Charles Laufer dies at 87; built publishing career with youth-oriented fan magazines
Charles Laufer, who built a publishing career with youth-oriented fan magazines such as Tiger Beat, has died. He was 87.
Laufer died April 5 of natural causes at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, said his daughter, Teena Naumann.
A journalism graduate from USC, Laufer was teaching at Excelsior High School in Norwalk in the 1950s when he came up with the idea for a magazine called Coaster aimed at students.
“The kids were always bored” on rainy days, said his son, Scott. “He thought there had to be something more interesting to read.”
He changed the name of Coaster to Teen, and that magazine led Laufer to launch his signature publication, Tiger Beat, in 1965. Laufer started several other magazines before selling the company in 1978. He built his success on stars such as teen heartthrobs Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy as well as the Beatles and the Monkees.
A 1971 Times story described Laufer’s staff covering every move by Cassidy, then star of the television series “The Partridge Family,” and producing “about 15 David Cassidy stories a month and sentences that almost always end with an exclamation mark (David ordered a steak!).”
“The readers of these magazines, they’re becoming consumers for the first time, falling in love for the first time,” said Scott Laufer, whose company bought Tiger Beat in 2003 and publishes another magazine for teens, Bop. “We’re trying to make it a positive experience for them. It’s pretty wholesome fun for teenage girls.”
As his father told The Times in 1974: “We provide entertainment. How much does a hot fudge sundae cost? Seventy-five cents? OK. We give them a package for 75 cents. It’s a hot fudge sundae.”
Charles Harry Laufer was born Sept. 13, 1923, in Newark, N.J., the second of three sons of Isadore Laufer, who owned a taxi company and was a state assemblyman, and his wife, Anna.
A standout basketball player at Newark’s Central High School, Laufer could not serve during World War II because of a heart murmur and a broken leg suffered in a car accident, said his younger brother and business partner, Ira. A high school friend persuaded Laufer to travel to California, and he went even after the friend backed out.
Laufer attended Los Angeles City College before graduating from USC. He went into teaching, at Beverly Hills High and Excelsior High, where he met his wife, Dorothy, who was teaching physical education. They married in 1956.
He sold Teen but remained as its editor until becoming publisher of Tiger Beat. His other magazines included such monthly publications as Rona Barrett’s Hollywood and Gossip. “The first [magazine] was for love,” Laufer told The Times in 1980. “Tiger Beat was for money.”
Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said magazines such as Tiger Beat are “really quite sweet ways for people to indulge in their interests, in their crushes, with lots of glossy pictures to tape to the walls of their rooms.”
Ira Laufer said he and his brother had the Monkees — especially band member Davy Jones — to thank for Tiger Beat’s getting off the ground.
“We were in business for four months at Tiger Beat, funds were drying up,” he said. His brother and the magazine’s editor went to a screening of new television shows and Laufer remembered Jones from the cast of “Oliver!” on Broadway.
“Chuck had a feeling,” Ira Laufer said. He put a picture of Jones on the corner of the magazine’s cover. “It was our fifth issue, it almost sold out on the newsstands, put us in the black and started our company.”
Tiger Beat’s monthly circulation peaked at about 700,000 in 1978, Scott Laufer said.
In addition to his wife, son and daughter, who live in Northridge, and his brother, who lives in Rancho Mirage, Laufer is survived by daughters Kerry Laufer of Healdsburg, Calif.; Laurie Fitzgerald of San Rafael and Julie Jenkins of Chatsworth; and 10 grandchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.
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