600 Echoes

By Glenn Gullicksen, Sept. 13, 2012.

In Echo Magazine’s first edition on Sept. 27, 1989, Publisher Bill Orovan welcomed readers to “Arizona’s own news magazine, in, of and for the gay community.”

And ever since, Echo has published continuously every other week. This edition marks the magazine’s 600th issue.

Much has changed in 23 years. The magazine evolved with the advances in publication technology. Staffers came and went. And the community celebrated victories and endured setbacks.

But the constants have been Orovan, who still serves as Echo’s publisher, and the magazine’s mission to serve the community.

In his introductory letter in Echo’s first edition, Orovan explained that selecting a name for the magazine was not a causal decision. He decided on a name that reflected the magazine’s purpose, dubbing the enterprise “The Community Echo,” ACE for short.

“Community means ‘US’ — gay men and lesbians, together with all our friends and colleagues who embrace the concept of human rights,” Orovan wrote. “Echo states that we intend to be a reflection of the Arizona community. We want to inform an entertain you, and keep your interest by bringing you what you want to read about.”

That first edition included news, events and entertainment, a mix of content that continues in today’s publication. In the first edition, Echo endorsed candidates for the upcoming Phoenix City Council election, promoted the gay rodeo and took Arizona to task for its poor funding of AIDS programs.

As he did often over the years, Orovan wrote the first magazine’s restaurant review, then called Table Talk. There were also bar ads and reviews of movies — on videotape.

To mark Echo’s 600th edition, we look back on editions 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 to see how the magazine and the community it serves has changed — and how it has stayed the same.

Issue 100 | July 14, 1993

After publishing for almost four years, Echo had gone from 30 pages in its debut edition to 58 pages. By 1993, when the 100th edition was published, the magazine was still printed on newsprint, but it had some color ads and a color glossy cover.

Writing under the pseudonym Dave Shave, Echo’s managing editor, editorialized about the 100th edition, writing that the magazine’s purpose of education was reflected in an emphasis on news and current events.

The cover of 100 featured the story “Pink Trouble at the Purple Palace,” about a lesbian employee of US West Arena (now US Airways Center) who claimed sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

NEWS: Echo reported that more than 200 people attended a dinner sponsored by the Arizona Human Rights Fund (which later became Equality Arizona). Former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater accepted an award for the work he had done to help overturn the ban on gays serving in the military. At the time, the Pentagon was considering options for what would become the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

Other stories reported that the Phoenix City Council approved an ordinance regulating adult oriented businesses. In Tucson, a gay couple was denied a marriage license.

FEATURES: A “Local Heroes” feature spotlighted the ministry of the Rev. Charlotte Strayhorn, who would later become an Echo columnist.

STAFF: Jeff Ofstedahl was listed as the marketing/advertising manager and he also wrote for the magazine. Contributing writers included Wally Straughn, Ken Furtado, Gerrie Mayer-Gibbons and Greg Lutz.

ADVERTING: A 24-page insert contained personal ads and other adult advertising. Charlie’s, which has advertised since the first edition of Echo, was among the bar advertisers, which included Apollo’s, Pulse, Country Club Bar & Grill and Incognito. The Arizona Gay Realtors Alliance featured six real estate agents in an advertising format that still continues in the magazine.

ENTERTAINMENT: The Reel Thoughts film column by Fred Schultz featured the movies The Firm and House of Cards.

ALSO NOTABLE: The magazine’s news briefs column appeared under a photograph of a man in briefs underwear. Without social media as a way for people to express their every opinion, readers were letter writers — three pages were devoted to letters to the editor.

Issue 200 | May 15, 1997

Echo observed its 200th edition with a six-page special report about the magazine’s eight-year history and a feature that detailed the publication’s production process.

The 98-page magazine dedicated its next 200 issues to those who feared coming out at work or to their families and those who were sick or who had lost loved ones to HIV/AIDS.

Publisher Bill Orovan wrote: “May we find a cure, acceptance and peace within our community. Perchance, someday, there may no longer be a need for a magazine like Echo. That is our ultimate goal.”

That spring, the gay community was getting mainstream attention after Ellen DeGeneres came out on her prime-time sitcom.

NEWS: Echo reported that former Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford was among more than 470 people who attended the Night for Life banquet staged by Phoenix Body Positive (which became the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS). Kirk Baxter, Body Positive’s founder, was honored with a lifetime achievement award.

Another story reported that a rainbow flag that had been removed from its owner’s campsite and burned at the Country Thunder Jamboree in Queen Creek.

FEATURES: The cover story, “Silver Linings, Golden Memories,” explored a filmmaker’s efforts to produce a documentary about gay elders.

EDITORIAL: Echo called for a boycott of Wendy’s, citing restaurant founder Dave Thomas’ support of Pat Robinson’s ministry.

STAFF: Jeff Ofstedahl had been promoted to general manager. Dave Shave continued as managing editor, and the following year Bruce Christian would reveal in a column that he was the writer behind the rhyming byline. Christian continues to contribute columns and stories to the magazine.

ADVERTING: Advertisers included Cash Inn Country, Incognito, Pookie’s Café, Nu-Towne Saloon and Roscoes on 7th.

ENTERTAINMENT: The magazine previewed the touring productions of A Chorus Line, which was coming to ASU Gammage, and Stomp, which was to be staged at the Orpheum. Neil Cohen had taken ownership of the magazine’s movie column, and he continues to write Reel Thoughts for Echo.

ALSO NOTABLE: A two-page ad promoted the Arizona Central Pride Festival (now Phoenix Pride) to be held May 30-June 1 at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The festival included two stages and two dance areas, with admission of $5 a day.

Issue 300 | March 15, 2001

By 2001, Echo was printed on glossy pages and for the 300th edition the magazine got a facelift, with new type fonts for headlines and body copy and a new comics page.

The cover story, titled “Blueprint for Community,” explored efforts by the Greater Phoenix Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to create a gay district in Phoenix.

By this time phoenix.outvoices.us had been established and the magazine referred readers to the website to answer an online poll that asked what would be required to build an LGBT community in Phoenix. Twenty-one percent said it would take establishing an official gay neighborhood.

NEWS: Echo reported that the 2001 AIDS Walk Arizona raised $455,000, down from $639,000 the previous year. The walk, which started in 1987, continued until 2003, then was re-established in 2008.

For the second time in three years, Scottsdale considered extending health benefits to domestic partners of employees. The city also considered a proposal for adding sexual orientation to its equal opportunity employment statement.

The Arizoa House considered a bill that would repeal Arizona’s archaic laws that criminalized sodomy and cohabitation.

STAFF: Gregg Edelman was the magazine’s general manager. Liz Massey was managing editor and Buddy Early was assistant editor. Still an Echo columnist and contributor, Massey is the only woman who’s held the managing editor’s job. Paul Braun had become art director, a job he continues to hold. The magazine’s sales manager was Steve Schemmel, who continues on the sales staff.

ADVERTING: An ad from a local physician advertised himself as “A doctor for those with mothers who suspect. And for those whose mothers don’t.”

ENTERTAINMENT: Neil Cohen had started his Just A Stage theater column and continued movie coverage for the magazine. In a preview of the year’s Academy Awards race, Cohen was so disappointed by the nominees he asked his new puppy Max to pick the winners. Max correctly forecast Gladiator as the Best Picture winner.

ALSO NOTABLE: Phoenix drag celeb Barbra Seville wrote an advice column titled “Ask Barbra,” which was described as “A lifeline for the lovelorn and otherwise clueless.” Asked what to do about a circuit boy boyfriend who was planning to at trip to Palm Springs for the White Party, Babs advised an advice-seeker to go along.

Issue 400 | Jan. 13, 2005

Echo’s 400th issue celebrated gay athletes with a cover story titled “Good Sports” that featured gay groups devoted to swimming, bowling, volleyball, darts and softball.

NEWS: A story followed the reaction to a letter to the editor published in a previous edition that called on the Phoenix LGBT community to establish a community center. Jon Quinn wrote that he would donate $1,000 and set a goal of $10 million for the effort. The story noted that previous community centers had closed in 1998 and 2000.

The Arizona chapter of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) planned its first fundraising dinner in Phoenix to be held at the Arizona Biltmore. The featured speaker was actress Jane Lynch, then known for roles in the movies Best in Show and A Mighty Wind.

EDITORIAL: Noting that the 2004 election had resulted in 11 states banning same-sex marriage, Echo encouraged community leaders to continue the fight for marriage equality.

STAFF: Tim McBride was general manager and Buddy Early had been promoted to managing editor. With this edition, Matthew Heil ended three years as assistant editor to accept a job with the city of Phoenix.

ADVERTING: A two-page ad promoted the gay and lesbian film festival OutFar! The three-day event at Harkins Fashion Square in Scottsdale planned 28 screenings of features and short films, including a screening of Eating Out.

ENTERTAINMENT: In his annual review of the best and worst movies of the year, Neil Cohen gave top honors to Sideways and panned Beyond the Sea as the worst of 2004. An events preview column promoted Joan Rivers’ upcoming appearance at the Celebrity Theatre.

ALSO NOTABLE: A group that called itself “Drag Queens Against Disaster” hurriedly put together a benefit for the American Red Cross’ relief effort for those affected by a tsunami that had hit Indonesia.

Issue 500 | Nov. 13, 2008

Less than a year short of its 20th anniversary of starting publication, Echo went all out to observe its 500th issue by picturing covers from the past on the front and back covers of a “collector’s edition.”

Inside, the magazine featured an 11-page special section of photographs of readers plus eight pages of notes from community leaders reflecting on what Echo meant to them. Those contributing included Rep. Ed Pastor; then-Mayor Phil Gordon; Greg Stanton, who was then a city councilman; and Neil Giuliano, then president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

In a commentary, Echo’s Publisher Bill Orovan wrote: “The 500 issues have empowered a community, held politicians accountable, educated the public and helped families deal with LGBT loved ones.”

The milestone was celebrated with an event at Exposed Studio & Gallery where covers from the 500 issues were on display.

NEWS: Echo reported the election of Barack Obama as president and the passage of Proposition 102 in Arizona, which amended the state Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. On the same Election Day, voters in California passed Proposition 8, ending same-sex marriage rights in that state.

FEATURES: A story proclaimed a local trend of female performers who dress in male drag and introduced the drag king troupes Sisterzz Twisted, Reigning Men and Phoenix Kings Club.

ENTERTAINMENT: Bruce Christian wrote the TV column, Channel Surfing, and for the 500th edition he reflected on how the media had changed its depictions of gays and lesbians over the years.

In the Sound Check music column, Paul McGee listed the top five songs of the year for every year Echo had existed, dating back to 1989, when “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins topped the charts.

STAFF: Patrick Roland was editor and Luis Garcia was assistant editor. Tim DePlanche was associate publisher.

ADVERTISING: Readers were invited to an advance screening of the movie Milk, starring Sean Penn in his Academy Award-winning role of gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk.

ALSO NOTABLE: In a story about new bars, it was reported that Friends was being replaced by Cherry Bar. (Since then, the establishment is again known as Friends.)

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