Monday, May 29, 2006

It's Your THiNG

OK ... so, to pick up from the previous post, it was spring 1995 and the GLOW party was winding down after six months of Sunday night mayhem. As I mentioned, I had advertised the party in an upstart queer nightlife guide that just wasn't able to catch on ... but it allowed me to see the void that existed in Philly for a quality nightlife rag. Au Courant was that source when we first started it back in 1982, but after a few years - the focus of the weekly paper changed course and, buy 1995 Au Courant was a shell of its former self.

The city needed something to celebrate the fun side of things - and with the deck cleared, thanks to Mike's passing, I felt the time was now. I had made friends with Brian Ramey - who had singlehandedly created and published the debut edition of Freedom Pages: a true yellow pages for the queer community. It was quite a feat and I was impressed with his set-up, located in a spare room in a Fishtown house he shared with his boyfriend. We began to talk and - just like those days in 1982 when Mike and I sat around brainstorming about creating Au Courant - here I was again, brainstorming with Brian about creating something new and different.

We didn't have any backing or support - or business sense, quite frankly. We used personal credit to front us some capital and we began to develop a template for what this new publication would be ... we knew it had to go head-to-head with the PGN (Au Courant was nothing to us at that point), so we decided to take the low road and go dirty.

We decided to call the magazine THiNG ... since it offered so many variations of wordplay: "grab your thing in public", "is that a thing in your pocket?", "etc etc. I worked my old rolodex and re-established contact with people that thought I had died back in 1986. Talk about a shocker! I scored two floors of office space in the building that once housed the original TLA Video store -- which was next to the TLA on South Street [amazing how my whole life seems to involve this street!?!] and we opened shop in September 1995.

The magazine was published by BRG Publishing - i.e. Brian's company that created the Freedom Pages. We used the profits/contacts from the Freedom Pages to help sell our initial ads.

I took care of marketing and outreach (naturally). We held our THiNG Launch Party at Philly's newest gay nightclub, Paragon Central - located at 1415 Locust Street. We had a live appearance from Lypsinka, direct from her Philadelphia debut at the newly-opened Arts Bank on Broad Street.

My old friend Stephen Durkin was the DJ for the night and we gave out free Wigstock soundtrack cds through the night, in celebration of the movie that had just been released.

THiNG hit the streets September 14 and was a weekly publication for a bit -- then we shifted to biweekly, but without any backing - we ran out of options and money and our last issue hit sometime in February 1996. The coolest thing about THiNG was the reaction we got from the readers -- who all were hungry for something fresh and new.

This particular cover shot features drag diva Muffane chompin' at The Savoy restaurant - the classic greasy spoon located in the belly of the gayborhood, at the corner of 11/Locust. It has since been demolished, to make way for another new condo tower.

The best part of the THiNG experience was that many of the THiNG features that were simply unavailable in Philly's queer nightlife before we hit the streets (horoscopes, bar listings, map, drink special guide, candid pictures of nightlife) were duplicated by both Au Courant and the PGN once we closed our doors.

So, I guess the project was successful in the fact that it woke up both gay weeklies at a time when they were both resting on their heels, in regards to the nightlife in the city. But the bug was still there. I knew that thirst that Philly's after dark had for their own publication wasn't being quenched.

... if only I had backing.

More on that later this week.

1 comment:

Liz said...

"We had a live appearance from Lypsinka, direct from her Philadelphia debut at the newly-opened Arts Bank on Broad Street."

OMG! I remember wanting to go see that show but I didn't get around to it. I totally for got that until now like everything else on your blog. :D