t do it. I wish Ray Hartmann the best of luck if he tries to pull off a re-start.”
(Originally published in the St. Louis Journalism Review 12/1993).
St. Louis Magazine: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
By Joe Pollack
St. Louis Magazine – in a wide variety of attitudes and styles, with editors and writers to match – goes back nearly 30 years from the current  publication, owned by Ray Hartmann and scheduled to again become a monthly in November.
Harper Barnes, currently the St. Louis Post-Dispatch critic-at-large, will be the latest in a long line of people who have held the title of editor at St. Louis Magazine.
It began, in the spring of 1969, as Replay, with Steve Apted as president and publisher, and Doris Lieberman as editor. The office was in the Cheshire Inn basement, sharing space with parked cars.
Apted started the magazine because someone convinced him it was both a potential moneymaker and an opportunity to spread the word about the variety of tennis clubs and swimming pools in which he then held interests. The focus was on amateur sports, with lots of pictorial coverage of local tennis and golf activities among the country club set, much the way the Ladue News covers similar news today. The masthead was heavy with local newspaper reporters. Bill Beck of the Post was a contributing writer, as were Al Delugach, Rich Koster and Sue Ann Wood of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. The Globe’s Amour Krupnik was the art director. Beck and Koster have died. Delugach retired after many years with the Los Angeles Times. Krupnik is also retired amd Wood is a member of the Post Everyday Magazine staff. Coincidentally Wood, Delugach and I had met as Mizzou frosh in 1947.
So why do I have a copy of Vol. 1, No. 4 of Replay from September of 1969?
Well, there’s a piece in the issue about the late and much-lamented Mill Creek Valley Athletic Union, whose Saturday softball games at the Laclede Park field, southeast corner of Laclede and Compton Avenues, became – and still are – the stuff of legends. Teammate Delugach, who teamed with Denny Walsh to win a Pulitzer Prize for the Globe, was the author, and the newspaper’s Ken Winn took the photos for the article.
And the issue has a great picture of me in action during my days as a pitcher – blue cap, sunglasses, red shorts, glaring expression and burgeoning belly striking fear into the hearts of opponents. Winn also took a superb picture of Martin Quigley, my captain and manager, and a very good one of Sidney Russell, the long-time Muny umpire, or at least as good a picture as one can get of an umpire.
And what does that have to do with a supposed history of St. Louis Magazine?
Absolutely nothing, thank you, but I’m glad you asked.
Replay lasted about five years with Bobbi Linkemer and several others succeeding Lieberman. Greg Holzhauer became editor – and ad salesman – in 1974. Within a few months he was full-time editor and Libby Ferguson had bought the magazine – which was then called St. Louisan and later St. Louis.
Holzhauer was the editor for almost ten years, though his relationship with Ferguson often was rocky, and he and the magazine rode some stormy seas together. Ferguson eventually sold the magazine to Mark Vittert, who made it part of his St. Louis publishing empire.
Vittert cleaned house, installed Barry Murov as editor and, in 1986 sold the magazine to a Kansas City company. Eventually Steve Friedman replaced Murov and the quality of reporting improved but circulation dwindled. By the time Hartmann became involved by buying the title, the magazine was comatose.
But for years before that the magazine had lost its focus. During the hip 70s it prospered but by the middle 80s it didn’t seem to know who its audience was.
In the interests of full disclosure and honesty, let me point out that I have been a regular St. Louis Magazine columnist since I retired from the Post in October 1995, and hope to continue as one. Actually I wrote many articles for St. Louis Magazine during the years.
One of my favorite articles was a piece about my night in the movies, as an actor. I had about three lines and a walk-on scene in a film called “Hysteria,” a blood-and-gore affair shot around town. In a strong example of casting against type, I played a reporter on the scene of a hit-and-run accident at the corner of Lindell Boulevard and Taylor Avenue, across the street from the St. Louis Cathedral. We shot at night and, like most movie shoots, it was a question of hurry up and wait, stand around, shoot the scene, take a break, shoot it again and so on.
This was low-budget, so we had two takes and I was on my way to the saloon. The evening had been kind of silly, so I wrote about it and asked Joan Dames, then editor of the Everyday Magazine, if she was interested. She declined; more accurately, she turned me down flat, explaining that since I was in the movie, the time might come when I had to review it, and I would be biased.
Obviously, she hadn’t seen my performance. But St. Louis Magazine bought it.
But back to the magazine’s history. Under Holzhauer’s leadership in the early 1980s, the magazine peaked at close to 50,000 circulation, but figures like that were rare.
Holzhauer also brought John Heidenry aboard. Heidenry soon became editor-in-chief and part of a committee set up to run the magazine, neither wisely nor well. Heidenry, later editor of Penthouse Forum, now is a New York writer, but while he was here he made literary and critical history. Writing as Jack Quinn, the vegetarian Heidenry became the nation’s non-meat eating restaurant critic.
In addition to Heidenry, St. Louis Magazine also employed Robert Hunt, Kathy Flood, Joe Popper, Steve Darst, Irv Muchnick, Dan Bischoff, Robert Lowes, Joyce Mitchell, Joe Bonwich, Joe Schuster and many others. The quality sometimes was variable, but when a writer like Friedman or Darst got his teeth into a story, it was usually a good one.
There was a time when city magazines were powers in American journalism, with Philadelphia one of the big ones, along with Texas monthly, which had Willie Morris as a founder and an entire state to draw from. New York Magazine, begun by one-time St. Louisan Clay Felker, has been the most successful, but New York has become an anomaly. In recent years, circulation and interest have sagged, but if newspapers are going to hamstring themselves with so-called civic journalism, there may be a chance for real journalism to make a comeback.
(Originally published in the St. Louis Journalism Review 7/1997).