These days, with so much information and opinion available online, I have pared my magazine subscriptions down to a half-dozen. But there was in need of a twelve-step program to wean me off of a major magazine habit. Maybe it’s because the pushers and their insidious way of hooking people have moved on, or they have just given up on me. I wrote and broadcasted the following piece nearly twenty years ago, when $10 million seemed like a lot more money than it does today.
Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s durable straight-man, regularly shows up in my mailbox offering me instant wealth if I will just open up his envelope and make my way through a confusing mass of letters stickers, entry certificates, prize brochures, and mock checks for $10 million. If I follow all the rules of entry, sticking stickers in their proper places after hunting to find them, I have a shot at the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Ed maintains that I could win even if I don’t order a magazine.
Of course Ed has me wondering whether I have a better chance if I do indeed take one or more subscriptions. That must be the psychological ploy in these promotions. There are those little boxes on the outside of the envelope that you must check to indicate whether you are subscribing or not. This gets me thinking that those envelopes checked “no” somehow get lost. There must be a lot of people who take the hook to allow Ed to give away all that money.
What concerns me is Ed and the other magazine dealers might just be turning us into a nation of magazine junkies who can’t check “no” on the envelope. You see, even if you’re addicted to the point of ordering every one of the 100 or so magazines he offers, that’s only the beginning. There are literally thousands of magazines, and Ed can keep you strung out for years, subscribing away in quest of that $10 million. The magazine industry has discovered that there are many interests, hobbies, jobs, recreational pursuits, plus different age groups and life-styles, that eventually they can turn everybody into a magazine junkie. One gets some indication of this logic from Ed’s magazine offerings. There are, of course, subscription stickers for the biggies: Time, Newsweek, Playboy, Reader’s Digest, Better Homes and Gardens, and TV Guide.
But Ed doesn’t want you to stop subscribing with these. Let’s say you have children; not only is there a substantial market, but there’s the long-term payoff of hooking the kids on magazines at an early age. Start the kids out with a subscription to Child Life, Jack and Jill, Cricket , orHumpty Dumpty, which will keep them busy with games, crafts, and fiction and non-fiction stories while you are catching up with the latest issues of Baby Talk, Parenting , not to be confused with Growing Parent , or L.A. Parent , which is designed only for Southern California parents. You can read about the kids even before they arrive in Expecting Magazine , and once they do, if you think they will be something special there’s Gifted Children Monthly . If you happen to have twins you will need Twins, The Magazine for Parents of Multiples. And don’t worry if this whole parenting business wrecks your marriage, there’s always Single Parent Magazine.
But what if you don’t have kids. Well, the magazine industry has virtually every aspect of your life covered by one magazine or another; there are scores of magazines for every age, sex, ethnic or racial group, hobby or interest, no matter how narrow or esoteric.
Now, I know you’re thinking I exaggerate, so here are just a few examples. How about a subscription to The Arctophile , self described as the magazine “for adult Teddy Bear collectors who are interested in heartwarming tales about what Teddys mean to them.” Maybe you’ve been missing Buf Pictorial , subtitled “the only newsstand magazine devoted to Enormous Mammas.” I wonder what the subscribers to Fighting Woman News would think of that one. I doubt that Buf is too kinky for readers of Dungeon Master , a magazine that emphasizes “safety” in the use of sado-masochistic equipment.
But maybe you’re a bit too reserved for that stuff, and would rather settle into a comfy chair with a copy of Pipe Smoker, The Journal of Kapnismology , or Post Card Collector , orGrandparenting . If you happen to like animals there are dozens for cats, dogs and horses, but have you caught the latest issue of LLamas Magazine , a bi-monthly for lovers of llamas, camels, alpacas, vicunas and guanacos. Still, you have to be careful: Moose Magazine is for a funny-looking fraternal order of bipeds, not lovers of funny-looking quadrupeds; Nibble Magazine is for computer buffs, not overeaters, and; Chain Saw Age is a hardware mag, not a movie spin-off.
Well I think you must have the idea by now. Anyway I see the mailman coming down the street with my latest issues of Octogenarian Romances, Edible Insects Review, Biker Gang Atrocities, The Nude Astrologer, and Mice Afloat . . . and, just maybe, I hope, I hope, I hope, Ed’s check for $10 million bucks.
©1987, ©2004, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 11.29.2004)
Aired KPBS-FM, Public Radio, December 4, 1987