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!