2 Battles for Hearts and Minds

Times Staff Writer

Causes sprout magazines.

This law of the universe is being rigorously observed this week in Southern California, where ideas often begin as radiations from far, far away and end up as molecules in the mainstream.

The evidence: Two new magazines based here are gearing up to win hearts and minds on social and political issues.

In Beverly Hills, businessman Gil Michaels is waiting for 40,000 copies of the second issue of The Animals’ Voice Magazine, which began printing Wednesday, to come off the presses. Michaels, a wealthy convert to the cause of animal rights, says the second issue represents the start of a concerted effort to turn the magazine from a give-away to a subscription-based publication. It also marks the first step in Michaels’ long-term plan to make the magazine a slick vehicle for the animal rights cause.


Meanwhile, Wally George, the conservative television showman who specializes in invective, announced on Tuesday that he will launch a magazine named Victory as an antidote to what George sees as the liberal bias in the nation’s media. Due out in January, the magazine will bear little resemblance to such established voices of conservatism as the National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr.

“I’m appealing to people who would never, ever read or watch William Buckley,” said George, whose syndicated show, “Hot Seat With Wally George,” originates from an Orange County station where Pat Boone is president.

Michaels, who heads what’s claimed to be the country’s largest copier supplies business, said, “Assuming my economic situation stays the same, I’m prepared to lose half a million a year” on the magazine.

While Michaels says that many copies of Animals’ Voice will be given away each month, he expects the bimonthly to have about 30,000 subscribers before the third issue. The goal is 100,000 subscribers by the end of next year, Michaels said, noting that he wants to make the magazine a monthly by the end of next year. (Introductory subscription price is $18 for 12 issues. Address: P.O. Box 5312, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90209-5312.)


Eventually the businessman-turned-publisher hopes to reach readers others than the already active animal rights audience. To that end, he said the magazine “probably will tone down the nature” of its editorial content.

The premiere issue, published in June, contained a graphic news section with a warning to readers that “the following 10 pages contain news photos of a graphic nature.” The section includes pictures of slaughtered kangaroos and a surgically mutilated cat. The main feature is a package of stories on bullfighting.

Wally George, who noted that start-up money for Victory was provided by three silent partners, said that the first issue of the monthly will have a press run of 40,000 and will be targeted largely at the Southern California market. It’s “way too expensive to go national,” he explained, adding that the magazine may grow to a circulation of 70,000 to 80,000.

Like Michaels, George is concerned that his magazine be palatable. So it will be sprinkled with general features such as restaurant and television reviews and stories on celebrities. “They’re not going to realize after they’ve read it that this is strictly a right-wing, Republican magazine,” George said.

Illustrating his political commitments, George said he has already picked the cover subject for the first issue--Vice President George Bush, no matter what happens in the November election.

George is not a complete stranger to magazine publishing. About 20 years ago when he was living in Marina del Rey, George said that for two years he produced “Fun magazine, the magazine for Fun people.”

‘Debris Flow’ Fallout

Southern California, Land of Apocalypses: The New Yorker says it’ll take a couple of weeks yet to determine overall response--but so far all the mail about John McPhee’s two-part article, “Los Angeles Against the Mountains,” is “favorable.”


Perhaps this means that readers are undaunted by McPhee’s exposition on yet another potential catastrophe--besides earthquakes--for the Los Angeles region. Namely, “debris flows,” the accumulations of unsteady rock and earth along the San Gabriel Mountains that sometimes become massive landslides after heavy rains. By McPhee’s estimate, 300 to 400 houses “along the mountain front . . . will be zapped per decade.” The often gruesomely humorous articles are studded with examples of people, houses and cars being swept away in high-velocity rampages of muck and stone. Sample: “The bedroom fell on the family station wagon. With the bedroom on top of it, the station wagon went down the driveway and on down the street. . . . When the bedroom was taken off it, the car was 26 inches high.”

The final installment was published in the Oct. 3 issue.


Spy magazine, the irreverent 2-year-old New York satirical magazine that specializes in swatting reputations coast to coast, is beginning to get a few brickbats through its own windows.

Recently at least three columnists and Manhattan real estate tycoon Donald Trump have thrown insults and dire predictions at the magazine.

Last week syndicated columnist Liz Smith reported that Trump had predicted to her that Spy would not “even be around in a year.” According to Smith, Trump based his forecast on knowledge of financial problems at the magazine.

Smith went on to make her own prediction. “The thin-skinned creators of Spy, who like to dish it out but react as if touched by hot wires when anybody dares comment on them or their product, will probably have quite a reaction to this,” she wrote.

Spy co-editor E. Graydon Carter’s reaction was somewhat less than galvanic. Carter denied the magazine is in financial straits, noting that “we have about a third of the money we raised (to start the magazine) still in the bank.” Advertising, he said, has rebounded from a low of 13 pages in one issue to “70 something” pages in the current issue.


Issuing a counter-prediction of his own, Carter said Trump will be out of business in a year.

Both Smith and Trump are frequent targets of the magazine. Trump has been mentioned--unfavorably--in every issue for the last year--by the magazine’s own count. He also made the Spy 100 list in the current issue five times. The list of “the most annoying, alarming and appalling people, places and things” singled out Trump for several of his activities, including boxing promotion and his best-selling book.

Elsewhere, New York magazine recently noted that Spy’s other co-editor, Kurt Andersen, and R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., editor of the American Spectator, had exchanged verbal blows. After the Spectator called Spy “illegible” and “destructive,” Andersen sent an angry letter to Tyrrell claiming that the story contained at least one “libelous” error.

Finally, a media columnist for a 7-month-old New York weekly has declared hostilities on Spy after being scalded in the magazine’s Review of Reviewers column. Lewis Grossberger, whose column appears in 7 Days, mentioned Spy unfavorably “four or five times” in his column since Spy labeled him “irrepressibly tiresome” last month.

Grossberger, once a fan of the magazine, said he has called Spy “mean-spirited” and a “swaggering frat house bulletin.” In a telephone interview he also called Spy “the pit bull of magazines.”

Acknowledging that his counterfire may seem like the fulminations of a wounded ego, Grossberger said that he applauds Spy’s courage at taking on big names such as Trump. But he said he questions the magazine’s bashing of “writers and journalists who are hardly household names.” He added, “I’m not exactly a household word either.”