As an aspiring publishing mogul fresh out of college, I loved living in Los Angeles during the late Seventies and up until I left the city in 1981. There were several weekly publications, including the terrific Reader and LA Weekly. And it seemed like everyone was starting up an alternative monthly of some sort, from low-tech punk zines to slick magazines like Wet, the Venice-based publication of “gourmet bathing and beyond.” One of my favorites was Stuff.
Stuff began in 1979 as an all-advertising monthly with full-page ads that cost $50. Lots of businesses that didn’t traditionally do a lot of advertising could afford that, and the publication became a place to show off your hipness through graphic design. I was digging through some old boxes recently and came upon four issues of Stuff from 1980. Click on any image for a larger version.
Stuff’s publisher, Steve Samiof, previously published a popular punk magazine called Slash. With Stuff he created a platform for what might be called punk design.
Eventually Stuff added editorial material, though it was sometimes hard to tell the difference between the ads and the prose. But it was always wild to look at and for certain establishments I’ll bet the ads even worked.
Part of the reason magazines like Stuff and Wet could survive back then was because production costs took a real dive in the late 1970s thanks to a flood of relatively low-cost typesetting devices hitting the market.
Every other person you met seemed to be a typesetter, at least part-time, and you could easily find a type shop willing to trade work for some ad space. Or, if you were lucky, you could get your own Editwriter or CompSet machine, a waxer, and some Xacto knives and you were on your way.
That was before type and graphics became practically free commodities. A monthly like Stuff didn’t use a whole lot of type, but I’ll bet they ran up giant bills at the stat house.
Stuff often ran ads from graphic designers, photographers, artists and, well, just about anyone with $50 and a desire to create something unique.
LA had a very hip scene back then and stores like Cowboys and Poodles on Melrose, Heaven and Vertigo were all the rage. There was the Roxy and the Troubadour for lighter rock, and places like Madam Wong’s in Chinatown for the harder-core. And every place you went in LA had parking, which is one of the few things I miss about the place.
Stuff was large—a full 11 X 17 inches—and was undoubtedly influenced by Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, which seemed to inspire a lot of publishers back then.
I have no idea what the circulation of Stuff was, but you could find it pretty easily, and it was free. According to an interview I read with Samiof, he made a go of it for a number of years and even licensed Stuff to several other cities. It ceased publication in 1986.
I remember liking much of the typesetting in Stuff, but then I’m a huge fan of Seventies type design, and Stuff certainly pushed it to the limits.
Do you have fond memories of publications from the Seventies and Eighties?