This year is a major milestone for Dirt Rag. We’re celebrating 25 years of printing the magazine. The ‘Rag has gone from being hand-stapled in Maurice and Elaine Tierney’s basement for East Coast consumption in 1989 to where we are today in 2014: enjoying rapid circulation growth and distribution across the globe.
As part of the celebration our next issue will feature special content that’s sure to become a collector’s item. One feature story, written by Gary Boulanger, is an inside look at the history of Dirt Rag with an inside view of how it all began and how we got to where we are. As part of that, I’d like to share a few extra stories over the next few weeks that came out of Gary’s research. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do and will look forward to reading this special feature when it arrives on newsstands April 1 or in your mailbox even sooner if you’re a subscriber (hint, hint).
Karl Rosengarth is a central figure in DR history, having been involved since nearly the beginning. Here is one of his many stories about the early days with Maurice and Elaine. Maurice continues to be the owner and publisher to this day. Elaine was a full partner and the magazine’s first editor.
Rosengarth remembers the first time Maurice disappeared (in the early 90s), well after midnight, during one of their late-night deadline sessions. Since Maurice was responsible for laying out the magazine, Rosengarth got nervous when he didn’t find him in his chair. When he asked Elaine what happened to the big guy, she calmly informed Rosengarth that Maurice was in the basement darkroom making prints for the product in the issue’s Stuff section.
“At that point my head started spinning and I grabbed the back of a chair to keep myself upright,” Rosengarth said. “Entering subscriptions on my days off was one thing, but this first-hand view of the sausage making gave me a queasy feeling in my stomach. ‘What was up with waiting until the last possible moment to shoot and develop photos? We could have done that weeks ago!’ This was almost too much for poor little left-brained me to take. Surely we were doomed, and couldn’t possibly finish the magazine before deadline. But we did.
“With the advantage of hindsight, I now realize that those late-night photo studio sessions gave Maurice a much need-break from non-stop staring at the tiny screen on his Mac. Thankfully we never implemented my proposal to chain Maurice to his desk until he laid out the issue!”
The second floor of the house on Third Street in Pittsburgh didn’t have any air conditioning, except for a window unit in Maurice’s office. Things got so hot during summer deadlines that Maurice’s Mac sometimes would overheat and shut down.
“I still remember the panic that spiked my heart the first time that I walked into Maurice’s office and saw Elaine training the breeze from a box fan onto Maurice’s computer—in a valiant effort to keep the thing from overheating and shutting down during deadline,” Rosengarth explained. “Both the Mac and I survived the incident.
“Then there was the time that Maurice called me into his office at 2 a.m. and asked me to dial up PageMaker phone support while he attempted to recover a corrupted file that represented the entire next issue. I remember dialing, handing him the phone, and asking: ‘You do have a backup copy of that file, don’t you?’ and receiving nothing more in response than a certain gleam in his eye. Just another day in the life at Dirt Rag.”
More to come
We’ve got a lot more stories, new and old, to bring you in the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!