Arnie Holland was the Editor–in–Chief from February 1970 to to February 1971
This piece is part of a series of personal narratives written by Street alumni in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 34th Street.
I was the third 34th Street Editor–in–Chief, from 1970–71. It was a bit unexpected as I had hoped to be DP Editor, and had never worked for the magazine. But it was the best thing that could have happened to me. That year 34th Street was most of my life. My first task was to mollify the talented writers that thought they’d be the editor and get them to stick around. I’m so glad they did. It led to a lifelong friendship with Bill Vitka (C ’71), who went on to a great career in radio journalism. Bill could write like nobody else. He was ace with a camera. His taste in music was (and still is) legendary. I could ask him to do anything and it would come back better than expected.
I also published a series of articles about radio in Philadelphia written by former DP Managing Editor Dennis Wilen (C ’71). That led him to a career in radio too. Dennis is another lifelong friend, who taught me a lot when I was a DP reporter. He gave me the idea to become an entertainment lawyer, which is what I decided to do. I figured running 34th Street had been such a great experience that any job in journalism after that would be a disappointment.
I knew about music, and pop culture, but the magazine was in essence a small business. We had to sell advertising in order to print pages. When the ad manager quit, I had to recruit another one, and I wound up selling some recurring ads myself. The more ads we sold, the more content we could print. When we were doing really well, we could add color to the mix (on the front, back, and inside spread only).
I had to manage a staff, meet the deadlines, and come up with good stuff to print every week. That translated well into real life 16 years later when I became an entrepreneur. Running a record company and movie distribution company isn’t all that different from running a magazine. I’m still publishing content and seeking out the best I can find.
At some point we decided to spread 34th Street to the whole city. I had a driver drop off bales of the magazine at most of the colleges around Philly and at record stores and other places college–age kids would congregate. This allowed us to sell more ads and made us a bigger deal around town.
One memorable event was our first fundraiser—a movie/concert featuring a screening of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Look Back, followed by a concert by popular campus rock group Wax. Some of the members of Wax went on to huge success in the music business, and the fundraiser was a success too.
Our second fundraiser was an exclusive showing of Dennis Hopper’s movie American Dreamer. I got to go on a press junket to Dennis’s house in Taos, New Mexico, where I got my picture taken by a young Rolling Stone photographer, Annie Liebovitz. Annie just grabbed my camera and started shooting me. Of course I had no idea at the time how famous she would become, but I think she knew. She handed back the camera and said “someday you’ll appreciate these.”
Some of my favorite issues:
- Our second issue, when I took photographer Ken Schonwalter and some of my friends to Chincoteague, Virginia to experience a total eclipse of the sun. The cover is an actual photograph through a telescope. But to make it pop we added yellow to the sun’s corona—first time we used color. The inner spread was prize–winning campus poetry laid out on a yellow background around an illustration a buddy of mine did.
- Our fourth issue cover story, about the very first Earth Week (now it’s only Earth Day), when we used purple and yellow color on an original illustration. The inner spread is another original—a full–page cartoon of Richard Nixon with VP Spiro Agnew growing out of his nose, titled “Air Pollution."
- Our fifth issue (our Skimmer cover), when we took the freakiest people we knew down to the docks, gave them oars and other props, and they all looked like they were having the best time imaginable.
- Our eighth issue, the Kurt Vonnegut issue. Bill Vitka took the photos, designed the cover, and interviewed Vonnegut on campus with Ellis Weiner (C ’72). Very proud of that one.
- Our 17th issue, where we hung Santa Claus on the brand–new campus peace symbol for the cover.
34th Street was a high point in my life.
Arnie Holland is the President/CEO of Lightyear Entertainment.