It has a pop crooner on the cover and an article titled "The Royal Wedding--and Yours." But there are no makeup hints, no fad diets; and there's a grim admonition to avoid the premarital "sex trap." It's The Christian Reader, and next week it starts spreading the word in supermarkets and drugstores across the nation.
Tyndale House has published the bimonthly for 20 years by subscription only--reaching a circulation of 60,000 individuals and 140,000 churches and religious bookstores. But now "we feel the market is ready" for newsstand sales, says executive editor Dwight Hooten. CR is designed "to appeal more to the conservative evangelical reader," he says, "and according to the statistics, that's quite a market." Advertising cites a 1980 Gallup poll that "set the size of the 'new morality market' at just over 100 million men and women--one out of every two customers in every supermarket and chain store in the nation." So Tyndale House is printing another 200,000 copies of the 114-page, 5 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch magazine, which hits the racks at $1.50 on July 9 with a "proven format"--proven, that is, by Reader's Digest.
A toothy photo of Debby Boone ("He still lights up her life") fills the purple cover, plugging the excerpt from her autobiography. Inside is a profile of astronaut Jack Lousma ("God has a reference trajectory for each of our lives--a perfect plan to follow") and a warning by the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the Coalition for Better Television that TV "is teaching that adultery is an acceptable lifestyle" and so forth. The "royal wedding" story turns out to be reprinted from a Kentucky seminary publication and to contain connubial tips culled from the author's "Marriage Enrichment weekends" including the injunction to "plan prime time together." A young woman tells how she recovered from anorexia nervosa by "depending on God's Spirit to give me the power to eat." And an excerpt from "Demons in the World Today" informs those "who hesitate to accept the testimony of Scripture about the reality of demons."
Tyndale House--publisher of "The Living Bible," a "thought-for-thought" paraphrase of the original, as well as two pamphlets--wants readers to develop a "warm, trusting friendship" with the magazine, says publisher Kenneth Taylor on the first page: "As we say sincerely in another of our periodicals, 'Have A Good Day and a nice forever.' " The Death Movement
Meanwhile in the secular city, Harper's is hot this month. Behind the cover cartoon by Charles Addams is Ron Rosenbaum's blisteringly sarcastic attack on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and the burgeoning death-and-dying "awareness" movement. "How did Kubler-Ross--saintly, respected, a Ladies Home Journal 'Woman of the Decade' in the 1970s--end up running a dating service for the dead in Escondido?" he asks. And answers by taking the history of the trend through a parody of Kubler-Ross' five stages: "worship of the dying; longing to be dying; playing dead; playing with the dead; and going to bed with the dead." Rosenbaum warns that "by romanticizing dying, by making death seem more 'authentic' than life, suicide is made to seem an attractive, artistic, even heroic choice," and foresees a "revival of the old-fashioned table-rapping spiritualist epidemic that swept America in the mid-19th century," and is now "growing as fast as cable TV." There are precious few facts in this screed, and plenty of cheap shots. But you may die laughing.
Unless you work at the White House, which takes a pummeling at the newsstands this month. Atlantic's long cover story by Robert Pastor amounts to a wholesale indictment of U.S.-Latin American policy. In arguing that we have misconstrued our "vital interests" in the area, Pastor strikes some provocative sparks: that because of the "enormous influx of migrants," we are "becoming a Caribbean nation"; that military or covert actions are "more likely to produce the opposite of U.S. objectives"; and that "the best way to defeat the Marxist-Leninist left" is to "break the hammerlock . . . of the right."
Harper's carries yet another call for U.S. withdrawal from NATO (immediate budget savings: $30 billion, according to author Ronald Steel); and an Omni story warns that the United States is dropping behind the Soviets in the space satellite race. And Theodore Draper in The New York Review of Books says that the Reagan administration's nuclear-war policy suffers from "deceptive, one-sided propaganda" about U.S. vulnerability and from scenarios for a "protracted" conflict which represent "a monstrous perversion of the doctrine of deterrence." Nor is he any kinder to Jonathan Schell, the New Yorker writer canonized in the press for his book, "The Fate of the Earth." Draper is unmoved ("The same sort of reception greeted that classic of puerility, 'The Greening of America' ") and dismisses "Fate" as "millenial daydreaming . . . the most depressing and defeatist cure-all that has ever been offered." Script Tiffs & Air Fare
Other best bets for July: Playboy on sports medicine; Psychology Today on neurological poisons in the workplace; and Geo's interview with Francis "double helix" Crick. You can skip Esquire's tedious spread on "making it" in New York--but don't miss the conversation between director Paul Schrader ("Cat People") and novelist John Gregory Dunne ("Dutch Shea, Jr."). As they whine at Hollywood (but who's leaving?) and snipe at each other's work (Schrader finds "Dutch" to be "unadventurous"; Dunne calls "Cat People" exploitation), there are caustic little tales about Schrader's original script for "Close Encounters" and his tiff with Steven Spielberg; Dunne's script for "A Star Is Born" and his tiff with Barbra Streisand; and a nasty whack at Pauline Kael. Smug? These guys make Gore Vidal look like Bishop Sheen.
Also must reading: John Newhouse's New Yorker four-parter on the airline industry. The series is not distinguished for its brevity; in fact, it's running just slightly longer than the Pleistocene epoch. (It suffers from the same intermittent bloat and redundancy as Schell's "Fate"; and thousands of words are spent on tech-talk more appropriate to Business Week.) But frequent fliers will be fascinated with Newhouse's lively discussions of the DC 10 and cognate disasters, his gloomy prognosis for "excessive competition," irrational fares and maintenance standards, and his insight into a business so iffy that it coined a word for unknown unknowns: "unk-unks." You gotta believe!
And finally, a cultural watershed: the 10th-anniversary double issue of Ms., with Gloria Steinem and her lavender aviators on the cover. Her self-congratulatory overview of the last 10 years is one of the most predictable features: "Now we are becoming the men we wanted to marry. Ten years ago, we were trained to marry a doctor, not be one." Ditto the earnest apocalyptics of "The Nouveau Poor," which argues that if current trends continue (two-thirds of the legally poor are female), by the year 2000 the entire poverty population will consist of women and their kids. Transitions
Passing in Review: Walter Clemons has left Newsweek's book review section to join the staff of Vanity Fair, which the Conde' Nast group will resurrect in April. In the ensuing shuffle, Newsweek is trying out three free-lancers during the summer: Gene Lyons, William Plummer and David Williams. Look for a final decision in the early fall.
And Roy Blount Jr., veteran contributing editor at Esquire, has jumped fence for The Atlantic. Blount says two recent developments "made Esquire seem less congenial." One was a letter from editor Phillip Moffitt to all contributing editors asking them to set aside a few hours to help plan an upcoming anniversary issue. "Ridiculous," says Blount. "Contributing editors don't get any money" for their titles, and "it's treating us as if we were his employes, which is hardly the case." Second rub: a new requirement that "the last line of every paragraph has to go more than halfway across the column." Blount was consequently obliged to "stick in a few words" here and there for padding, which he calls "an intrusion." He will write book and music reviews for The Atlantic, and hopes to continue contributing occasionally to Esquire.
Also migrating: Esquire book reviewer James Wolcott, whose new column, "Palpitations," starts next month in Harper's. Transactions
Publisher's Clearing House, Part I: In a dramatic Friday-night massacre, the entire staff of Forecast magazine was fired on June 18. Publisher T. Dean Reed informed managing editor Faith Moeckel that she and the other five employes of the 18-year-old cultural calendar and arts review were sacked. "I was heartsick," says Moeckel, who says she was told that the magazine's owners--Leonard and Dorothy Marks--"were no longer going to support it." Leonard Marks--uber-lawyer and USIA head under Lyndon Johnson--bought the magazine last fall and installed former newsman Reed. Since then, staffers say, problems proliferated and soon rumors began percolating that Forecast would be sold. President Dorothy Marks says, "We're negotiating with two or three different groups," and that staff members "weren't fired for any reason except that we changed our plans for the magazine." The July issue went to press just before the purge; an August issue is uncertain.
Publisher's Clearing House, Part II: Richard Barthelmes is leaving his position as publisher of The Dial, the public-TV magazine, because of "philosophical differences" with management. In 2 1/2 years, circulation has topped a million, with three more stations joining recently. But "we came to differing viewpoints about how the magazine should proceed," says Barthelmes, who declines further detail. According to assistant publisher Audrey Koota, subscribers will soon see several changes, including some cost-cutting--less lavish graphics and less color inside--and a tilt from highbrow pieces keyed to PBS programs toward "brisk, provocative, controversial" articles which "relate to the whole industry." No successor has been named, and Barthelmes will remain at the magazine for the near future. RIFing the Readers
In the past few weeks, two magazines have announced dramatic reductions-in-folks. Harper's, facing mounting losses from unprofitable subscriptions sold by agencies, cut its circulation drastically. Letters were sent to more than 100,000 subscribers offering other magazines or a rebate, and by the June issue circulation had fallen from 325,000 to 140,000, with no where to go but up. "We swallowed hard," says editor Michael Kinsley, "but it's the salvation of our magazine." After the Cowles group deep-sixed Harper's a few years ago, it was bailed out by the MacArthur Foundation and launched on its own this spring. "Now we've got $3 million in the bank," Kinsley says, "and even if nothing changes, we're good for four years."
And Psychology Today has announced that it is dropping its circulation rate base from 1,175,000 to 850,000 effective in October. The 28-percent cut, says Ziff-Davis marketing vice president Paul Chook, will give PT "improved demographics" among college-educated 18-to-44-year-olds and counter a recent "tilt toward a female audience." At present, 58 percent are women. Beyond 55 percent, Chook says, male-oriented advertisers begin to get uneasy. PT will make up some of the ad-rate loss with a new cover and subscription price in August: $1.95 per copy and $12.97 per year, up from $1.50 and $7.99. Gone Fichin'
Now there's Cyrk, the "microfiche magazine for the mind," a semiannual with the nebulous editorial goal of "exploring creativity" through eight abstract essays on the mind and five profiles of "extraordinary leaders." (Including the head of Bully Hill Vineyards.) All 78 pages--no photos and no advertising--are printed entirely on one 3-by-5-inch plastic fiche. How do you read it? "It's a good question," says editor William Kevin Murphy (who once published the Michigan Art Journal until "the postage put me out of business"), but he says that nearly 1,000 subscribers are already using microfiche readers at local libraries or somewhere. "It's conservation," says Murphy, "and it's cost-effective. Besides, how many magazines can you carry in your pocket?" Available at $15 a year from Cyrk, Inc. Box 3355, Sarasota, Fla. 33580. Back of the Book
Kudos to monster-meister Steven Spielberg. His E.T.--the little space geek who looks like a cross between Don Rickles and Chinese carry-out--has become the first non-human ever to grace (if that's the word) the cover of Rolling Stone. Eat your heart out, Dr. Hook . . . The Jeane Dixon Trophy to Washingtonian for its Best & Worst cover photo of deejay Howard Stern, who was fired just after the issue hit the stands . . . Harper's quotes a recent Senate prayer by Chaplain Richard Halverson: "Oh Lord," he asks, "Help those who are having difficulty raising campaign funds . . . Teach them, Lord, that they can really trust Thee to help them with hard realities--like money and staff and favor with the people." . . . And this just in: Omni suggests that the auto energy crisis can be solved if genetic scientists create a giantic cross-breed between "the lightning-quick cockroach and the hard-shelled lobster." Stick a few electrodes in the brain, bolt on some bumpers and headlights, and your 20-foot "roachster" is ready to roll. But where do you park it--under the sink?