I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish Household in Cleveland, Ohio. My parents were Holocaust survivors. My mother had escaped from Auschwitz (but that’s another story). I was going to an Orthodox Jewish Women’s College in New York City.
Don’t forget that was the Seventies – in New York City. We were young and some of us were into what was going on. I started smoking pot and really loved it.
One summer during college break back home in Cleveland, my cousin said, ”Try this – it’s like a grass high, but better.” That was my first time taking mescaline. I loved that, too. But only did it occasionally. I was introduced to LSD when I was 19, when I spent my junior year in Israel at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. One of the rabbinical students that I knew had a friend who brought in 20 hits of Windowpane between his toes. We took it together on Israeli Independence Day. It was a rollicking good time. But, pot was (and still is) my drug of choice.
At some point after college I pursued graduate studies. I was accepted by the University of Iowa Writing Program (which I didn’t know was so prestigious.) But I turned it down because they accepted me in short story and not in poetry.
At the time I was involved with a young man that I was crazy about, but that my parents did not think was a good bet for me. They sent me back to graduate school in Israel which is where I met the man who was to be my first husband.
I ended up falling out of love with the first boyfriend, but he remained one of my cherished best friends for the rest of his life. I attended his wedding (with my second and current) husband and it was such a happy occasion.
When I returned, I continued my graduate studies in creative writing and poetry with Joel Oppenheimer at CCNY. He was considered one of the great poets of the day, and he was pretty cool – but still odd –as he had both front teeth out and didn’t seem to want to change that.
I was always enamored with the field of communications. So, I saw an employment ad in The New York Times (that’s how we did it then – ads in the paper) for an unidentified major magazine publisher looking for someone in their production department. That was enough for me – to be part of a major publishing enterprise!
I went in to the employer –which turned out to be Penthouse Magazine – and joined about 15 really good -looking girls waiting to be interviewed. The receptionist was beautiful – they were all beautiful. It was intimidating. To make matters more difficult, I had woken up sick – I had a fever. (Of course that wouldn’t fly now – but things were different then –and I wanted this job –and I needed to tough it out.) I sat in that waiting room , feeling not great, for over two and half hours as all the girls were being interviewed.
Finally, I think I was the last person – I walk into the back and am met by a 22 year old with long-ish well –groomed red hair and beard and an accent that sounded like he was one of The Beatles. That was John Evans, the wunderkind production director that Bob Guccione discovered, and my future boss.
As John’s assistant I learned all about publishing – the printing, the paper, the distribution. The girls in the magazine would come to me first because I had the tear sheets as well as the first proofs to come off the printing press that would be approved. Sometimes it was a real surprise to see the difference in how the girls looked in person – normal – and how they looked after they’d been made up and professionally photographed for the magazine.
It was a blast. We all worked very hard and along with John there was the art director who was gorgeous and had long hair and wore leather pants, and also sounded like The Beatles and had their wry sense of humor. It was a lot of work but it was fun for me.
Around this time I was engaged to and got married to the young lawyer I met while I was in Graduate School in Jerusalem, Israel. We went on a honeymoon to Bermuda. One day while riding on the back of the moped he had rented an idea occurred to me, melding two of the things I was totally into at that time. “How about a magazine about marijuana?” What a great idea!
When I came home I began working on my idea. I needed to do it inexpensively so I started with the idea of putting it together on newsprint. I called on my friends (several of whom are still with me today!) to contribute stories and other fun things. Because I was living in New York at the time, I concentrated on the laws of New York . I really felt it should be legal and ultimately turned into one of the early pioneers to fight for the legalization (or at least decriminalization) of marijuana.
I then went out and to try to find a printer. The estimates varied widely – a lesson I still learned today. The highest was almost 10 times more than the reasonable one I finally selected.
We had a typesetter and I would go and spend time there. Now you can just do it all on the computer.
So I had my first issue ready to print, and I decided on two colors – 4 colors was too expensive. So I chose brown and black – still my go-to for my logo and other things.
So once it was printed, “How was I going to distribute this?”, I asked myself. My brilliant idea was to go to the newsstands and I researched the New York Post drop men. I made a deal and had them drop my magazines at the various newsstands. Voila! I existed.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the exciting saga.
Charlotte Parker is the Editor and Publisher of Head Magazine.