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Issue: Winter 2021-22

35 YEARS...

By Nyla Arslanian

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I’d say that isn’t true for magazines. Looking back over 35 years it’s not the content of each issue that is etched in memory—it is our covers. And, choosing what that would be was always a challenge and it’s always been a collaborative process.

The first 10 years of the magazine was an annual project of the Hollywood Arts Council, and the covers were art-oriented.  Our first real magazine issue Hollywood was for Hollywood’s 100th birthday. We were at the advent of computer-generated art. It was an experiment and a challenge but once we decided on creating a birthday card, everything fell into place.

I love the shocking pink cover with a shot of the Hockney Pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. If you look carefully, you can see the pool drain in the image. Photographer Garry Henderson used the pool‘s reflection to illustrate the relationship between arts and tourism.

Cathy Teal was art director and production during this time, and she introduced me to photographer Anthony Nelson. Anthony and I have been on an amazing adventure. Often, all I have is an idea related to the issue’s editorial. For nearly 30 years Anthony has been the one who has made those ideas real.

Changes came with the new Millenium. In 2009, Dave Destler and the Magazine Factory took over art direction from McMac Publications. Through the years, we’ve been on a journey to illustrate Hollywood’s unique culture and lore and what a trip it’s been.

In 2001, preparing for our summer issue, there was a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like contest. I thought, “Multiple Marilyns! How fun is that!”  We chose the 1950s poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for the location. Anthony was in his element with not just one but four “Marilyns” to wrangle.

Anthony also wanted to do more with his photography and new holiday decorations on Hollywood Boulevard provided the opportunity for him to create a wonderful collage image. Those were the days of a magical Hollywood Boulevard during the holiday season with elaborate cross-street decorations from Highland to Vine.

In 2003, the Motion Picture Academy opened its Mary Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study. Built in 1949 as the first studio built for television, it was where I Love Lucy was broadcast, Anthony brought “Lucy” to life (in the background, was my then-assistant Jennifer Carrol. Through the years, other staff members also populated our covers).

My favorite cover story is that of a young woman at Crossroads of the World. I was having a tough time deciding on a cover and Anthony reminded me that we had never used that complex—which happened to be our office—and an art deco landmark. He said, “I’ll walk around and do some test shots.” It so happened that a young woman, who we later learned had just arrived in Hollywood a week before, walked by heading to a modeling agency in the complex. That photo not only was our Summer 2004 cover but we reused it in 2018. By then, the young woman had left Hollywood for South Carolina.

Occasionally a “simple” concept isn’t as easy as it seems. A cover article about Hollywood cowboys seemed pretty simple. We’d use Sunset Ranch in the Hollywood Hills. I did all the preparation finding three willing stable regulars for the shot and off we went. What I didn’t realize was that horses don’t stand still to pose for photographs. To make matters worse, one of the horses didn’t like the other, so there was constant shuffling resulting in clouds of dust.

Photographers knows that high noon is not the time for a photo shoot. Having chosen the fountain at the entrance to the Hollywood Bowl as the location for the Summer 2016 cover, it was a little before noon when Anthony and I set out to scout the site. After several test shots, as we were about to leave, Anthony took a straight shot of the fountain. To our surprise, the sun directly above cast shadows that would never be captured during the “magic hours” for photography—early morning or late afternoon revealing the beauty and art of that sculpture.

The Hollywood Is Film Noir article needed a special image for the cover. Barbara Stanwick and platinum blonde came to mind. My cover budget allowed for Anthony’s fee and that was about it. What to do? Griffith Observatory had just undergone a massive restoration and at the opening gala I spotted a young woman in a security uniform who had exactly the look I sought. I literally chased her down to get her phone number. She was thrilled to be asked. Next came the location and Musso & Frank Grill and its famed martini provided the perfect film noir setting. It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and I could see heads turn as Carmen came walking into the restaurant. It was definitely a 1940s flashback.

I didn’t know Anthony’s secret to always getting the perfect shot, until we set up a shoot at a newly opened restaurant in the oldest home left on Hollywood Blvd., the Janes House. Anthony brought a couple of friends, and we scooped the wait staff just before opening. Just prior to the shoot, Anthony gathered us into a circle and said a brief prayer for a successful session. Now I knew the secret: Anthony had God on his side.

Scooping people off the street and into our shots was one of our tactics. The director of Griffith Observatory, Dr. Ed Krupp, gave us permission, but we needed more than just him to enliven the shot. A mother with her two children in tow had come in from the valley for a visit. She agreed to letting her kids be in the shot and Dr. Krupp was in his element explaining to them the workings of the telescope. Anthony caught that moment.

Sometimes, no matter how careful the preparation, things don’t go exactly as planned. Our summer issue in 2015 had an article on both the Peterson Museum and Hollywoodland. I scouted out a location, contacted a car club and found a 1957 Chevrolet convertible and two of our employees and off we went. The location was perfect, the Hollywood sign in the background, Anthony had barely got off about five shots when a park ranger approached telling us we could not park there and to move immediately. It was a miracle day—one of the five shots was just what we needed.

Working for Discover Hollywood, many of our covers include our employees. Our cover article was Birth of the Disney Legend, and I found the perfect storybook-style house near where the Disney studio once stood. My assistant, Trevi, wore her dark hair in a short bob and had the perfect “Snow White” look for such a whimsical cover.

“Whimsical” is just the perfect word for a Minion Mania article when Universal Studios opened a new attraction complete with a water park. Anthony and I spent a few hours watching the kids playing and chatting with their moms. You would think we set this shot up, but it was just a boy having a good time.

Over these 35 years, there’s been about 70 covers. Each with its own story. It’s been a wondrous journey and there are many more stories left to be told. DH