Friday, May 4, 2012

Dusting off CL's first issue on our 40th anniversary

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2012 at 4:49 PM

What is a creative loafer?
  • Dustin Chanbers
  • "What is a creative loafer?"
This week's edition of Creative Loafing, issue no. 1, volume 41, marks the 40th anniversary of this here arts and entertainment weekly newspaper, and oh how things have changed.

"Who is the creative loafer?" asks the first line of print that CL ever published.

There's only one surviving copy of that issue here at the office, and it's been filed away in our morgue archive since Richard Nixon was still in office, its pages now yellow and almost too brittle for human hands to touch. The cover query continues, "Our latest scientific research indicates [creative loafers] are persons whose origin and behavior are of endless variety and defy description. However, certain characteristics are obvious. They are displeased with the 'Establishment's Rat Race' and motivated to enjoy distractions of a particular nature. We have only a limited estimate of these distractions, but shall describe some of the most interesting.

Many of these distractions are caused by five of their many senses. With their eyes they look for things that are different. This stimulates their curiosity, a motivating force. Their noses search out enjoyable fragrances of nature, and of food stuffs that satisfy their taste sense. Their ears send them to different places to hear weird sounds. A sense of touch is used to experience everything. They feel, fondle, or fix countless crafty things which delight this and other senses."

And so begins a legacy of loafing, and really, after 40 years we haven't strayed too far off course. The exact publication date for issue no. 1 is difficult to pinpoint, since there is no date printed on the paper, although there is a hand-scrawled, "May 31, 1971," marked on the inside cover of the bound volume that chronicles each week's paper from June of 1972 on up through Oct. 1973. But if it was truly operating like a weekly back then, the May 31 date doesn't match up with the June 3-9 date that's stamped on the cover of issue no. 2. Like so much of Atlanta's history, the past is riddled with inconsistencies.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Looking over all four pages of Creative Loafing no. 1 now brings more questions to the table than it answers. First and foremost, there's talk of the paper's birth as a spin-off from a previous monthly incarnation, called Psst* ... , which is said to have been printed on cloth pages.

The front cover legend adds, "Psst* ... was a fresh new name for a fresh new idea for creative loafing. Some thought of French postcards, some thought we were being super cute. Some, who were outgoing, really dug the sound, some were timid and tried to make sense out of a nonsense word. Finally, the electronic media, telephone, and radio could not render our new sound in an effective way and we had to resort to spelling P ... S ... S ... T, which somehow just didn't seem "to get it." Thus a phase/out of Psst* ... ... and a play/up for Creative Loafing.

They must have had better drugs in the '70s, and what the heck was "electronic media" in 1972?

From there, the paper offers a mix of columns. "Pop Scene" was the beginning of CL's local news reporting. Gene Siskel ran a presumably syndicated column reviewing director Barry Pollack's Cool Breeze and Robert J. Emery's Ghetto Freaks. He dug Cool Breeze, but Ghetto Freaks - not so much.

There's a sports column about sailing on Lake Lanier, and bulletins about various other non-club oriented activities, such as bicycle tours of the city, television listings, and bowling. Bowling actually goes on to take up a whole lot of column space in '72 and '73, but that will be addressed in the weeks to come.

"Grease Band" was playing at a place called Twelfth Gate that week, which is rumored to have been a house where bands would set up and play in the living room. Admission was generally $1, and although recollections around these parts are hazy, Twelfth Gate stood near what is now the Domino's Pizza at the intersection of 10th and Spring St.

Back then, the music column was called "The Hal You Say!" It featured the ruminations of Hal Buice, who, according to his bio (which was longer than his article in the first issue), was "one of the top jazz pianists in the area." Interestingly enough, Buice's first article could be a pretty telling interview with singer Sandy East, but before the story picks up the pace, it dead ends at the end of the column space. No continuation, no explanation - must've been part of the whole loafing creatively thing they were all about back then.

Keep an eye out next week for a Q&A with CL's original music writer, Hal Buice.

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