You meet such interesting people in journalism, the old saying goes—and most of them are other journalists. On PEOPLE, we seem to run into pretty fascinating individuals outside the office too—perhaps not surprisingly since we cover some 2,000 men, women and children in a year. From these close encounters come glimpses of story subjects—and even of ourselves—that frequently don’t get into the magazine. Here are a few examples from 1978.
Reporters are accustomed to discomfort and even danger, but it comes in peculiar ways on this magazine. Suzy Kalter from our Los Angeles bureau was helpfully carrying coffee cups into Cheryl Tiegs’ kitchen after their interview when the model’s dog, a briard named Pepe, suddenly sank its fangs into Suzy’s thigh, tearing her pants. The embarrassed Tiegs sent Kalter a lovely plant; the pants were totaled.
Houston Correspondent Kent Demaret was discussing religion with Muhammad Ali on movie location. “Muhammad operates normally at 440 volts,” Kent says. “He gets twitchy if he doesn’t have electricity in the air all the time.” He provided it by suddenly leaning toward Demaret and accusing, “You called me a nigger.” The champion’s aides stiffened. Ali repeated the charge. Gulp. Demaret managed a “Whaat?” before he realized Ali was just fooling. “Muhammad,” Kent pleaded, “don’t look at me like that. It’s downright spooky.” Everybody laughed, Muhammad with them. He smiled at Kent and observed, “You ain’t as dumb as you look.”
Sometimes, unavoidably, people are not ecstatic about our stories on them. Music Editor Jim Jerome was walking with Carly Simon to a lunch interview when a former story subject, Meat Loaf, came up, waving his cane and yelling, “Jerome, you s.o.b. You ruined my life. You printed my real name and every s.o.b. in New York has been calling me.” Jerome coolly introduced the two singers. Meat Loaf pumped Carly’s hand and warned: “Hey, don’t tell this creep your real name.”
Celebrities often reveal themselves at unexpected times. Assistant Editor Patricia Burstein was assuring publicity-shy Anne Ford Uzielli that we were interested in the courses she was taking on international politics, and not just the gossip that she had sat in the back of P.J. Clarke’s until 3 a.m. sipping wine with New York’s Governor Carey. “But,” Anne protested, “I was at P.J.’s until 3.” She was just as honest in the rest of our interview.
In Washington, Correspondent Garry Clifford had unusual evidence of President Carter’s concern during the Panama Canal treaties debate in the Senate. She was jotting notes after a country music show in the White House when she heard a familiar voice ask: “Can I borrow your pen and some paper?” It was the President, who dashed off a message for relay to the Hill. Two more times that evening he asked Garry for paper—in the end accidentally taking some of her notes with him. (“And I had good quotes from guitarist Charlie Daniels,” she’s still muttering.)
This magazine even figured in the emigration of the Katz family from the Soviet Union to Boston last month. When the father, Boris, was going through customs at Moscow airport, officials confiscated his 14-month-old daughter Jessica’s American-made formula, Pregestimil. Katz pulled out the August 7 PEOPLE, which explained that Jessica needed the formula for a stomach disorder. A customs officer read the article and pronounced it “anti-Soviet.” He demanded the magazine as well as the family’s visas. After a nerve-racking half hour, everything was cleared up. The Pregestimil was cleared and the visas were returned. But the KGB still has the magazine.
Which brings us to the issue in your hands. Again we have selected the 25 most intriguing people of 1978, including one choice that may disturb some readers. Remember, please, that “intriguing” does not necessarily mean commendable.
Elsewhere in the issue are surprises: Who are the most influential Americans in world history? What is 100 years old? Which portrait does Yousuf Karsh think is his best of 1978? And what did Linda Ronstadt look like in high school? Would you believe blond and homely? There’s hope for us all.