New York Graphic
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Front page of the New York Evening Graphic
September 5, 1931
|Headquarters||New York City|
The New York Evening Graphic (not to be confused with the earlier Daily Graphic) was a tabloid newspaper published from 1924 to 1932 by Bernarr "Bodylove" Macfadden. Exploitative and mendacious in its short life, the "pornoGraphic" defined tabloid journalism, launching the careers of Walter Winchell, Louis Sobol, and sportswriter-turned-television host Ed Sullivan.
The New York Evening Graphic's founding editor was investigative reporter Emile Gauvreau, a classic outsider who grew up in Connecticut and in Montreal, Quebec, the eldest son of an itinerant French Canadian war hero. Gauvreau, a high school drop-out, began his journalism career as a cub reporter on the New Haven Journal-Courrier, - alongside part-time Yalies such as Sinclair Lewis - during World War I, and by 1919, had moved on to become the youngest managing editor in the history of the Hartford Courant, after only three years on the job. He was fired when an investigative project hit too close to the mark, embarrassing Boss Roraback - Connecticut's state Republican boss, utilities tycoon J. Henry Roraback. In 1924, Gauvreau made his way to New York to seek his fortune on The New York Times under Carr Van Anda, when, as he relates in My Last Million Readers, he was introduced to Macfadden through the publisher's editor in chief, Fulton Oursler, an almost chance encounter which became "the most violent turning point of my life."
"In a few moments he introduced me to Bernarr Macfadden. I was astonished to discover the physical culturalist, whom I had imagined to be a giant with bulging muscles was of medium height. He looked even smaller as he reclined behind his desk. He possessed sharp features, a rapid glance and was endowed with a certain quick intelligence, an ability to reach the core of a problem without wasting time.
"My departure from the Courant, as a result of the medical diploma-mill revelations had injected my name into newspaper stories of investigation. A number of those accounts pictured me as some sort of martyr. MacFadden, who had no use for doctors, quack or legitimate, was keenly interested in the fight I was waging. As a result of our conference I was engaged to organize an afternoon tabloid newspaper to be published in New York under the name The Truth.(...) He spoke of his projected newspaper as a crusading daily, which would tell the truth under all circumstances, and I listened to him with enthusiasm."
Macfadden announced the forthcoming Graphic in page announcements in New York papers as the most unusual daily that would ever be seen since Johannes Gutenberg did his first printing. Behind this venture the publisher definitely had a new idea, if it had been possible to apply it to daily journalism. In all of its editorial branches, the Graphic might well have reached a million circulation in a comparatively short time. The plan was a revolutionary treatment of the news, influenced directly by True Story, which had been Mcfadden's inspiration, and already had produced for him a great fortune. The magazine devoted itself entirely to stories of human experiences told in the first person, by those who had undergone them and eventually had a wide influence on important publications which copied the technique. As applied on the Graphic, the account of the man who had killed his wife was not to be written in the third person from a police report. The prisoner was to be interviewed and his confession printed under his own signature. The headline over such a story might have been:
I MURDERED MY WIFE
BECAUSE SHE COOKED
FISHBALLS FOR DINNER
I Told Her I Would Never
Eat Them Again But She
Defied Me To The End
by Jonathan Peters
From the beginning, the paper featured a gossip column by Walter Winchell and when he quit in 1929, Louis Sobol. In 1931, Ed Sullivan, who had authored a sports column entitled "Sport Whirl", debuted his column, Ed Sullivan Sees Broadway. Film director Sam Fuller worked for The Graphic as a crime reporter. Ernie Bushmiller created the comic strip Mac the Manager at the Graphic prior to his creation of the Nancy comic strip.
The Graphic, which sported the motto "Nothing But the Truth", often exploited a montage technique known as the composograph to create "photographs" of events it could not obtain actual photos of, such as Rudolph Valentino's corpse, or Valentino's spirit being greeted in heaven by Enrico Caruso.
In his 1931 autobiographical novel, Hot News, Gauvreau's takes personal credit for the invention and for launching "a new chapter in the history of tabloid journalism". Gauvreau, the Graphic's contest editor Lester Cohen, and Fulton Oursler, Macfadden Publications' second-in-command, later claimed the images were intended to catch attention, present the news in pictorial form, and sell newspapers, but not to deceive. Gauvreau, however, said his staff had to create news to maintain its circulation, and composograph pictorials helped move things along. "We could no longer wait for calamities to happen. "Characters were built up and paraded. Hot news became the wild, blazing, delirious symptom of the time." Cohen credits art department staff member Harry Grogin as "the inventor of the composite picture." The New York Graphic, p. 97 (1964).
In 1929, TIME magazine in a profile of Winchell, wrote:
Not all readers of that gum-chewers' sheetlet, the New York Graphic, are gum-chewers. Some of them smuggle the pink-faced tabloid into Park Avenue homes, there to read it in polite seclusion. They have reason: the Graphic's gossip-purveying, scandal-scooping, staccato-styled Monday column, "Your Broadway and Mine."
Further evidence that the Graphic was secretly enjoyed by the intelligentsia is provided by a 1929 Cole Porter lyric, in which the heroine asks "Should I read Euripides or continue with the Graphic?"
The Graphic was dubbed the "pornoGraphic" by critics of the time and Journalist Ben Yagoda in 1981 called the trashy, enormously popular daily, "one of the low points in the history of American journalism", offering sample headlines: "Aged Romeo Wooed Stage Love with a Used Ring", "Weed Parties in Soldiers' Love Nest", and "Two Women in Fight, One Stripped, Other Eats Bad Check". Yagoda quotes "one reader" as saying "The only value ever claimed for it was that it educated readers up to a point where they were able to understand the other tabloids."
In 1930, TIME, after saying that "Publisher Bernarr Macfadden's feelings are hurt by any suggestion that he or any of his publications are pornographic", added that recent Graphic headlines included "Girls Need Sex Life for Beauty" and "Rudy Vallee Not So Hot In Love's Arms".
Despite the enormous popularity of its puzzle contests and lonely hearts page, page, the Graphic had trouble securing advertisers who feared being associated with the scandal-fed image of the pornoGraphic. Some advertisers claimed the Graphic's readers had no buying power. By 1929, however, the Graphic's racy editorial had become mainstream in New York's tabloidia, but competition with papers such as the Tribune's Daily News, William Randolph Hearst's Journal and New York Daily Mirror had become cutthroat and the Graphic's cost structure was out of control. The Great Depression further exacerbated the paper's economic troubles.
In Gauvreau's 1956 obit, TIME filed a choice anecdote illustrating his freewheeling indifference:
He "exposed" the Atlantic City beauty contest as a "frame-up," thereby pushing the total libel suits filed against the Graphic to $12 million. When the treasurer complained wistfully, Gauvreau cracked: "Take it out of my salary."
Some half-hearted attempts at implementing cost-cutting measures – re-use of crossword puzzle engravings, for example – served only to alienate its loyal readership, and a dispirited Gauvreau met secretly with Hearst and signed on to take the helm at the Mirror.
Having secured Winchell's services for the Mirror before he jumped ship, Gauvreau's every move was trumpeted by TIME:
" 'It probably won't be long before I'll become editor of another New York newspaper. I hope so, anyway. I have no intention of retiring at the age of 37. I resigned from the Graphic because I disagreed heartily with Mr. Macfadden on vital and essential matters of policies, not only of his newspaper but of his other publications as well. I would never work for Mr. Macfadden again under any circumstances.'"
"Further discourse on what he meant by "vital and essential matters of policies" Mr. Gauvreau would not give. Other newsmen guessed that Editor Gauvreau, a real newspaperman at heart and no Macfaddist, had gotten sick of the daily freak he had created to please Publisher Macfadden. The Graphic, a pink tabloid with the slogan "nothing but the truth," is scarcely newspaper. Torch murders, gang war, divorce cases, scandal, gossip, rumor, crime, are its main contents, dished up for an illiterate public with girl pictures, fantastic "composographs" and "editorials" by unique Bernarr Macfadden.
"As everyone knows, Publisher Bernarr ("Body Love") Macfadden's most famed magazines concern themselves with "confessions" of sex-conscious girls who go wrong, see the light, reform. They are: True Story, True Experiences, True Romances, Dream World. To comply with postal laws, intimate sex details are usually represented by three asterisks (* * *)."
Released from one tabloid hell, he entered another. Armed with Hearst's considerable checkbook, he then proceeded to gut the Graphic of its best remaining talent and, living up to his billing as a "freewheeling editor", set about implementing " the pledge of ' 90% entertainment and 10% news ', (accumulating) circulation ' by pushing into the back of my mind all that I had learned about the value of constructive news ' and by studying the techniques of the '(New York Daily)News. '".
As the Graphic began its final decline, Macfadden was also distracted by his risible and ultimately futile quest for the Republican presidential nomination. The Graphic finally folded on July 7, 1932, after years of losses, as much as $11,000,000, according to his wife and business partner, Mary Macfadden.
The Graphic's demise was precipitated by pressure from other rising New York tabloids and financial pressures throughout Macfadden's faltering publishing empire. Author Helen MacGill Hughes draws on Gauvreau's Hotnews to conclude that Macfadden's late entry into the tabloid game was a key contributing factor in the Graphic's difficulty in competing with the New York genre's first movers, Patterson's Daily News and Hearst's Mirror: "What does seem probable, however, is that the latter two already had most of the advertising suited to the sort of readers that tabloids attract."
Lester Cohen, the paper's contest editor and Gauvreau confidante, chronicled its rise and fall in his 1964 book, The New York Graphic: The world's Zaniest Newspaper:
"The paper was doomed by Macfadden's temperament. But it had the most brilliant staff, I think, of any paper of its time. That staff lived on to make some of the history, some of the books, some of the entertainment of the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s.
"Lyon Mearon (one-time editor of True Story and other Macfadden publications) called the Graphic "the newspaper that never was." But one thing that it was, like all of life, an experiment - and on many of its days, the liveliest paper in town. "I closed the paper," Howard Swain said (he had become managing editor). One day in the spring of 1932, Mr. Macfadden called him up and said, "This thing has cost me seven million dollars and I've gotten tired."
Guavreau never tired of reminiscing on the phenomenon that was "the newspaper that never was," dwelling at length on his remarkable experience in his 1931 novel Hot News, a second novel, The Scandal Monger in 1932 (the basis for Universal's Scandal for Sale, 1932, starring Charles Bickford), his 1941 memoir, and later, in Dumbbells and Carrotstrips, a vilfying book on Macfadden himself, co-authored with Mary Macfadden, whom Bernarr Macfadden had sued for divorce in 1933.
- "The Press: Orgy". TIME Magazine. 1927-02-27 "BodyLove" was the deliberately denigrating moniker adopted by TIME Magazine duo Henry Luce and Briton Hadden when referring to Macfadden. Graphic editor Emile Gauvreau had covered the Yale campus for the New Haven Courrier-Journal as a muckraking cub reporter, while the self-satisfied Luce and Hadden - the future founders of TIME - pranced about with Skull and Bones and ran the Yale Daily News. Thus, The Graphic responded in kind to Luce and Hadden's barbs by poking fun at Yale frat boys and satirizing their Alma Mater whenever the opportunity arose. Gauvreau, however, secretly loathed the Graphic and admired the fledgling TIME Magazine, which, in its typical fashion, wrote in its edition of Monday, Feb.7, 1927: "Thus, with the frank grin of a degenerate, did the most abnormal sheet in U. S. journalism, Publisher Bernarr ("BodyLove") Macfadden's New York Evening Graphic, last week embrace the divorce hearings of a pawky lecher and his fleshy girl-wife.". Retrieved 2010-05-20. Check date values in:
- "Louis Sobol, 90, Dies; Broadway Columnist By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS; Published: February 10, 1986". The New York Times. 1986-02-10. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- My Last Million Readers, 1974 Popular Culture in America edition.
- "Emile Gauvreau of the New Haven Journal Courier".
- "POLITICAL NOTES: Yankee Boss". TIME Magazine. 1937-05-31 - In 1920 Roraback moved on from Connecticut to the Republican National Committee. Retrieved 2010-05-20. Check date values in:
- "My Last Million Readers".
- "The Press: Oursler Out". TIME Magazine. 1942-02-16. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Macfadden Attacked Out". TIME Magazine. 1924-11-10. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Gauvreau, Emile (1974). My Last Million Readers. Ayer Publishing. pp. 101–102. ISBN 0-405-06376-8.
- "The Press: Diluted Sex". TIME Magazine. 1928-02-27 - "Take, for example, the True Story magazine, kingpin of Bernarr Macfadden's confession group (True Romances, True Experiences, Dream World). Boasting of "the largest newsstand sale in the world," more than 2,000,000 a month, True Story sets the fashion in sex yarns. In May 1919, its first issue appeared with some sober items about Elsie Ferguson, Billie Burke, William S. Hart and Douglas Fairbanks. But the meat of the magazine was confession fiction. Of these stories, six contained attempted seductions, three contained successful seductions. A successful one was described as follows: "His kisses intoxicated me. Everything seemed to slip away...". Retrieved 2010-05-20. Check date values in:
- "New York Evening Graphic". BernarrMcFadden.com. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
- "Excerpt from Impresario: The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan". 2005–2006. Retrieved 2006-12-13.. According to this source, Sullivan claimed his column would not promote the prurient; some thought the column's claim of propriety merely funny, like a Burlesque dancer lecturing on grammar.
- "Punch Lines: Ernie Bushmiller's Mac the Manager," Hogan's Alley, 1998
- Stepno, Bob (1997). "The Evening Graphic's Tabloid Reality". Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- "Unfair Solicitation?". TIME Magazine. 1925-02-02. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Turn to the Mirror". TIME Magazine. 1929-06-17. Retrieved 2006-12-13. (The title is a reference to Winchell's defection to Hearst's New York Mirror.)
- Porter, Cole (1929), "Which?" (Song lyric from Wake Up and Dream)
- Hunt, William R. Body Love: The Amazing Career of Bernarr Macfadden. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1989: 135.
- Yagoda, Ben (1981-11-01). "The True Story of Bernarr Macfadden: LIFE and LOVES of the FATHER of the CONFESSION MAGAZINE". American Heritage. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Hero Business". TIME Magazine. September 22, 1930. Retrieved 2006-12-13.
- Barry Popik (2005-04-16). "Orange Julius & Orange Juice Gulch". Retrieved 2005-12-13.. Popik, who traces origins of New York phrases and expressions, credits Walter Winchell with originating the phrase "Orange Juice Gulch" to refer to Times Square. He says that it "appears that Walter Winchell coined this term in the New York Graphic in 1928" but that "Unfortunately, the New York Public Library believed the Graphic to be trashy and didn't collect the issues, which are now lost."
- "The Press: Lonely Hearts". TIME Magazine. 1928-08-28. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Tabloid Napoleon". TIME Magazine. 1956-10-29. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Education: Now". TIME Magazine. 1929-07-29. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "The Press: Chemise Sheet". Time Magazine. 1929-11-18. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "The Press: No Macfaddist". TIME Magazine. 1929-07-22. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Shattered Mirror". TIME Magazine. 1963-10-25. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- News and the Human Interest Story (1940).
- "The Press: Bulldog's Tail". TIME Magazine. 1925-11-16. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
Captain Patterson, taking a hint from Lord Northcliffe ("New York's simply begging for a picture newspaper"), decided that the bulldog needed a tail. He started the New York Daily News, gum-chewer's sheetlet, which began to wag at a great rate. In three years its circulation was 400,000. "When it reaches a million," said Mr. Patterson, "I shall go to New York for good.
- Cohen, Lester (1961). "The New York Graphic. The World's Zaniest Newspaper".
- "The Press:Diluted Sex". TIME Magazine. 1928-02-27. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "The Theatre: New Plays in Manhattan: January 12, 1931". TIME Magazine. 1931-01-12. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- Hall, Mordaunt (1932). "Five Star Finalwas remade as a Hollywood production in 1932, starring Edward G. Robinson". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "The Press: Workers' Graphic". TIME Magazine. 1932-06-20. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "The Press: Editor Bares All". TIME Magazine. 1931-07-13. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Scandal for Sale". New York Times. 1932. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "The Press: Tabloid Editor's Confessions". TIME Magazine. 1941-10-06. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Life With a Genius". TIME Magazine. 1953-04-20. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- "Milestones, November 27, 1933". TIME Magazine. 1933-11-27. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
Mutual charges: misconduct. Publisher Macfadden further charged that his wife, ridiculing his gospel of physical culture, encouraged their six daughters to smoke and drink in swanky speakeasies.