Paying The Price For Being A Magazine Addict

It sucks being a pack rat.  Why?  Because it takes forever to change.
I’m a recovering magazine addict from way back.  It all began in 1986 when I acquired a copy of Wrestling Superstars, a seasonal publication devoted to the colourful world of sports entertainment.  Back then, the WWE (at that time, the WWF) had a tremendous pull on me.  Being a short, skinny, overly sensitive kid with far too many food intolerances, there was something inspirational about these larger-than-life characters.  They were funny, clever and endlessly entertaining.  Incorporating elements of their silly antics into my everyday life helped me become a better student in school and was just hilarious fun. 
Besides enjoying the TV coverage, the local arena shows and the never-ending barrage of home video releases, I started collecting the magazines.  Besides Wrestling Superstars, there were monthlies like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Sports Review Wrestling, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, and WWF Magazine, and another seasonal called Wrestling 86 which naturally changed to Wrestling 87, etc., as the years progressed.
But here’s the weird thing.  I didn’t really read many of the issues I kept.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I did peruse them many, many times but for some strange reason, few editions were ever read cover to cover.
By 1990, wrestling started loosening its grip on me.  The movies (and later, music) would take its place.  While in a pharmacy in the United States, I spotted a new title:  Inside Hollywood.  Its debut issue was staring at me and I had to get it.  By the end of 1991, I would cease purchasing wrestling magazines altogether in favour of this bi-monthly, and when I went to the cinema, I would always be on the lookout for freebies like Tribute and Marquee.  Acquiring multiple copies was never a problem.  By 1992, I would start collecting Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, and Empire, a British publication, as well.  As the decade progressed, I would add selected editions of Movieline, Variety, Billboard, Rolling Stone plus rock-oriented freebies I would spot in music stores.
If that weren’t enough, I would hang on to magazines my mother and grandmother would receive in the mail.  Prevention and US (when it was a monthly) briefly joined my needlessly growing collection, which also included the entertainment sections of The Hamilton Spectator (the now discontinued Ego and the Friday pullout) and The Toronto Sun.
At some point, I came to an important realization.  I had too many goddamn magazines.  Then I realized something else.  I wasn’t really reading much of this stuff.
In late summer 2004, I started cleaning out the family attic, something that was long overdue.  All those old wrestling mags, which I hadn’t seen in at least a decade, were rediscovered in a few old, dust-covered boxes.  After bringing them down to my room, I started going through them again.  I actually started reading some of the articles I hadn’t checked out before but fairly quickly, it became abundantly clear that once again most of this stuff would go unread.  That October, they were given away to a rummage sale (they were available for free) at my mom’s old church.  They are not missed.
That same year, I was still dutifully purchasing issues of Entertainment Weekly.  (I stopped buying the other titles by the turn of the millennium.)  At some point, I missed an issue, a mid-October one.  I waited far too long to buy it and as a result, despite hunting for it in a number of places, it was long off the newsstand.
Oddly, soon thereafter, I stopped buying EW which wasn’t as terrible a calamity as I thought it would be.  Since their official website is now open to all online visitors, I can get caught up, for the most part, with a considerable amount of material I would’ve otherwise had to pay for.
Earlier this decade, I started reducing my overall magazine collection.  Starting with those newspaper sections and entertainment freebies, it was decided that only the most needed and the most wanted stuff would be saved.  Everything else would be recycled.  That was a major breakthrough.
Next were those Preventions and Us Magazines.  All tossed.  As I was quickly flipping through the pages of the latter, I decided to finally start reading everything else that remained cover-to-cover, a daunting task considering the volume.  But I didn’t want to make the same mistake I made with my wrestling mags.  Besides, my interest in entertainment (particularly, its history) remains strong.  All I needed was time and tremendous patience.
Since January 2004, I’ve gone through numerous issues of EW, one Empire, a few Premieres and Rolling Stones, the complete run of the defunct Inside Hollywood and all the Movieline and Varietys I purchased (thankfully, there were very few of those).  Some stuff’s been given away, while just a few issues have been recycled.  At this point, I have nine piles to contend with.  Eight of them feature titles I haven’t read yet.  The last pile is the done pile, the issues I’ve read completely.  (I’m not yet ready to part with them but they are unlikely to stick around.)
What I’ve learned is that I should’ve read these damn things when I first got them and then, I should’ve tossed them immediately after I finished reading them.  My life would be so different right now if only common sense had nagged me into submission back then.  However, because I’ve waited all this time to do this, there have been unexpected benefits.  Sometimes when you’re stuck for a writing idea, stumbling across an old article can spark you into action.  When I read Premiere Magazine’s June 1992 issue, for instance, there was a story about the upcoming summer movie season.  They listed what they believed would be the Top 20 grossers.  That led to my four-part series on how wrong most of their predictions turned out to be.
All of this is a very long way of explaining why there hasn’t been as much new writing on here as usual.  Much of my time lately has been spent slowly getting caught up with my reading.  When you don’t have a job, a girlfriend or a place of your own, that’s three less distractions you have to deal with.  Unfortunately, I don’t live a distraction-free existence.
I’ve learned that I’m a very impatient reader.  Sometimes, the slightest noise can slap me right out of my concentration.  It can be a barking dog, a tweeting bird, or a car alarm.  Doesn’t matter.  It can be very difficult to focus when your attention is diverted elsewhere.  And don’t get me started on my OCD.  I have this annoying tendency to sabotage what I’m doing by thinking something completely unrelated to what I’m reading.  Nevertheless, I’m getting better.  I’ve gone from buying magazines I don’t read to dissecting every issue one article at a time.  You feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you finish an individual magazine.  Not only that, you feel smarter, too.  Your thinking becomes clearer and more diverse.  As you read this stuff, not only do you learn interesting things about the entertainment business (as well as stupid, useless crap) from a historical perspective, you become motivated to get through as much of your collection as humanly possible.  I may not read every word in those eight piles but for now, I sure as hell am gonna try.
Having said all that, I do hope to post more writing in this space shortly.  I feel like I’ve been holding back opinions and feelings about numerous stuff for far too long.  In the past, there would be the occasional preview about what you could expect in the short term.  That really helped motivate me to put that material together and get it out there as soon as possible.  But now, mystery is preferable. 
With over 17000 page views, as of this writing, we’re still a long way from being a highly read and highly respected blog.  I hope to continue increasing my audience here with better, stronger pieces.  It won’t be easy but as Iggy Pop once sang, “Struggle builds character.”.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 1, 2008
3:56 p.m.

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