Monday, November 2, 2015

The Comfort TV Covers of Dynamite Magazine

I was recently surprised, and very pleasantly so, to find that the Scholastic Reading Club was still in existence. I was certain that by now it had become a relic of the past, like many good ideas we have discarded because they no longer fit the times we live in.

When I was in elementary school and junior high it was called the Arrow Book Club. Every month new catalogs would be distributed by a teacher, and I would peruse titles about sea monsters and old west outlaws, or be tempted by the latest mystery facing Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective.

And of course, there was Dynamite Magazine. For someone already fascinated by television, Dynamite was like a Christmas present delivered every month. It was a seminal pop culture moment in my life that stands out because back then there weren’t a thousand other sources reporting on the shows and stars that I loved. 

My family didn’t get TV Guide, which may be why I enjoy checking out the back issues so much today. People and Us were around, but that was about it except for tabloid rags and gossip sheets like Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. The TV series Entertainment Tonight debuted in 1981, at the tail end of my high school years.

At the time no one could have imagined the instant gratification and over-saturation of pop culture coverage unleashed by the Internet (heck, no one could have imagined the Internet). For those accustomed to that access, I think it's almost impossible to appreciate how exciting it was just to see a favorite star on the cover of a magazine. 

Dynamite was written for kids my age. It not only featured my favorite shows, which were usually dismissed by the serious TV critics of the day, it did so with articles that were as excited about them as I was. It spoke my language to an almost embarrassing degree, as I discovered while going through a cache of back issues.

What a nostalgic rush it was to page through these ancient publications, getting reacquainted with the puzzles of Count Morbida, the comic book serial adventures of Dawnstar and Nightglider, Magic Wanda’s card tricks and the Hot Stuff section featuring practical jokes called “Gotchas.” 

But it’s the cover stories that transported me back to a more innocent era in television and in life. 

Where else could you have “A Special Talk with Greg Evigan,” or spend a “Happy day with Scott Baio”? 

There were a lot of ‘Meet’ and ‘Face to Face’ covers: Meet Rick Springfield; ‘Face to Face with Erik Estrada’; Meet Kristy McNichol; ‘Face to Face with Fonzie.’

Three of Charlie’s six Angels (Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd) made the cover, an acknowledgement that perhaps that show wasn’t as scandalous as some believed. Lee Majors made the cover three times, which as near as I can tell is the record. 

Remember Shields & Yarnell, two mimes that got their own TV series and that people actually liked? They head the list of now-obscure cover subjects, along with Clark Brandon (from Mr. Merlin) and David McCallum from his 1975 series The Invisible Man, which appropriately vanished after just 13 episodes.

There was also a 1985 feature called “Backstage at The Bill Cosby Show.” I’ll leave that one alone.

The reporting was solid and the interview pieces were authentic, unlike the made-up quotes and stories in teen publications like Tiger Beat. Still, this was clearly the G-rated version of celebrity coverage (“Mr. T – his look is tough, his heart is tender”).  Questions explored what actors liked about their characters, how they got along with their costars, and what they hoped to do next. For most of them, those aspirations never came true. 

Dynamite was published from 1974 to 1992, a pop culture era that spanned from The Waltons to The Simpsons; from Jimmie Walker to Johnny Depp; from Land of the Lost to Beverly Hills 90210. Back issues are plentiful on eBay and not that expensive.

In its heyday, kids all over the country formed Dynamite Clubs to hang out together and talk about the stars in the magazine. I didn’t join one then. I’d kind of like to now. 


  1. Wow! I was cleaning out my office this weekend and one of the things I hoped I'd find in the huge mess was my old issues of Dynamite magazine. I have vague memories of having thrown them out about 10 years ago when we moved in, but I was hoping those were false memories. Apparently not though, as I didn't find any and I am now cursing my 37-year-old self for being so stupid. Now I'll have to buy some back on eBay to get my nostalgia rush. Most are affordable, as you said, but the Star Wars and Land of the Lost issues seem to be a bit pricey, and those are the ones I had thrown out and are the ones I most desire.

  2. I had no idea there were Dynamite clubs back in the '70s. I probably would have joined one if I had known. I had a subscription to the magazine at one point. It was great not missing any issues, but some of the fun was definitely lost in having them mailed directly to my house and not getting to pick them up in school as part of a Scholastic Book Club order (which, by the way, my daughter is currently enjoying). I'll second your wish to join a modern Dynamite club. Unfortunately, that would spur me on to trying to buy up as many back issues as I can, and that could get problematic...

  3. Isn't it great that the club is still around? I really thought schools would have moved on to something else by now.

    Those back issue are like potato chips - you enjoy a couple of them and it only makes you want more. Fortunately they don't cost that much, and I really don't care about collectible condition at this point.

  4. Wonderful post, and such great memories! Thank you so much for sharing.