40 years of City Weekly —Vol. 7, 1990-1991 | City Weekly REWIND | Salt Lake City Weekly
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40 years of City Weekly —Vol. 7, 1990-1991

City Weekly Rewind



For the Private Eye, the early '90s didn't lack issues to report on or occasions to remember. The Utah Senate was floating a burdensome smoking bill for restaurants as well as an especially punitive piece of anti-abortion legislation. The Baker germ lab at Dugway Proving Ground was slated for modernization to carry on its hazardous experiments in biological warfare. Local Utahns sought to prevent the Kern natural gas pipeline from despoiling Bountiful's Mueller Park. And rising gunshot accidents involving children were a matter of concern, with one report noting the "astounding" figure of 150-plus known fatalities/injuries since 1985.


These troubles were hovering in the air, but so were more pleasant developments, such as Utah's first non-discrimination plank in a major political platform at the Salt Lake Democratic Party's May 1990 convention. Other highlights included the 20th anniversary of John Sinclair's restaurant Gepetto's, a new events section titled "Eye Contact," and experiments in tinted cover design.


Remembering Vol. 7: In the margins
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the federal Newspaper Preservation Act, as only Private Eye could, an ambitious series commenced during the summer of 1990.

"The Unholy Alliance" series reported on the intricacies and damages wrought by Utah's Newspaper Agency Corporation (NAC), a Newspaper Preservation Act- sanctioned printing and distribution agency run through the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) between the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune.

"In polite circles, it's called a monopoly," began John Saltas. "It's a warm and fuzzy arrangement, this NAC thing."

The NAC set a joint rate in terms of placing ads in both dailies, Saltas observed, and tying the two papers together opened the entire community up for exploitation if one had enough money to curry favor and avoid uncomfortable reporting.

"[The dailies'] motivation to build circulation through gained readership is long dead," Saltas wrote. "Their profits are set by the NAC, and you, the reader, lose big-time."

Subsequent installments explored the crowding out of local community newspapers, national efforts to repeal the Newspaper Preservation Act, the edging out of a competing ad system and the feedback—positive and negative—that came in response to the series as a whole.

"We've had beaucoup input—phone calls, letters, high-fives—from not only our regular, demented readers, but from newspaperites—current and former—at both dailies as well," reported Saltas. "The breakdown goes more or less like this: staff writers and lower echelon editors tend to support us (as do several NAC employees), while the 'suits' upstairs are quoted to be 'livid' and taken to firing barbs about what is, and what is not, good journalism."

Responding to claims that the series was "one sided," Saltas was unmoved by calls for "objective" methods of reporting.

"The big presses are anything but fair and objective in their pursuit of pleasing fat cats, big advertisers, politicians and in Salt Lake, members of the cloth," Saltas concluded. "So be it. That's the system, and we're not particularly fond of it."

In 2020, the decades-long JOA between the Deseret News and Tribune ended. In 2021, both papers ceased daily publication.

In his words
Ron Yengich had much to say throughout Private Eye's seventh year. The following are a small sampling of subjects he covered:

On Oliver North and the Iran-Contra scandal: "The ancient Greek democrats convicted their right-wing ideologue criminals and dispatched them. In 20th century America, we give them a made-for-network TV deal and have them squired about the country by Republican senators."

On SLC lawyer Joseph C. Fratto Sr. (1912-1990): "He symbolized the best in a profession that to many is just a bad joke."

On Reaganomics: "... economic rape and pillage on a scale rarely seen since the Robber Barons looted the store at the turn of the last century."

On KALL radio personality Trina Eyring: "She's equal parts Gloria Steinem, Gracie Allen and everyone's little sister."

On the need for diverse judges: "As a practicing lawyer who represents both male and female, both white and Hispanic clients, it would be a nice change of pace to appear in front of black-robed individuals who can't belong to the Alta Club and aren't able to golf at courses preferred by Dan Quayle."


In the ads
"Fitting into a relationship is like fitting the last piece in a puzzle," read an advertisement in the Sept. 11, 1990, Private Eye. Touting itself as "the '90s way to meet someone," this was for a new personal ads service called Eye Catchers. Users' bios were published with an individualized voicemail number that readers could respond to by calling Private Eye's 1-900 phone line.

With the Gulf War commencing in August of 1990, military involvement in the Middle East was on the minds of many. "We are in a pickle," noted John Saltas in November: "Saddam Hussein is a truly dangerous man—but thanks to Mr. [George H.W.] Bush, his advisers, and because of a hyped-up need for oil married to an urgent need to defuse the mood of an upset, domestic populace, too many very good Americans are going to die—for oil and other men's honor."

By Jan. 8, 1991, some Utahns had had enough of the whole affair. "Bring the troops home!" declared an advertisement from the Utah Coalition Against U.S. War in the Middle East, alerting readers to a march and rally on Jan. 19. According to contemporary coverage by The Salt Lake Tribune, between 1,000 and 1,500 people attended the demonstration in downtown Salt Lake City.


In the unions
"Not only is unionism not dead," Ed Mayne (1945-2007) told John Saltas, "but we are now in one of the most exciting periods of time for the labor movement—the most exciting period since the New Deal."

Mayne—who, in 1990, was president-secretary-treasurer of the Utah AFL-CIO—had been a prominent Utah labor figure since the 1970s. He described a struggle that was not too far removed from those faced by previous laborers in the days of Joe Hill or the Bingham Copper and Carbon County strikes.

Following layoffs at Kennecott and Geneva Steel and after receiving training through the Job Training Partnership Act (1982), thousands of displaced workers found themselves in jobs without protections or health benefits, prompting union activity to pick up steam.

"They're coming in droves," Mayne said, "What we're seeing is that the 'me-ism' of the '80s is gone, and people are going back to very basic values—the environment, cancer in the workplace, injuries, family issues."

Saltas observed that organizers had a daunting challenge ahead in Utah. "Right-to-work is not a guarantee of work," Saltas stressed. "It simply means that a person working under a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement does not have to join a union, hence a weak union—a not-so-subtle stab at union-busting hailed by the likes of senators Garn and Hatch, fellows who write their own meal tickets."

Elected to the state Senate in 1994, Mayne served until his death and was succeeded by his spouse, Karen Mayne. At the time of Saltas' article, Ed Mayne was leading 217 unions, made up of roughly 72,000 Utahns. Between 17 and 20 percent of the Utah workforce was then unionized.

Today, the Utah AFL-CIO is connected to 38 local unions with an approximate total membership of 40,000 people.


In the dressing room
"I was expecting a celebrity," reported Leslie Kelen in the Nov. 20, 1990, issue of Private Eye. "Instead, I met a performer with the instincts of a street brawler, a man willing to risk intimidating his listener to make an impact."

Kelen was referring to Dr. Haing S. Ngor (1940-1996), a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, whose performance in The Killing Fields (1984) won the Academy Award for best supporting actor. Ngor was in Salt Lake City to support the Salt Lake Acting Co.'s 20th anniversary, and the two chatted in a SLAC dressing room.

"I didn't want to survive after that suffering," Ngor recalled of witnessing his family and pregnant spouse die at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. "Please, God, [I said] take my life with you. But now [I see] God had his reason [for keeping me alive]. God thought that I would be the ambassador—the one who would tell the world what had happened in our country."

Such a sense of mission kept him going, with both his acting income as well as the royalties from his book largely going toward supplying food, clothing, medicine and school supplies to refugees at the Cambodia/Thailand border.

"I have to tell the world, so the world will know!" Ngor told Kelen. "If I don't do that, who will know what happened? If I keep silent, no one will know about us."