BoSacks Speaks Out: The wild story of Creem Magazine
on August 11, 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out:
There are so many overtones in The The Wild Story of Creem, Once ‘America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine’
story that bring me back to my publishing youth. In our first newspaper, The Express, which was part of the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS), ran cartoons like Creem Magazine from the legendary R.Crumb. We also had a wide assortment of characters, and by that I mean the Webster definition of "a person marked by notable or conspicuous traits." Yes, both at High Times and The Express, we had an unusual set of characters pretty much like in the story below.
High Times was, without a doubt, an excellent school of publishing. Many greats got their start there. The first graduating class had Art Director Diana LaGuardia, who won awards for best design while at Conde Nast and the New York Times, while the late, great Toni Brown became art director of People. Some have conquered ad agencies as Senior VP's. Glenn O'Brien ghost-wrote books for Madonna and is a mainstay at GQ. Shelley Levitt became a senior editor at People, west coast editor at Self, and has been featured in too many national magazines to mention. Susan Wyler became a best-selling cookbook author – even without including marijuana in her recipes. Ed Cobb from my production team helped develop, orchestrate, and retool production techniques for many companies such as Time Inc, helping to implement "running to the numbers," a system that every printing plant uses today.
Ed Dwyer, the first editor of High Times, went on to become a top editor for companies such as AARP the Magazine, Penthouse, Los Angeles Magazine, and Whittle Communications. I can't forget to mention Larry "Ratso" Sloman, another early editor at High Times, who made a career writing books on Dylan and Houdini, and whose best-sellers were in collaboration with Howard Stern on the radio personality's Private Parts and Miss America. My best friend Andy Kowl was High Times’ first publisher and helped it achieve much of its success. Andy has been a publisher many times over these past years and has now taken his extraordinary skills to assisting other publishers to generate increased reader engagement and profits online. One member of the class even publishes the world's oldest e-newsletter, not a small accomplishment in itself. And on and on.
At High Times we experimented with paper stock and inks. We had, to the best of my knowledge, the first full-color newsprint section in a national magazine, called the High Witness news. We had an association with Andy Warhol, who helped design several covers, and was himself on the cover at least three times. Other High Times cover stars were Mick Jagger, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Rotten, Truman Capote, and the quintessential Cheech and Chong. Debbie "Blondie" Harry thanked us for her first national magazine cover. Arnold Schwarzenegger's first non-muscle magazine cover was also, you guessed it, at High Times.
Perhaps like Creem Magazine, High Times paved new journalistic grounds and opened the door for other national alternative magazines. But I would say we weren't ahead of our times, rather we were precisely on target for both our times and the pulse of the nation.
Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it's been.