Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Spy Mag Nostalgia

Spy was a magazine of satirical journalism, featuring in-depth investigative journalism. Based in New York, Spy resembled the British magazine Private Eye, which intelligently researched the American media and entertainment industries, and delivered content in a humorously irreverent style.

Some of Spy's features attempted to present the darker side of celebrities such as the prophetic photograph of Kurt Cobain holding a muzzle of a rifle in his mouth, Arnold Schwarzenegger (printing a nude photo of him and a picture of his father''s Nazi party membership card), John F. Kennedy, Jr., Martha Stewart, and especially the real-estate tycoon Donald Trump and his then-wife Ivana Trump. The mogul was repeatedly described as "short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump," and such literary, pejorative epithets became a Spy trademark.

Spy's distinctive features included "Writer's Blecch," "Separated At Birth?," which were side-by-side photographs of two different celebrities, and "Celebrity Math," which presented thumbnail headshots atop simple and imaginative mathematical models representing the components of celebrities, for example,

David Letterman + Dennis Miller = Dennis Prager.

For a humorous magazine, Spy was often aggressive about straight feature reporting. In its 1993 article entitled "Clinton's First 100 Lies,", Spy was the first to detail what it described as the new president''s duplicitous behavior. After O.J. Simpson was acquitted on charges of murdering his former wife and her friend, Spy ran a cover story under the headline "He''s Guilty, By George!" compiling a long list of details that its writers said proved conclusively that Simpson was the killer; he did not sue. Spy used a staff of attorneys to research such potentially libelous material, producing strong stories that often enraged their prominent subjects.

Despite its short life, Spy was among the most influential of American magazines, chiefly due to its consistently preserved policy of detached and ironic tone, to its use of imaginatively humorous scientific charts and tables to convey information, and its esthetically pleasing typography and layout. The magazine was also controversial: many reputable journalists considered it aggressive and flashy, whereas many younger ones felt it expressed exactly their thought.

After one shut-down and a subsequent rebirth, it closed for good in 1998.
Published: July 17, 2007, by Myself