Let’s Read People, October 8 1979!

There isn’t that much to uncover in the history of People magazine – or if there is, the staff associated with the magazine have done a tremendous job of keeping quiet during its nearly 45 years of unchecked popularity. Founded in 1974 by executives from Time magazine, who clearly knew their way around a successful publication, the weekly was launched to focus squarely on whoever was in the national spotlight at the time and bring general human interest news and interviews to the average reader. Overall, it’s a comfortingly bland magazine with consistently fine photography that you can leaf through in a waiting room, and that’s why it’s still commands the highest readership of any magazine in America today.

People has carved itself an enduring niche in popular culture with the mostly-annual “Sexiest Man Alive” special feature, which is kind of like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition for boring straight women. Our cover boy here won the coveted “Sexiest Man” title in 1992, which would come back as a reminder to all of us about the fickleness of youth and beauty (and top-notch celebrity styling) in contrast to his infamous mugshot a decade later.


Would you be surprised to know that the Amityville Horror story is a gigantic mess in every way, and yet 30 years later people are still making money off it? Amazing, right?

Check out the letter from Annie Golden, aka Norma from OITNB, who used to be in a punk band called The Shirts! And is apparently fighting a misleading statement from the last issue.


Everyone has always hated dollar coins. They’re the only form of money I’ve ever seen where people openly apologize for giving them to me as a cashier, as in “I’m sorry to be burdening you with this hated legal tender but I really need this tiny bag of Cheetos and the only change that the train ticket machine gives is in dollar coins and —” I GET IT. I actually rather like them now that advances in coin coloring tech have advanced to make them gold colored – it’s like carrying around a wallet full of pirate doubloons. Hold on, Susan B. Anthony dollar coin haters of 1979! It gets slightly less aggravating!

Shout out to Margaret Trudeau a decade prior to the last time we saw her, still in her wild heyday. She looks stunningly like Justin in that promo photo.

And what if Bess Meyerson’s Guide to Shopping By Mail is also a mail order scam? If you’re already suspicious of buying stuff through the mail, why would you send in money for this?

People apparently needed a lot of help to eat their food in 1979.

Perfect if you want your nails to look somewhere between “half-assed” and “I just wanted it to look like the color on the bottle, dammit, why is this taking so long”.

This trunk says “I love you…” and “darling this isn’t funny anymore…” and “please anybody help me!” Until it gets quieter…and quieter…and after a time you forget that it ever said anything at all.

Dolly Parton drama at the CMA’s, honoring Paul Robeson, and something called “Sitcom” which I think is a mockumentary about Garry Marshall. I love the title When Hell Was In Session, because it sounds like exactly the kind of thing that your grandpa would watch all the time just to annoy your grandma.

Vivarin is still sold today. I think it was the stuff that Jessie got hooked on in that one episode of Saved By The Bell.

Crossan Seybolt appears to be an actual person who is still active in finance today (VERY active), so I’ll be nice to him and avoid being challenged to a duel. I hope that he has this ad framed in a place of honor his palatial Manhattan office and at the end of the day he gives a nod to it and says “keep up that thrust, young man”.

Bisquik-baked chicken is a powder-dry affront to all that’s good in the world. And now, Kurt Vonnegut!

I like that the TDK ad doesn’t even try to convince you that Stevie wonder has any connection to their product. It’s just “Stevie Wonder is great, right? Well, so are our cassette tapes.”

It would not be long until the Dakota apartment building became even more famous for all the wrong reasons.

I thought at first that Tillie Lewis was a flash in the pan 70s fitness guru, pictured helpfully flying through the air at far right, and this was the opportunity of a lifetime to party with Miss Tillie in Acapulco. Not so, as Tillie was actually the Tomato Queen of the California canning industry in the 1920s and a pioneer for women in agricultural business.

I love the black label and stark photography on these cans. That is the most serious can of peaches I’ve ever seen.

What is going on with the driver? Is it a nebulous black cloud with hands? The Great Will of the Macrocosm from Excel Saga? A hive of furious black bees? Cousin It?? Did they have the art all ready to go and decided ten seconds before press time that they were better just smudging out the driver with an inky black thumbprint? WHAT IS THE STORY HERE?

Completely unrelated giveaways, such as a free pair of pantyhose with a bag of almonds, never cease to amuse me.

Apocalypse Now, one of the most significant works in the history of cinema…gets a paragraph of review. Thanks, People.

“Katie, your mama has come back to us in the form of a pigeon and she keeps saying ‘Arnold, you must hunt me and eat me and nourish the family with my meat, and Katie needs to keep her room clean and stop tying up the phone for three hours a day – did you hear that, Katie? Did you hear what your mama said?”

Bless your hearts, kids, but the 80s did not take on the mantle of the “We” generation.

The MUSE anti-nuke group did five Madison Square Garden concerts, a triple-disc live album, and a live concert film, all with varying levels of success. In the end, after accounting for losses the group only made the equivalent of a little under two million dollars to actually support anti-nuke groups and causes, and the project dissolved in 1983.

Elvis’s people should really have done more homework before hiring a graduate of Hollywood Upstairs Medical College to be his personal doctor.

Dr. Nick spent most of the 80s and 90s in court for charges related to over prescribing medicine to his patients, although he managed to be acquitted for all of it. When he finally had his medical license revoked in 1993, his statement was “I cared too much”.

I love that they were so proud of this ad that they’re selling 24×36 posters of it. It is a really pretty ad, after all, although I wish they’d stop capitalizing “man”.

Note that earlier in the decade, the slogan went “Us Tareyton smokers would rather FIGHT than switch!”, making nods to the oncoming more health conscious 80s. At least they stopped showing ads of black eyed skeletal women laughing by this time.

I’m going out on a limb to say that this will not even be the most valuable decanter at the church rummage sale.

“How about you, Hal? You have a good 1978?”

“Well, I lost my job and crashed my car and broke my arm and I lost my fiancée to a dashing investment banker in a fencing duel, but at least I switched up my rum of choice. You can really tell a high quality aged rum by how well it masks the taste of tears. Yes sir, Myers’s rum has taught me a lot this year.”

This fella went on from his executive position at CBS to be the president of HBO and the CEO of National Television Workshop, which produced…Sesame Street.

Kelly Girl, can you find for me
a qualified temp employee
I can pay her well, I won’t make her cry
just as long as she doesn’t
laugh at my tie

Who wants to try Dip Ole?

One of the first cigarette ads that I think would do the exact opposite of appealing to children, or really anyone, because this is terrifying. It hurts to look at it.

Sylvester Stallone and his first wife didn’t finalize their divorce until 1985. Apparently it was the most expensive divorce of the 80s (which is saying A LOT), something around 40 million in today’s money. Stallone then went on to marry Bridgette Nielsen.

Richard Gere in Bent was considered groundbreaking for the portrayal of gay men on stage, and I’m sure his mother was just as proud of that as she was of him playing a gigolo. Tha

Sorry, Sabrina, you weren’t the one. But you do marry Tom Stoppard in 35 years, so that’s cool?

Well, this all remains depressingly relevant.

Easy instructions for home pregnancy tests in 1979:
1. Pee into a tube but make sure it’s your first pee of the day, so obviously you bought this test a long time ago because you’re super prepared for everything at all times right?
2. Perform alchemy with your pee and the included chemicals like the world’s least fun chemistry set. Don’t spill it on yourself when you’re shaking it up!
3. Wait two hours for results. Might as well pour some of that pee out onto your pet hamster and see if it dies, the way they used to check for pregnancy in the middle ages. Other suggestions to pass the longest two hours of your life include: panic about being fired from your job for being pregnant, panic about your lack of safe abortion options, and dwell on the judgmental face of the cashier who sold this test to you at K-Mart and you paid for it with nothing but nickles.
4. Stare into the murky tube of pee to decipher the mysterious glyphs that result or may not result at all, passing around your little vial to anyone around and asking, increasingly frantically, DO YOU SEE A RING? IS THERE A RING THERE? WHY CAN’T I JUST PEE ON A STICK AND HAVE IT SAY CLEARLY ‘YES YOU ARE PREGNANT!’ THIS WOULD BE SO MUCH EASIER!

Because you owe yourself nothing less!

Because if you MUST wear the world’s least flattering pants, you shouldn’t have to worry about visible panty lines. That whole outfit looks unbearably itchy.

These neon signs just totally had sex, and I find that unsettling.

You can find the whole Mondo Video on YouTube. I know this is really going to surprise you, but it’s not shocking or tasteless at all by 2018 standards. We’re not talking Hugh Jackman with a scrotum on his face here. It mostly feels like classic late 70s SNL, minus a segment that is just a stag film from the 1920s full of jazz-age naked ladies. My favorite segment involves Bill Murray shouting stage directions through a megaphone at a crowd of ordinary people at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. He has great instructions for the pigeons in the crosswalk.

Aside from annoyingly sexist language that presumes a business letter will always be addressed to a man, this is pretty classic and useful advice.

Sometimes the neighborhood key party scene gets a little out of hand.

Apparently this is what Americans though Russians were like before communism. Or at some undefined point in history somewhere between 1875 and 1975.

“Come to bed, dahling, I want you to show me that iron bar trick again.”
“My dear Tsarina, you have thirst like no other woman alive.”

That caption is made of pure ew.

Ok so what did we learn here:

– Nick Nolte could have been Superman instead of Christopher Reeve.
– Nick Nolte is kind of a gigantic mess.
– It takes a special kind of asshole to get kicked off a high school football team.

As for the palimony suit, it was dropped in 1983. Interestingly, that was also the year that his marriage to his second wife ended.

This was a huge hit, in spite of the trailer that just features women over-singing to a bemused Burt Reynolds while other people look uneasy.

“At the risk of Garnering more confusion” — someone in the office got a free drink for that one.

This ad brought to you by a truckload of cocaine!


I love how this ad, which was directly after the Coronet ad, uses the exact same pink and yellow color palette.


“One day he came home and found his wife and son had left him. Still suffering from the effects of a high speed pursuit crash, Bob went into depression…Suddenly Bob went berserk and shot the lady and her daughter, later dumping the bodies and calling the police station and saying “I’ve just shot two people, please catch me.” From that day the suspect was known as “The Catch Me Killer….While in prison he managed to escape but was later captured after a high speed chase and shot in the back with a .357. While laying on the ground pumping blood the sheriff ran up to him, told him not to worry, he (the sheriff) loved him and Jesus loved him and had a plan for his life…the reality of the Christian sheriff’s words came true years later when a team of Christian athletes ministered at the prison and Bob accepted Christ as his personal Savior. As Bob puts it, “Half a police officer and half a convict became a whole Christian…Bob Erler then began to hold services and minister while incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison.” — from Bob Erler’s biography. He has been out on parole since the 90s.

Bette Davis scares the hell out of everyone, Grace Jones is a force of nature, and Christopher Isherwood contemplates queer identity in this week’s edition of Soundbites From LGBTQ Icons of the 1970s.

PURE FRESH, from the marketing school of mashing together appealing words that make no sense.

That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading. Next week we’ll relive those rainy day recesses with a few issues of 3-2-1 Contact from 1994!