Celebrating a Flirty Thirty

By Buddy Early, November 2019 Issue.

Happy 30th Anniversary to Echo Magazine!

I had to get that out of the way

immediately; otherwise, I’d forget the same way I do on Facebook, which leads

to an ambush months later by someone who was “seriously disappointed” that I

didn’t extend a birthday greeting on their page.

My first day at Echo was a

Saturday. On January 15, 2001, I spent the day with Bruce Christian, the

outgoing managing editor, and Liz Massey, who was taking over that job. Bruce

showed us his process for creating the thumbnails — basically, a layout of

where all the stories and ads will go in the upcoming issue. Bruce and Liz had

journalism educations and backgrounds, but I was just a writer. I mean, I did

earn my journalism stripes as editor of my high school paper (Go Buffaloes!),

but I was green when it came to the real deal.

I learned a great deal during my years at Echo,

and my time at the magazine included serving as managing editor from 2003

through 2007. I ended up having a 12-year career in gay media, in what was

probably the best time to be working in that niche. There was never a lack of

news to report; our nation was in that space where the fight for acceptance and

equality had gained mainstream support, people were less afraid to come out and

participate in the community, laws were changing … and yet there remained just

enough people who still hated us and reliably would fight against our equality

to keep things interesting. (I have to admit, my job would have been way less

exciting without the haters.)

The fraternity of LGBT publications has

dwindled in the two decades since I started at Echo. If you had asked me

along the way if I though Echo would be among those still producing

today, I would’ve said “hell yes!” You see, there have been very few entities

like Echo. Some of the nation’s largest cities have had terrific LGBT

newspapers, featuring top-notch writing. A few still do. But there were only a

few like Echo: slick, professional magazines with relevant news and

features and terrific community support. That’s a testament to the vision of

our founder, Bill Orovan, and the folks he trusted to see it through.

Speaking of those folks, it has been an

honor to be connected to this cadre of community members. For some, working at Echo

was their entry into the community and the workforce; others brought a

generation of experience to the office. Many served as volunteers and officers

with various community organizations. We played in gays sports leagues and

acted in local gay theater. Several of us worked part-time at bars. Both Celia

Putty and Barbra Seville staffed the front desk at different times.

All of us acted as resources for and

unofficial ombudsmen to our readership.

What are my fondest memories, you ask?

(Just play along.)

Honestly, the regular crises were some of

my favorite: a business pulls a full-page ad at the last minute; a freelancer

dropped the ball with his assignment, leaving an empty hole; a celebrity

decides 48 hours before we go to the printer that she doesn’t want to

appear on the cover after all.

I also enjoyed the occasions when I wrote

under pseudonyms — Andrew Toney,

a shooting guard for the 1980s Philadelphia 76ers, and Tiffany Wells, the

forgettable angel from the second-to-last season of Charlie’s Angels.

Our annual Pride issues were always my

favorite, as well as the accompanying themed floats we spent way too much time

on. (The Desperate Drag Queens feature, photo shoot and parade entry stand out

in my mind.)

I even remember fondly the time some dude

walked into the building, marched upstairs to my office, and doused me with a

bottle of water.

So many things have changed — for Echo,

our community and Arizona. For better or for worse, mostly better. Together

we’ve accomplished a lot. Together we’ll accomplish a lot more.

Here’s to another 30 years!

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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