Lu Anne Stewart and Charlie Service were Co–Editors from February 1976 to December 1976
This piece is part of a series of personal narratives written by Street alumni in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 34th Street.
We served as Co–Editors of 34th Street back in prehistoric times, journalistically speaking. In that 1976–77 era, everything was still rendered in black and white, and producing each issue meant cutting columns of type with X–Acto knives, running each strip through a hot wax machine and then pasting it onto the layout while struggling to make it all line up straight.
Compared to the sophisticated design of today’s 34th Street, we have to admit that our vintage issues look like something a poorly funded high school paper would turn out these days. Still, thinking back to that time for this anniversary edition, we have nothing but vivid memories of colorful stories, inspired staff members and a few controversies along the way.
One of the great things about 34th Street, then and now, is that it captures a wide swath of subject matter of interest to the Penn community, from upcoming concert listings and movie reviews to in–depth features on timely issues. We had a section called “Scrapple” that featured several short pieces floating in balloons around the page. It may not have been brilliant journalism, but we always enjoyed putting Scrapple together because it provided a home for those random, oddball stories that make life interesting.
Our cover stories reflected a mix of lighthearted and serious topics, but there was one issue in particular that generated the most backlash. That cover featured two stories: one by Dave Lieber (C ’79) on his search for the homeless “vent man” who was a familiar figure on campus in those days; and the other by Jeff Birnbaum (C ’77) on the life of gay students at Penn. Both were uncomfortable, controversial topics. Both were well–written, well–reported and important stories that we were proud to publish. Not everyone agreed, especially the reader who sent a “letter” to Jeff on a used piece of toilet paper. As they say, you’d can’t please all of the people all of the time.
In addition to Dave and Jeff, we were blessed with a bevy of talented staff members who contributed to 34th Street at that time. We leaned heavily on the distinctive pen–and–ink drawings of John Auerbach (C ’77), and future literary success Lisa Scottoline (C ’77) was a staff photographer. We had the privilege of editing the work of some incredible writers who went on to prominent careers in journalism and publishing, including Buzz Bissinger (C ’76), Eliot Kaplan (C ’78), Dan Akst (C ’78), Mark Hyman (C ’78), Janet Novack (C ’77) and the late Steve Marquez (C '79), for whom the annual DP event is named. (And if we have forgotten to acknowledge some of you, please forgive us—we’re old!)
Looking back, the experience of editing a student magazine like this was a valuable opportunity to learn how to run something: how to lead a staff, come up with ideas (especially for those blasted weekly editor’s columns), and get the issue produced and out the door on deadline. There was always a feeling of great satisfaction when the new edition would come out on Thursdays. We had created another masterpiece. Alert the Pulitzer selection committee! At least to us, it felt that significant.
We’re glad to see that 34th Street is still going strong, and hope that many more generations of students will have the opportunity that we had: to learn on–the–job how to produce a magazine that has the potential to touch so many aspects of life for the Penn community.
Lu Anne serves as the President/Chief Writer at Lu Anne Stewart Writing and Services and Charlie recently retired as the Managing Director of UBS Asset Management.