Various media outlets reported this week that Charles Laufer, founder of Tiger Beat magazine, died this month at age 87.
Laufer’s most significant contribution to the media world was not exactly filled with pioneering investigative journalism. But Tiger Beat — which is still published today, by the way — understood what celeb-obsessed tween and teen girls desperately wanted: trivial pieces of information about the members of Duran Duran and glossy photos of each of its members to use as wallpaper. These days, that’s changed to trivial pieces of information about Justin Bieber and glossy photos of him. Clearly the core principles — which Laufer established when he founded the magazine in 1965 — remained in place long after he sold his publishing company in 1978.
If you were a teenage girl during the ’70s or ’80s — the golden years for Tiger Beat, when the Internet did not yet exist and, therefore, young females could drool over photos of David Cassidy and the cast of “The Outsiders” only in print form — Tiger Beat served a crucial purpose.
Imagine how naked our lockers and bedrooms would have been without all those pinups to provide much-needed, hormonally charged decor. Consider how completely hopeless all those celebrity crushes would have been without Tiger Beat — with its convenient listing of fan mail addresses and articles about what Rob Lowe likes to eat for breakfast — to provide constant fuel for our delusional, decidedly one-sided movie star love affairs.
After hearing about Laufer’s death, I started flipping through an old copy of Tiger Beat — the October 1987 issue, which, God bless it, actually had a picture of Charlie Sheen on the cover. And I realized that back in the late ’80s, this silly teeny-bopper magazine really served as a sneak preview of what celebrity and entertainment coverage would become on the Web, two-plus decades later. That, and it also had awesome photos of the Coreys and Jason Bateman holding a Teddy Ruxpin doll.
Tiger Beat circa 1987 delivered quality celebrity sound bites: The online celebrity universe feeds off the insipid things famous people say about each other. So did Tiger Beat. Consider this gem of a quote from Molly Ringwald, which would totally have been retweeted by Charlie Sheen had Twitter existed in the late ’80s: “I think Charlie Sheen is a great actor, and one of the handsomest ones in the history of movies! I mean, he really has that Clark Gable quality, if you know your late-late shows.”
It was a quality resource for research: In the Q&A section, on page 74 of this issue, a reader writes in to say: “I recently saw ‘Stand by Me’ and I was really impressed with Corey Feldman’s performance. Can you please tell me what other movies he was in?” This item is actually responsible for the invention of IMDb. Seriously, these new millennial, Internet-age kids have no idea what it was like to want to check out Corey Feldman’s filmography, then be forced to write a letter and wait months to find out. Google search? Please. Tiger Beat circa 1987 pointed out a need, and years later, the Internet served it.
Tiger Beat circa 1987 had its own equivalent of blog commenting: In the Tiger Talk section, where readers could sound off about the magazine, one reader wrote in to say that the magazine needed to focus more attention on Julian Lennon and less on Rob Lowe: “I just wanted to say that if you really can’t see why Julian Lennon has millions of fans adoring him, you really need glasses,” wrote “A second generation Lennon fan.” “He is definitely the most gorgeous guy around. Rob Lowe, come on now. He has nothing going for him.” Take out the name Rob Lowe and replace it with James Franco, then sub in the name Gerard Butler for Julian Lennon, and you’ve got yourself a Celebritology comment.
Tiger Beat circa 1987 was all about crowdsourcing: Tiger Beat relied on citizen journalism to fills its pages long before that became a staple of the digital media era. Just check out the awesome Monkees- and Michael J. Fox-inspired art and poetry that came out of the “You in the news” section.
Quality celebrity gossip: A buzzy item goes a long way online. But then that’s always been the case. Tiger Beat circa 1987 was not afraid to ladle out good dish via its “Hollywood — Meow — Happenings” section. Example: “Tina Yothers has been busy lately with her favorite hobby. ‘I collect pigs,’ Tina says.”
Articles that end by using a heart as a punctuation mark: Actually, this is not a trend in modern entertainment news coverage. But really, shouldn’t it be?
Nothing says more than a quality photo: Online readers love nothing more than big splashy photos of their favorite stars. Again, that’s nothing new. But it’s something Tiger Beat excelled at, as evidenced by this image, which speaks volumes. And — like the passing of Charles Laufer — it makes us a little sad about the death of another one-time Tiger Beat regular.
P.S. The Jason Bateman/Teddy Ruxpin photo ran smack in the folds of the magazine, and therefore was too difficult to scan. But trust me, it’s something special.