June of 1988 marked the beginning of the Private Eye's fifth year in publication, and in a note upon the pages of that opening issue, the staff wrote that they considered it "a miracle" to have lasted this long, a miracle for which they had their readers and advertisers to thank.
"Lord knows this work is not easy," they wrote, "and Lord knows we have wanted to quit many times."
Indeed, the Private Eye's fifth year proved to be full of notable developments, both for the paper as well as for the city it served. A new masthead design appeared, along with a reader comments section (with editorial replies), recurring features such as "News of the Weird" and cartoonist Matt Groening's "Life in Hell" series. And starting in January 1989, the paper changed from a monthly frequency to printing issues twice a month.
As for the Salt Lake Valley: AIDS continued to impact countless individuals and families, both in its human toll as well as its social stigma; Soviet inspectors came to West Valley's Hercules Aerospace plant in accordance with the International Nuclear Forces Treaty; House Bill 132, which would have continued the serving of alcoholic beverages on chartered buses and chauffeur-driven limousines, was defeated in the state Legislature with the backing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Utahns balked over plans by local politicians and businesspersons to dike the Great Salt Lake and turn half of its area into a freshwater reservoir. And controversy arose from the State of Utah's cowardice in leaving the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a local option, rendering the message and legacy of the African American civil rights leader virtually nonexistent in such locales as St. George. "I guess news travels slow as winter molasses in Utah's Dixie," wrote Ron Yengich for the Jan. 18, 1989, issue. "Maybe they just haven't heard of Martin Luther King Jr. It makes it awful hard to hear when you're whistling Dixie with your head in the sand, and screaming ersatz rebel yells all the time."
Remembering Vol. 5: In decline
"Die, Utah, Die," declared the cover story for Private Eye's June 1988 issue.
Below that provocative title was a story of a state with the third-lowest per capita income in the nation; a state with a high cost of living; a state with a net out-migration of 31,353 people over the previous four years.
"People are voting with their feet and going where they think there may be better opportunities," observed taxpayer watchdog Jack Olson (1925-2009).
Salt Lake's downtown area was being left to decay, the state's $75 million surplus was going unused under the administration of Gov. Norman Bangerter and to add salt to the wound, a much-derided billboard campaign was then making the rounds: "Utah: a pretty, great state."
"I just think it's absolutely stupid, and borderline unconscionable," local businessman John Price said of the expensive advertising campaign. "Yes, we need a new image, but we're working so hard to cement the [negative] image that we have."
To members of the community like Price, the ultimate symbol of Utah's problems of economy and public reputation was its liquor laws. What was needed, in his estimation, was for the majority in positions of power to start listening to its minority and for the archaic laws to be removed since they impinged upon attracting people to the state and helping those who were here. Readers who wrote in response to this story appeared to largely agree with the reporting.
"Utah has beautiful surroundings," commented Lisa Mortensen in the July 1988 issue. "But it is getting harder and harder to live here every day. But the leaders of this 'great state' do what they want, and they don't really care about the peons like me!!"
"Without question," began the editorial reply, "'Die, Utah, Die' raised some hackles; made us some enemies, and made us some friends. Now, we can only hope that it raises consciousness as well."
In the voting booth
By the September 1988 issue, election day was nearing and then-junior Sen. Orrin Hatch (1934-2022) was running for re-election to a third term. This brought Private Eye's political commentator Steve Lewis to devote some space to appraise the job that Hatch had done during his tenure. He was not impressed.
"Since Orrin's inaugural appearance in the U.S. Senate," Lewis wrote, "we've come to learn that many a short question of him is evaded by a long answer, and that Orrin's idea of a simple conversation is a filibuster."
A tedious and self-righteous man given to right-wing windbaggery, Hatch was nevertheless enjoying a significant lead in the polls for this race, in Lewis's estimation. While he continued to raise funds and roar conservative stances about national topics, he was a "toothless tiger" on the subjects that actually mattered to Utahns: air, land, water, energy, etc.
"Our junior senator needs to be reminded that Utah, in addition to its pioneer heritage, has an array of rich diversity and talent wearing black, brown and yellow faces," Lewis noted.
Hatch—whose initial 1976 election was primarily based upon the premise that then-incumbent Frank Moss's 18 years in the Senate made him out of touch—ultimately occupied his senatorial position for 42 years. In 2019, Hatch was replaced by now-Sen. Mitt Romney, who announced last week that he will not seek reelection after a single term, calling for a "new generation" of conservative leaders to step forward.
In the ads
In July of 1988, advertisements for a course in wine appreciation began running in the paper and continued to do so for a number of weeks. Presented by Salt Lake Community College, the course was hosted by local oenophile—and Private Eye's resident wine connoisseur—Jack E. Daniels (1920-2016). Born in Salt Lake City, Daniels served as a colonel in the Air Force during WWII, and later devoted himself to writing on subjects related to food and wine. With such a guide at the helm, we hope that many both attended and enjoyed the course.
In the issue for April 28, 1989, showtime listings were available for two notable movie houses on the Wasatch Front specializing in alternative programming. Cinema in Your Face! (formerly 45 W. Broadway) and the Blue Mouse (formerly 260 E. 100 South) each offered audiences arthouse fare from cinematic vintages both recent and aged. They sprang from a tradition that had begun with Art Proctor's Avalon theater in 1963, and although both theaters are now gone, their mission lives on in the work of such organizations as the Salt Lake Film Society and Utah Film Center.
In the aisle
On the subject of film theaters, one of Salt Lake's venerable old movie palaces—its last, in fact—was the Centre Theatre (formerly 299 S. State). As reported by Kelly Jacobs in the September 1988 issue, the Centre was facing its final days, its lease to Cineplex Odeon running out and the developer's wrecking ball aching to swing.
Built in 1937 and sporting murals in metallic relief of gold, brass and bronze, the Centre was "a stunning example of late art deco," noted Jacobs. Most striking was its circular canopy marquee below a 90-foot, illuminated, mission-style tower.
"All across the country, a movement has begun to save and restore the old houses that, due to economics and the lack of skilled artisans, could never be built again," Jacobs said. "Something could be done to save the Centre, but in a city that seems to delight in destroying character in order to erect bland, mediocre and stultified architecture, it isn't likely."
Sadly, Jacobs proved to be prescient, for the Centre did not survive the hunger for its real estate. Despite local efforts to save it, the Centre was torn down the following year to make way for an office tower.
In the stacks
For the Feb. 16, 1989 issue, Private Eye's book reviewer Heidi Buchi spotlighted some of the local bookstores that she preferred to frequent for her literary needs. "After all," she mused, "you have to buy a book in order to read it and review it."
First on her list was The King's English Book Store (1511 S. 1500 East, SLC), which as of this writing continues to operate in the same location. Buchi appreciated the many books that were stacked about that establishment, the aroma of coffee and tea in the air and the occasional cat curled up on the shelves.
"One reason I love this store is because it reminds me of my own home," Buchi confided, "and those of you who have been there will know what I mean."
Other notable locations included A Woman's Place Bookstore (formerly 1615 Foothill Drive), which closed in 1998; the counterculture haven Cosmic Aeroplane (then at 258 E. 100 South), which ended its quarter-century run in 1991; and Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore (formerly 254 S. Main Street), which can now be found at Trolley Square.