A Cover Rocks a Conservative Journal

Times Staff Writer

Mick Jagger probably never expected to be on the cover of National Review, the conservative biweekly founded by William F. Buckley. And he probably never expected to be caricatured in quite this way--old, bald, hard of hearing and liver-spotted.

National Review readers didn't expect to see him there, either.

They've been writing letters in much greater than normal volume to protest the cover--usually reserved for such beacons of right political light as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher--and the accompanying article, "That Old Devil Music" by Los Angeles writer Stuart Goldman.

The story in the Feb. 24 issue has been noticed in other quarters too. Editors at Rolling Stone magazine Wednesday were pondering whether to publish a response to the diatribe against current rock music and its support systems, including MTV and the magazines Rolling Stone, Spin, Rip and Heavy Metal.

Furthermore, a rebuttal by national GOP Chairman Lee Atwater, a guitar player, has been rumored. But a spokesman at the Republican National Committee said that Atwater hadn't been asked to write a reply. National Review staffers were keeping quiet about their plans and whether they involved Atwater.

Meanwhile, author Goldman boarded an eastbound jet Wednesday, headed for the Secaucus, N.J., studio of insult television impresario Morton Downey Jr. Goldman will be taping a program to be aired March 1, a Downey spokesman said.

Before he took off, Goldman, who once free-lanced at the Los Angeles Times, said reaction to the story has surprised him. "It's gone cuckoo," he said, estimating that he has been interviewed by about 20 radio stations--and a Rolling Stone writer investigating the possible counterstrike.

Goldman, a former country and rock musician, confessed that he is out of step with many, perhaps most, of his contemporaries. "One of the reasons I quit being a musician is because I hate nightclubs and I don't like to go out," he said.

But the central point of his National Review article isn't an attack on dissipation and odd hours. Rather, Goldman argues that rock music has lost every shred of creativity. Rock "died in 1977 with its first god, Elvis Presley," Goldman writes. "What exists today is something else--a cheap imitation of the original model. In place of the musical vitality that inspired the pioneers, there is now merely the debased desire to shock and titillate," he writes.

Condensing his theme, Goldman said, "I'm just saying basically . . . I listen to what's out there and it's garbage."

Old rockers take a shot from Goldman too. Noting that George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne recently teamed to form a group called the Traveling Wilburys, Goldman writes, "Fortunately for the band, which is decidedly mediocre, Orbison expired last month, giving it some much-needed cachet."

This and similar comments have prompted more mail--about 25 letters--on a single article than National Review associate editor Geoffrey Morris has seen in the 14 months he has been dealing with the magazine's letters. Morris said the letters, which are still coming in, are "mostly con" regarding the cover and Goldman's essay. "They just thought (the cover) was grotesque," Morris said. Other readers criticized Goldman on the grounds that "watching MTV is not the way to go about judging the whole music industry," he added.

In the article, Goldman reports that his research included "a 42-hour MTV blitz (ooooh, my head!)."

Before he immersed himself in research for the article, Goldman claimed that he had "never listened to a Bruce Springsteen song or a Madonna song to the end."

But Goldman conceded that he will be listening to a lot when he appears on the controversial Downey show, explaining that the other guests will include a group called Cycle Sluts From Hell.

Another Stone Cover

Speaking of rock musicians, Keith Richards, along with Jagger an original member of the Rolling Stones, is on the cover of the second issue of Smart magazine, making its appearance on newsstands this week, several months after the premiere issue. Richards, who openly wears the mileage of his years in rock 'n' roll, gets better treatment than Jagger. The unusual black-and-white cover shows him in a contemplative mood with his eyes closed. Inside are columns by novelist Jim Harrison, investigative journalist Peter Maas and litterateur George Plimpton.

The funniest and perhaps most incisive piece in the bimonthly, however, comes from Tony Hendra whose debut television column promises in future issues to explain television and reality, television and death and television and the status quo.

Hendra writes that what "the world needs is a column that attacks television, and not simply by policing the greed and illiteracy of its managers and their departures from some mushy, relativistic precept of decency. While it's true that television is controlled by a microclass of overpaid, middle-aged brats and that the nation would be a kinder, gentler place if their pampered blood slicked the sidewalks of 6th Avenue and Century City, we're not after them. Basically, they're sweet guys. What we're talking here is a video Luddite-ism."

Dying for the Gang

"The highest honor you can give for your set is death. When you die, when you go out in a blaze of glory, you are respected. When you kill for your set you earn your stripes--you put work in."

So says former Los Angeles gang member Tee Rodgers in the March issue of Harper's. Rodgers' comments were made in a magazine-sponsored round-table discussion among four current or former L.A. gang members--Li'l Monster, Rat-Neck, Rodgers and B-Dog--with writer Leon Bing. The four participated in the discussion at the Kenyon Juvenile Justice Center in South-Central Los Angeles.

Commenting on the longevity of gang ties, Rat-Neck, a 28-year-old member of the 107-Hoover Crips on probation, said: "But once you a Crip--no matter what--you can't get out. No matter what, woo-wah-wham, you still there. I can leave here for five years. Then I gets out of jail, I gets a new haircut, a new everything. Then, 'Hey, there goes Rat-Neck!' You can't hide your face. You can't hide nothin'!"

Participants made it clear that they don't want readers of the article to assume that every gang member is carrying an assault rifle. Said B-Dog: "There are some people still believe in .22s." To which Tee added, "Or ice picks. And don't forget the bat." Rat-Neck chipped in, "And the lock in the sock."

Adweek's Hottest

Most people probably have heard of Sports Illustrated, Life and People magazines. A good deal fewer are likely to be familiar with the Cable Guide and Bassmaster. But all five share one thing in common: they're among Adweek's "10 Hottest Magazines 1988." The advertising trade journal's annual ranking is based on an index composed of a magazine's advertising dollar volume and percentage increase in dollar volume over the previous year.

By that standard, Vanity Fair was last year's most incandescent magazine with a performance index of 613 and a revenue increase of nearly $10.7 million. Sports Illustrated was second, followed by the Cable Guide, Elle, Life, Parade, People, Metropolitan Home, Bassmaster and U.S. News & World Report. Bassmaster, as Adweek noted, comes from "the well-known magazine mecca of Montgomery, Ala." and is published by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. Circulation is more than 500,000.

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