In our last issue of the intriguing year of 1990, I am borrowing this space from my colleague Elizabeth Valk, PEOPLE’S publisher, in order to tell you about you, our readers. We hear from you every week, of course, and during 1990 we’ve received more than 25,000 letters. Many of you suggested stories, a few saluted the editor in traditional epistolary umbrage, but almost all of you reflected the astonishing emotional response this magazine evokes in our readers.
When you took pen in hand, you demanded more articles about the New Kids on the Block (our Aug. 13 cover story generated the most letters in PEOPLE’S 17-year history, almost all of them from the group’s teenage fans), were in high dudgeon about the plight of Champ the Dog (see our follow-up on page 108), asked about our Oct. 8 cover photo of Cybill Shepherd (yes, she knew there was a run in her stocking) and expressed consternation at Patrick Swayze’s swimsuit in our Aug. 6 issue (no, that was not what you thought it was).
The single subject that drew the most heartfelt response from you over the year, however, was AIDS—particularly our April 23 cover on Ryan White’s death, which drew more than 1.000 letters. “People who had followed Ryan’s life in our pages were deeply moved,” reports letters manager Maureen Fulton.
Ryan’s was perhaps the best-known face of AIDS, but over the year we showed you the humanity behind other AIDS stories: Ali Gertz, the Manhattan woman who contracted AIDS on a date; Kim Bergalis, the Florida student who may have gotten it from her dentist: activist Larry Kramer; journalists Tom Cassidy and Paul Wynne; teacher Tom Bradley; fashion designer Halston; and in this issue, medical researcher Anthony Fauci.
This special year-end double issue was supervised by Carol Wallace, whose challenge it was to create memorable portraits of the 25 people who most fascinated us, puzzled us, amused us and sometimes shocked us in 1990. So welcome back Francis Ford Coppola, who made our first Intriguers list in 1974, and check out Delta Burke and Patrick Swayze, posed here in spectacularly uncharacteristic get-ups, thanks to our photo department’s Holly Holden and Karen Lipton. You’ll also find in these pages some of the Most Intriguing People of 1860-65 in our story on descendants of the Civil War, which, along with the rest of the issue, was designed by art director Hilli Pitzer, associate Phil Simone and assistant Tom Allison.
Wallace had originally hoped to put a plum on this pudding by photographing all of the babies born to servicemen’s wives while the fathers were overseas. But when head reporter Denise Lynch learned that the grand total was not the expected 100 or so but 2,217, another approach was engineered. Take a look at the story on pages 160-162. It says all anyone can about the people who will intrigue us in 1991 and beyond.