January 10, 1994 12:00 PM

A NEW YEAR IS ALWAYS CAUSE FOR celebration, but PEOPLE has a special reason to rejoice in 1994: It was 20 years ago that the magazine published its first issue, dated March 4,1974. To kick off our 20th Anniversary, we are launching a new column, Then and Now, to spotlight some of the people we have profiled over the last two decades. First up is comedian Pauley Shore (page 11), who made his debut in PEOPLE at age 11 in a 1979 story about his mother, Mitzi, owner of L.A.’s Comedy Club.

Then and Now—which will focus on personalities both familiar and obscure—will continue beyond the March 7 publication of our special 20th Anniversary Issue. In full color, at more than 300 pages, the Anniversary Issue will be our biggest ever. “This has been the most exciting project I’ve ever worked on,” says assistant managing editor Susan Toepfer, who is heading up the enterprise. “And judging from the 51,000 responses to our 20th Anniversary poll, our readers are as enthusiastic as we are.”

And there’s more. PEOPLE’S birthday celebration continues with a two-hour ABC special airing March 7, an Anniversary Cover Book highlighting more then 1,000 PEOPLE covers (on sale March 28) and a photo book: PEOPLE Celebrates PEOPLE: The Best of 20 Unforgettable Years, edited by founding editor Dick Stolley and due in March. “When PEOPLE started, a Newsweek article suggested we would soon run out of subjects,” Stolley recalls. “But our interest in other human beings is inexhaustible.” Stolley, who left PEOPLE in 1982, is now senior editorial adviser for Time Inc.

Though many others from that initial staff have also moved on, six of the original New York City staffers remain. “In the beginning we would call press agents and say, ‘Hi, I’m from PEOPLE magazine,’ ” remembers staff writer Joyce Wansley, “and then we would have to explain what PEOPLE magazine was.”

But familiarity bred content. Assistant managing editor Hal Wingo, whose first assignment involved gathering a worldwide staff of correspondents, now oversees the PEOPLE sections included in our Australian edition, WHO Weekly. “PEOPLE is a magazine whose vision was so right,” says Wingo, “that the original concept was exactly as it is today.”

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