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News » Deep End

LDS Church acquires City Weekly

Church calls it a faith-promoting opportunity


Note from the author: When news of the pending City Weekly sale reached my desk, I realized this might be my last chance to write for the paper. Thus, this is my report on the City Weekly sale. For all I know, I’ve got it exactly right.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints yesterday revealed that it has acquired City Weekly, the popular alternative publication seen by many as a Mormonbashing, gay-loving and tattoo-promoting tabloid. President Thomas S. Monson told a stunned audience in the ornate lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building that he was excited to bring City Weekly into the fold, and urged the faithful to hurry out and pick up the latest issue.

The beloved Prophet, known for his humorous stories about widows in distress, then launched into a heartwarming tale about an elect lady in his local ward who was an avid reader of City Weekly. Eventually, Brother Monson introduced John Saltas, the bon vivant from Bingham who started the tabloid on a shoestring and turned it into a media powerhouse, earning a fortune that has allowed him to spend months at a time cruising the Aegean Sea in a yacht that once belonged to Aristotle Onassis. (Standing to the side, nervously tapping one foot, was City Weekly publisher Jim Rizzi.)

Originally known as Private Eye, the publication began in 1984 as a promotional vehicle for local private drinking clubs. Mormon church officials are keeping mum about whether they plan to change the tabloid’s name (though there is a rumor it may be called the Mormon Expositor) or keep the City Weekly brand, which has proven to be a gold mine.

After an awkward bear hug, Prophet Monson and Mr. Saltas shook hands and smiled broadly for cameras, posing for what seemed like an eternity. Mr. Saltas at one point appeared to be wincing in pain, leading to speculation that he was having second thoughts about selling the paper he had nurtured so lovingly over the past 25 years. It was later learned, however, that Mr. Saltas was rushed to the emergency room to be treated for a broken hand, the result of the Prophet’s surprisingly vigorous application of the grip patriarchal.

Also present at the ceremony were several General Authorities, among them Elder Boyd K. Packer, heir apparent to the prophetic throne; Elder Dallin H. Oaks, the bullet-headed enforcer of doctrinal purity (he is often mistaken for the cowboy singing star Dallen Oats); Elder H. David Burton, the presiding bishop who gained fame for dangling former Mayor Sparky Anderson out of a window on the 23rd floor of the Church Office Building; and Elder Mark “Bud” Willes, recently named top banana of Deseret Management. A dead-ringer for his late uncle, the Prophet, Seer and Revelator Gordon B. Hinckley— who preceded Prophet, Seer, Revelator Monson—Elder Willes’ entrance elicited startled gasps from many in the crowd who could be forgiven for thinking the late prophet had risen from the dead.

Immediate response to the church’s purchase of City Weekly was mixed, with some expressing shock and others professing to have seen it coming for a long time. Among the latter was media icon Rod Decker, who observed, “Not a surprise. You got the church. You got a pain-in-the-ass paper. The church used to be dumb. Look what happened with the Nauvoo Expositor. Now they’re smart. No smashing of the press this time. Instead, gonna get a buy-out.”

Mr. Decker was apparently referring to the 1844 destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor’s printing press on the orders of Joseph Smith. The Prophet got wind that renegade apostle William Law was printing an expose of plural marriage and had his henchmen render the press inoperable. This led, of course, to the arrest and subsequent murder of the prophet by a Carthage mob.

Brigham Young was no doubt sorely tempted to smash the presses of the heretic Salt Lake Tribune, the organ of the apostate Godbeites, back in 1870, but ordered 23 of his wives to physically restrain him from destroying it, remembering the retaliation visited upon Brother Joseph. But had he acted to remove the newspaper, just as his hit man Orrin Porter Rockwell acted to remove pesky Mormon dissidents, the Church would have enjoyed a century, at least, of freedom from cheap shots and unrighteous criticism. Once a thorn in the side for the Church, the Tribune for a long time has been a faithful and adored family pet, curled up and snoozing in the ample lap of the Church.

City Mormon Times
So, what will the Church do with City Weekly? Extract its teeth? Let it slink away to a slow death in a dim and dusty corner? Put it down with a quick and humane blow to the cranium?

Since the spatulate thumbprints of Elder Mark “Bud” Willes are all over the church’s acquisition of our pesky paper, it seemed only fair to give him an opportunity to anatomize the purchase. The affable and avuncular dynamo invited the entire staff of City Weekly to his palatial penthouse apartment at the Eaglegate. After personally passing around a tray of microwaved taquitos, Elder Willes eased his substantial body into a La-Z-Boy recliner next to a huge picture window overlooking the Salt Lake Temple.

“I don’t like to stand on ceremony,” said the Elder Willes. “Please call me Brother Bud.”

“Hello, Brother Bud,” we all said in spontaneous unison.

“Well, let me tell you just a bit about myself. I’ve been called a hatchet man because of my fondness for cutting costs. They called me the Cereal Killer when I ran General Foods, and General Jack Ripper when I ran the Los Angeles Times into the ground. As I said, I’d like you to call me Brother Bud, but I don’t care what you call me, just as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.”

Following the explosion of laughter, Brother Bud resumed his exposition. “But let me reassure you about the church’s plan for your salvation. You have a great operation here. I’ve looked at your bottom line, and everyone in the presiding bishop’s office is happy that you will be putting money into our purse, as opposed to having our pockets picked by that money pit called the Mormon Times. Some of the boys in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are not as sanguine; in fact, Brother Packer and Brother Oats damned near blew a gasket when I said I wanted to buy you guys. To them, you are Satan’s spawn.

“But then I made a pitch about how you fit into our values-based growth strategy, especially our new mission statement at Celestial Media, you know, blah blah trusted voices blah blah light the fire within blah blah light and knowledge blah blah to knuckleheads around the world. Brother Packer made an impassioned speech about the need to be faith-promoting and uplifting. Know what I said? I said, Brother Packer, you want uplift? Get a good brassiere.”

Staffers at City Weekly began feeling a little better about the buy-out, but still had questions about what changes might be in the works.

“Well, the first big headline is that Brother John Saltas has just accepted a call to head up our mission in Greece. He will have his hands full supervising the construction of our new temple in the heart of Athens, which will begin just as soon as our crews finish demolishing the Parthenon. Brother Jim Rizzi has been called to serve as personal trainer for current Deseret Book CEO and new City Weekly etiquette editor, the vivacious—vroom, vroom!—Sister Sheri Dew.

“Finally, I’m pleased to announce that Brother D.P. Sorensen, who has served us well on the Strengthening Church Members Committee in the Ministry of Truth, will continue to write his faith-promoting Deep End column.”

Oh, Glory Days
Brother Bud leaned back in his La-Z-Boy, put his meaty hands behind his head, and gazed beneficently at the eager faces before him.

“As for the rest of you, well, you, like the dead people up there in the Celestial Kingdom holding cell, will have a chance to accept the Gospel and retain your positions. And please, please, help yourself to some more of those tasty taquitos. Paula, are you here? Yes, there she is. May I call you Sister Saltas? The Apostles wanted me to extend their appreciation for those yummy souvlaki things you’ve been sending over to the temple.”

Brother Bud hinted that Bill Frost’s popular Ocho feature would be expanded and renamed the Doce, and that the edgy Ask a Mexican column would become an even-edgier Ask a Lamanite. As for who would replace Brother Saltas’ Private Eye column, Brother Bud said he was confidant he would be able to persuade Prophet Monson to give up his breezy sports column in the Trib and favor City Weekly readers instead with occasional reminiscence of widows he has visited in their time of need.

“We’ve succeeded, I’m happy to say, in twisting the arm of Brother Josh Loftin to continue presenting his weekly Hits and Misses, though that feature will henceforth be known as Exaltations and Excommunications. And your food guy, Ted Scheffler, who I see has been hogging all the taquitos, has been prevailed upon to do a column that will be called 101 Ways to Cook Funeral Potatoes.”

Already in development, according to Brother Bud, was a new feature that would call on the vast resources of the genealogy department. Various names have been kicked around, the leading contender at the moment being, Who’s Your Great-Great-Granddaddy?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, I want to say a word about the City Weekly feature that is hands-down the favorite among the Brethren. Every Thursday before their weekly convocation in the sanctum sanctorum they pick up the latest copy and turn immediately to Nice Tats. If I have my way, we’ll be turning that into a two-page, full-color spread.”

The room erupted in joy, and staffers rushed to envelop and give love to Brother Bud. Editor Jerre Wroble, music editor Dan Nailen and Apostle-at-Large Bill Frost, in a rush of adrenaline, hoisted the City Weekly Savior high upon their shoulders and were able to carry him three or four steps before dropping him on to the plush carpet.

Breathing hard, but face aglow, Presiding Writer Stephen Dark, who has re-baptized as Stephen Light, waved a taquito high above his head. “God bless the Cereal Killer,” he said. “And God bless us, every one.” 

D.P. Sorensen is a former satirist for City Weekly.