March 07, 1994 12:00 PM

Anniversaries are traditionally a chance to reflect on the past; but for our 20th birthday, PEOPLE wanted something more. “In the last two decades, PEOPLE has become the bible of pop culture in America,” says assistant managing editor Susan Toepfer, who headed up our anniversary team. “We wanted this special issue to celebrate that culture and our contributions to it. But instead of dwelling on the past, we decided to create an issue that focused on new reporting and new photography.”

So last September, after polling the staff for nominations, Toepfer and L.A. correspondent Kristina Johnson started lining up the series of original photo shoots that became our Reunion and Generations sections. On the East Coast, senior editor Elizabeth Sporkin and associate editor Kim Hubbard began directing 81 reporters who would eventually file 185 interviews and prove their mettle by finding such elusive former headliners as Donna Rice [page 264] and Rula Lenska [page 298].

Not that we weren’t thwarted by the occasional oversize ego. There was the morning a stunned Sporkin reported that “Big Bird won’t be in the same picture as Barney.” But if Big Bird wouldn’t share, there were plenty of others who looked back—and forward—with fondness. Only inflexible performing schedules kept Leslie Uggams and Ed Asner away from our Roots reunion [page 106], while Damon Evans, now an opera singer living in London, endured a comedy of transportation errors to reach L.A. in time to pose with his fellow Jeffersons [page 125]. Even happier to be together again were the six Vietnam vets who rode the last helicopter out of Saigon [page 144]. “I thoroughly enjoyed the reunion after almost 19 years,” wrote retired USMC Lt. Col. James Kean after the San Diego shoot arranged by correspondent Jamie Reno, “though I hope we don’t look like a middle-aged bowling team!”

That was not a danger confronted by the original Charlie’s Angels [page 131]. Posing together for the first time since Farrah Fawcett flew off from the series in ’77, the trio appeared untouched by time. After gossiping about kids, lovers and jobs, the still friendly Angels cornered photo editor Maddy Miller. “Who,” Fawcett wanted to know, “is going to be on the cover?”

It was chief of reporters Veronica Burns who solved that dilemma: Why not ask PEOPLE’S first cover subject, Mia Farrow, to reprise her role? Happily, Mia, just back from filming the forthcoming Widow’s Peak in Ireland, agreed—despite some discomfiting memories of that original Great Gatsby pose. “I had morning sickness through most of the movie,” recalls Farrow, who was pregnant with son Fletcher Previn at the time. “Those beautiful Theoni Aldredge costumes—and I was so afraid of throwing up all over them.” On the set there was another concern: “Watergate was happening, and everybody was transfixed. Especially Bob Redford. You couldn’t get him out of his trailer.” Red-ford, of course, went on to star in the 1976 Watergate drama, All the President’s Men.

Was Farrow, now 49, aware that her face launched PEOPLE’S auspicious March 4, 1974 debut? “No,” she confesses, “but it has since been pointed out to me. I was living in England then, and it was just some magazine I never heard of—well, nobody had heard of!”

Twenty years—and 1,037 covers—later, we’re proud to say that situation has changed: Today, one out of every six Americans is a PEOPLE reader.

As part of our birthday celebration, PEOPLE has commissioned a series of silk scarves and ties, which will be sold by mail to raise funds for PEOPLE FIRST charities. Jane Curtin models the Gilda’s Club design; Christian Slater wears the Pediatric AIDS tie.

For information, write: Frankie Whelan, PEOPLE FIRST Manager, P.O. Box 7, Radio City Station, New York, N.Y. 10101-0007.

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