PAPER TRAILS, PART 13
PUBLICATIONS PROLIFERATED IN EARLY 1965
Publications Proliferated in Early 1965
THE PEAK ERA FOR INDEPENDENT DRAG RAGS AND MAGS HAD TO BE 1965-66, ESPECIALLY FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WRITERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, CARTOONISTS, PUBLISHERS AND AD SALESMEN CHASING THIS YOUNG PROFESSION. In March 1965, Drag World became the third national weekly produced in the Los Angeles area, joining long-established Drag News (1955) and fledgling Drag Sport Illustrated (1963). Slick sister monthlies Drag Racing and Modern Rod also called L.A. home. Pete Millar published his satirical monthly comic book, Drag CARtoons, here. While neither Hot Rod nor Car Craft or Popular Hot Rodding was by definition a drag-racing magazine, all three were increasing editorial and advertising attention to drag cars and events. Not every periodical with national ambitions came from SoCal, of course—Drag Times and Super Stock, for example, were both D.C.-based—but never has any single city or region exerted such control over what's now called the flow of information.
Drag racing's golden age of publishing didn't last long (for reasons to be addressed in future issues), but it sure left us with lots of ink to revisit and enjoy all over again; so much material that Editor Ward wisely suggested splitting each of these glorious mid-'60s seasons in half, between early and late. All of the abovementioned titles cover-dated January through June 1965 were researched for this installment, but Drag World kept rising to the top of the pile.
This new kid on the block appeared out of nowhere at the U.S. Fuel & Gas Championships and immediately set new standards—while breaking unwritten rules—for drag-racing journalism and sensationalism. Most words were written by ex-Drag News columnist Terry Cook (“New Jersey News”), who'd jumped ship and swapped coasts to help Publisher and Art Director Mike Doherty launch the weekly. The writing, typography and graphic design far outshone the production values of the two older independent tabloids. Cook's “On the Carpet” interviews with on-track and offtrack personalities pulled no punches.
Now 75, he recently recalled for Drag Racer how “people in L.A. immediately called Drag World a ‘scandal sheet.'
They were so [bleeping] stupid! National Dragster was a house organ, not a real newspaper, and Drag News was mush. Drag World was a real newspaper with real news.”
Alas, Drag World was also a real newspaper with real revenue problems. Competing with Drag News for readers was never the challenge. There always seemed to be plenty of 25-cent customers for all three weeklies, but never enough ad income for more than one. Neither Drag World nor Drag Sport was sustainable in the long run. The stories of both papers will unfold in coming installments of “Paper Trails.”
You won't fully appreciate this Pete Millar masterpiece until you whip out a magnifying glass. Better yet, scan the illustration in high resolution and enlarge each section for close inspection, as we did upon discovering the page in Millar's June 1965...