by Dr. Derek Lamar
Shelly Hyman, publisher of Teen Screen magazine, had branched out and was involved in a lot of mail order: mostly puzzle contests modeled after the enterprises of famed puzzle king , Lee Rogers. But still lots of people found their way into the offices of Teen Screen: Actress Barbara Gates worked there for a time between acting jobs. "Bunky" (John Randolph Hearst, jr.), from the Herald Examiner, was there a lot. My old boss, John Bryan, publisher of Open City worked for him. Odd that I would run into him here. Even more ironic that he was Patty Hearst's cousin and John Bryan would end up writing "This Solder Still At War" (a book about the SLA: Symbionese Liberation Army) in 1975. And Aldo Ray (who ironically starred in the movie Riot On Sunset Strip) used to pop in often, but of course I didn't know anything about that movie at the time. Teen Screen magazine was rapidly changing just like the American landscape and this included a new kind of "teen scene." The shake up of life and everything one depended on would continue to unfold and unwind.
(Above: Teen Screen magazine suffers the changes in publishing and in society.)
Shortly after Bob Dylan, The Byrds, the San Francisco scene along with the famous "Summer of Love", the whole hippie/peace movement changed everything and young people were more interested in underground newspapers and Rolling Stone than teenybopper magazines. Many of the fanzines still being published were operated by old timers who "just didn't get it". Teen Screen tried putting out a tabloid fanzine modeled after the Rolling Stone called simply "The Newspaper," but it still focused on artists like Sean Cassidy, The Osmonds, The Jackson Five, The Partridge Family, The Cowsills and Bobby Sherman. Rolling Stone, being an offshoot of the underground papers, fell into the Peace Movement category and was far more sophisticated in its social philosophy and thus caught the attention of more young people.
(Above Right: Aldo Ray stars in God's Little Acre with Tina Louise, both important figures in Hollywood.)
We continued to publish Teen Screen but mostly to fulfill contractual obligations with the subscription companies. That and the easy money from Maybelline ads. But Shelly got hooked on the easy money of puzzle clubs and began imitating everything Lee Rogers did. These puzzle scams were borderline legal because they were engineered to avoid technically being lotteries. That was the key. If you could make the contest one based on personal skill instead of a "game of chance" you were safe.
First there was the famous sewing machine contest which ran a picture of a new sewing machine and the puzzle you would enter: you would have to solve difficult "word jumbles" like EHM - WES -TSCIHT -DENELE . And everyone was a winner who would receive a $50 gift certificate toward the $110 sewing machine (Sugg. Retail Value) which actually sold for about $50-$60.
The other contest gimmick: a full page ad with a loss leader puzzle which let you sign up to solve what seemed to be a super easy contest PAYING THE WINNER $25,000 and the entry fee would be only 25¢. Almost everyone qualified and this would get you on the list. The "company" would benefit by obtaining a valuable mail order name and address for someone who was in the category of being gullible enough to pay to enter contests. Almost everyone would get the puzzle right. There was always small print in the "official rules" and more puzzles in graduating difficulty along with a tie breaker at the end which really did require some skill. But until then you would be paying entry fees of $2, $5 and $10 for maybe 4 more mailings only to be squashed like a bug in the final puzzle to beat all puzzles. In the meantime thousands and thousands of these entries were being sent out to dedicated puzzle players all across America. It was better than an Indian reservation casino.
(Publishing Contests: an exercise in greed and madness. The end of an era.)
The business was rolling. Shelly had inserting machines, postage meters, printing presses. I was busy designing the ads, flyers, envelopes, contest rules, certificates, puzzles, etc. Things were doing so well Teen Screen moved to the North side of Hollywood Boulevard and we ended up in a newer more modern building. It was a bank building and very clean. Shelly put in closed circuit cameras for security and mail delivery was the high point of the day. Most of the envelopes were filled with cash so "Bobbie" was hired to oversee the process and make sure all of the green got into that day's deposits.
I remember everyone was opening mail and sorting cash. One day, Linda, the receptionist, was busy opening envelopes and she called us over to view a particular entry. Some old lady, who was supposed to include a 25¢ entry fee, put in a $20 bill instead. Linda was so excited, against our suggestions, she ran to Shelly's office to show him her find, which he promptly deposited in his pocket.
More employees were hired and the office was
humming. I would take the bus to work everyday from Silverlake
which traveled down Sunset Blvd. and continue down Hollywood Blvd.
at North Virgil. Hollywood Blvd. is busy and there were some good
places to eat. Sitting at the counter at Woolworth's was always
amusing. The Tick Tock had good old fashioned home cooked meals.
Two Guys From Italy had great Italian Food. Once in a while the
Brown Derby was worth the splurge. And finally a Howard Johnson's
was built right there at Hollywood and Vine with "Clam Fry
Fridays." I would tell people I worked for Teen Screen magazine
but it wasn't being published anymore. It was just another job.
One morning, February 9, 1971, at about 6:00 am Michael and I were awakened by an enormous explosion and rumbling which shook the entire house. We tried to climb out of bed but our collie, who weight 100 lbs., was trying to get into bed for safety. My first thought was just like Charlton Heston in The Planet of the Apes when he saw the Statue of Liberty in ruins and he yelled: "Finally, you really did it! You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God Damn you all to Hell!!!"
I don't know how long it took before I realized that it was an earthquake. I really thought, at least for a micro second that a nuclear missile had hit and in my mind's eye I could see the mushroom cloud rising as the ground continued to rumble all around me. I was trying to get my clothes on and I could hardly stand up. Everything was shaking and rolling. Dory Previn captured it well on her album "Reflections In A Mud Puddle": "The telephone rang the week of the earthquake, death was still in the air, at 6:01 the walls came down, they never had a prayer, dad is dead... senseless death and shocking quakes"
We had a 20 gallon aquarium and half of the water was on the floor, our two cats were insane and the dog was quivering. Stuff was strewn about everywhere and we were rushing to get outside before our house fell down the hill.
(Above: Destruction of Sylmar freeway.)
I was about to die but you weren't going to get me outside of the house naked so I made a choice between nudity and stupidity. But I got dressed and I think the quake stopped before I had my shoes on. Actually I think the quake lasted for one full minute. The longest 60 seconds of my life.
Neighbors were outside their houses at this point. Bricks everywhere. Chimneys down mostly. Everyone was scared but exceedingly friendly. It was all very surreal and yet also very comforting. Every so often an aftershock would occur and my first thought was it was going to start all over again. After cleaning up the house I got myself together and caught the bus to go to work. As we got to Hollywood Blvd. we could see the sidewalks covered in broken glass. Those huge street level retail windows just couldn't take it.
(Above: Graph showing earthquake levels from 1971 San Fernando Quake.)
They snapped and exploded like light bulbs hitting the kitchen floor. The air was filled with security alarms going off and repairs were already underway.
(Above: Clock stops as disaster slams the Southland.)
The office was a mess. Envelopes, flyers, and puzzle forms were everywhere but actually nothing was broken. All the walls were up and in good shape and for the most part it was just a day of excitement. Everyone was telling their own story of how scared they were AND how they weren't going to sleep in their house that night. My solution was to put my clothes in a pile at the top of the stairs so if it happened again I could get dressed fast and get the hell out of there.
Saga continues: From Hollywood Blvd. to Blue Jay Way.
© Copyright Derek Lamar 2004
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