This article is not about me, but since I played a minor role in the early history of Interview magazine, I have a story to tell. Back in 1971, my name appeared on three issues of Interview’s masthead under the title “layout.” That year I redesigned Interview,
and, if I do say so myself, it was cleaner and smarter than the dozen
previous issues, which were grungy and messy. However, my contribution
was a rather uneventful blip in Interview’s ultimate legacy—but more about that later.
When founded in 1969 at the legendary Warhol Factory on Union Square in
Manhattan (just a few blocks away from Max’s Kansas City), Interview
was Pop Artist and fame-monger Andy Warhol’s very own DIY magazine
before the term “Do It Yourself” was officially coined. Actually, he
didn’t really do it himself—he had others, like me, do it for him (and
from such a distance that I never even met him). But his blithe spirit
pervaded the entire enterprise.
The initial issues of Interview (with a logo that read:
inter/VIEW) premiered a few years before Punk made DIY into a
generational style, but they adhered to the slap-dash tradition of the
late Sixties underground press—the granddaddy of all DIY. Given its art
world pedigree, Interview may have also been influenced by George Maciunas’ Fluxus newspapers—although I never heard any Interview
editor mention Fluxus by name. Yet all the same it seems a reasonable
assumption. But I did see the editors frequently pouring over the
cheap-chic newsprint fashion magazine, RAGS (published by
Rolling Stone’s Straight Arrow Publishing Co.), which was somewhere
between underground and middle-ground, so it may have had some overall
influence. The editors also periodically glanced at John Wilcox’s Other Scenes, a sloppy underground tabloid edited by one of the founders of the Villiage Voice, who also wrote a politico-culture column for the East Village Other. Whatever its roots, Interview’s
early issues, most produced as newsprint, quarter-folded tabloids (a
larger tabloid page folded in half to create a magazine look), was
consistent with the alternative media culture of times, but not unique
in any exceptional way at the time.
Not only had I never meet Warhol, I was never even told that he (or
Morrissey) saw or passed-on my redesign before it went to press. Instead
Warhol was being channeled through “managing editor and art director”
Robert Colaciello, an affable, stylish guy who became an editor,
trend-spotter—friend of Jackie-O—and currently author of a book about
Ronald and Nancy Reagan. As associate editor, Glenn O’Brien, long a
witty and insightful cultural commentator who writes for various au
courant magazines today, also had lots of input into the editorial mix.
The three of us sat at my drawing board together as I sketched pages and
pasted pictures of film stars and Warhol friends into place. And during
these sessions I was vicariously excited by the little tidbits of
gossip that Colaciello and O’Brien revealed about the chicest of the
chic, from Mick Jagger to Marisa Berenson.
At that time I was also art director of a rock music tabloid and I thought I was hired to be the art director of Interview
since all the type and graphic choices for the redesign were mine.
Instead, Colaciello who selected all the photographs, in addition to
writing many and editing all of the articles, assumed the a.d. title for
himself. It was not an unpleasant relationship; Colaciello chose those
images he knew would please Andy, but he never proscribed type or
prohibited me from using my favorite two typefaces in the magazine.
Which, in retrospect, was a big mistake.
At least Andy should have vetted my typographic choices for reasons that
will become obvious. Before becoming America’s leading artist he was,
after all, an accomplished graphic designer/illustrator (with a
distinctive hand-lettering style) and should have been the first to
realize that my pairing of art deco Broadway type for the nameplate Inter/view
and the curvaceous Busorama typeface as the subtitle “Andy Warhol’s
Film Magazine” was one of the dumbest combinations ever. In addition to
being slavishly retro and therefore inappropriate for a progressive
journal, the two faces lacked any harmony whatsoever. Add to that the
heavy oxford rules I placed at the top and bottom of each page, and, if I
were in charge I would have fired the designer. But no one uttered a
displeased peep, and the magazine kept my logo for six issues, even
after I voluntarily left for another job. Finally, with Vol 2 No. 10 the
editors (or maybe Warhol himself) switched to a handwritten version
that read Andy Warhol’s Interview. And it has more or less been stuck with it on the cover ever since.
This article already includes too much about my blip in the limelight,
however, from my wormhole perspective I can offer some insight as to the
evolution of a magazine that has become so endemic to late twentieth
century celebrity, glitz, and fashion, as well as a significant outlet
for photography and graphic design, that an ambitious, limited-edition,
seven volume, thirty-five year anniversary collection, “Andy Warhol’s Interview:
The Crystal Ball of Pop Culture” edited by Sandra J. Brant and Ingrid
Sischy, is being published this year by Karl Lagerfeld’s 7L, Steidl
Publishers. And this mammoth boxed set only covers only the first decade
from 1969 to 1979. Oh I almost forgot, the entire collection is
packaged in a “crate on wheels” and comes with a facsimile edition of
the premiere issue (which originally cost 50 cents). Needless to say
this new is quite a bit more expensive.
Interview evolved into “the definitive guide to the most significant
stars of today and tomorrow,” say its editors and it was the first
magazine to employ a unique question-and-answer format to delve candidly
into the minds of celebrities, artists, politicians, filmmakers,
musicians, and literary figures. In many of the issues, celebrities Interview other celebrities—a Warholian conceit that gave Interview
its voyeuristic appeal. Yet it is the visual persona, beginning with
the haphazard original design, the pseudo-Deco redesign that I
perpetrated, and, ultimately, the introduction of mannered
photo-illustration celebrity portrait covers by Richard Bernstein
(1939—2002) that defined Interview’s graphic personality during
the seventies, disco decade. Indeed the latter marked a truly unique
approach to editorial cover design.
Bernstein’s covers had roots in sixties fashion illustration, but
through his use of photographs heavily retouched with paint, pencil, and
pastel he monumentalized subjects like nothing else in print.
“Bernstein made the up-and-coming celebrities of the era, Sylvester
Stallone, Calvin Klein, Madonna, even wholesome Mary Tyler Moore, look
as sleek and sexy as our nostalgized memories of that era,” writes Frank
DiGiacomo in a weblog article. He exaggerated their already glamorous
visages through colorful graphic enhancements that made each personality
into a veritable mask that hid blemishes while accentuating their
auras. He made "Superstars” into “Megastars" (which was also the title
of his book of collected Interview covers), because appearing on Interview’s cover meant more than just fifteen or even thirty minutes of fame.
The most memorable issue that I worked on was devoted to Luciano
Visconti’s film version of Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” (Vol II No.
4), and was filled with luscious film stills of Dirk Bogard, Silvana
Mangano, and Bjorn Anderesen. as well as two nude shower scenes of
Marisa Berenson. It was actually a stunning issue yet was among the last
to use handout photos. Interview gradually shifted from
relying on publicity stock to creating its own photo-sessions with the
eminences of celebrity and fashion photography: Robert Mapplethorpe,
Barry McKinley, Francesco Scavullo, Herb Ritts, Ara Gallant, Peter
Beard, Bruce Weber, Berry Berenson Perkins. The editors note that these
and other photographers were given the freedom to, “create their most
unforgettable and original work.” Despite the continued use of yellowing
newsprint, these photographs jumped of the pages and some are still
Typographically, however, the first decade of Interview was functional and staid. Compared to Rolling Stone, which reveled in typographic exuberance, Interview’s
interior format was fairly neutral, allowing the photographs to take
center stage. It wasn’t until the nineties when Fabien Baron (and later
Tibor Kalman) became creative director(s) that the magazine’s graphic
attributes were totally integrated into a dynamic whole. During the
seventies, Interview was still uncertain whether it should hold
to its avant garde, alternative-culture root or lead the march from
underground to fashionable mainstream. The evolution that is vividly
chronicled in the celebratory new volumes reveals that Interview
took the short march into the valley of ephemeral style. Yet the issues
of the seventies are also documents, which through iconic pictures and
candid Interviews examine a popular culture that continues to capture the imagination.
The week's best design stories (and general musings) to see you through the weekend.
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