Magazines are Fragile Life Forms (And True is the One I Miss the Most)

by David E. Petzal

This post is prompted by the recent sale of Newsweek Magazine for $1 plus assumption of its debt, a reminder that magazines are fragile life forms, and our cultural landscape is littered with the corpses of former giants such as Life, Look, The Saturday Evening Pos_t, and _Colliers, to name a few.

But the one I miss is a magazine called True. Published by Fawcett Publications from 1937 to 1974, its full name was True--The Man's Magazine. There was nothing else like it. Unlike the rest of the men's guts adventure rags (which were hugely popular at the time) True was not only truthful, but created by writers, editors, photographers, and artists of the first rank. In its heyday during the 1950s, True was overseen by Ken Purdy, who was not only a superb editor in chief, but is still generally acknowledged as the greatest automotive writer of all time. True has no modern equivalent, but in television terms it was a combination of the Military Channel, the Outdoor Channel, the History Channel, and Spike TV.

True had a gun editor, a fellow named Lucian Cary, who was a fine writer and died true to the gun writers' code by passing away alone, destitute, and alcoholic in a Manhattan flophouse. But in his time, he was one of the real good ones.

True died because its audience was aging and because the Fawcetts decided it needed to be more urban and more sophisticated. From there on its demise was only a matter of time. In the early 70s it was sold to Petersen Publications, who tried to sell it as "True--The Magazine of the Male Chauvinist Pig" (its logo was a wild boar). That lasted six months. It then went to something called Lopez Publications, and as far as I know, never appeared again. It was a bad end, but at least it was a quick end.

I wish it was still around.