|Adventures in Publishing: Playgirls of Dr. Sherlock Bone
||[Nov. 16th, 2004|07:06 pm]
The American Caliban
In college I had a great enthusiasm for journalism. I did achieve some success in the field and got a good job later on, but my first few attempts are notable for humor value only. |
As a freshman in college I was seeking a paid internship. One of my father’s former students, a novelist friend of the family, was working in publishing and she tried to give me an in, so I went on an interview at her job. At the time she was working for Playgirl magazine, which was conveniently close to me. The same office put out at least one other magazine (some women’s fitness and health thing) and she said they were very busy and could definitely use a part-timer intern.
At the interview, my father’s friend introduced me to my potential boss and then left us to chat. The woman I talked to had that prissy, intense falseness that a lot of people get in business situations, but she was kind enough to tell me in code how jacked up the place was. They were going through their second Chapter 11, things were “in transition and there’s a lot of flux”, and it would be a “challenging environment”. They ended up not hiring me and I forgot about the whole thing. It was an interesting situation, though. Playgirl couldn’t make money because not enough women wanted to see pictures of naked men to make it worth their while, and almost all of their subscribers were actually gay men. However, they could only keep those customers if they kept up the fiction that it was a magazine for women, so gay-themed advertising was out. Therefore, without being able to sell their nonexistent female audience or their closeted gay audience to advertisers they were horribly screwed. But anyway.
Years later, at a different newspaper, I met the woman who’d got that internship. The place was far, far worse than I had thought. Not only was a skeleton staff cranking out three monthlies under tremendous pressure, but the bankruptcy and ownership changes had made pay a very chancy thing, and people kept flipping out at the office and quitting in a storm of tears, etc. To make things worse, the head lady was the kind of deliriously power-mad creature who only succeeds in publishing, an absolute monarch of an obsesso-compulsocracy.
The denouement of my friend’s career there came when the boss lost her dog.
It’s a terrible thing to lose a loved animal, and everyone was sympathetic. But boss lady went far beyond that. All activity in this overworked office ground to a halt. Employees were summoned to a conference room. They were told that their new job was to find the dog, at whatever cost. Each employee was given a map grid of part of West L.A. as their search zone with instructions to go through it with thorough attention to detail. And an expert was brought in: Dr. Sherlock Bones, celebrity dog detective.
My friend left apparently as the art director was making dog loss flyers for the staff to distribute over the entire Westside. I think Playgirl went through three or four more bankruptcies. My dad’s friend moved out of state and raised horses. And I got an internship at a music magazine.
Never did find that dog.