April 28, 1997 12:00 PM

HOLLY HOLDEN’S FIRST BRUSH WITH fame came in the mid-’70s. She was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard when she happened on a rising movie director named Steven Spielberg—and was promptly cast as potential shark food in Jaws. Sadly, she recalls, the scene “ended up on the cutting room floor.”

These days, Holden is one of the PEOPLE associate picture editors who assign photographers, gather pictures

from outside sources and decide which of thousands of shots each week make the cut as choices to appear in the magazine. After 30 years at Time Inc.—and 22 at PEOPLE—she’s used to celebrity close encounters. But her toughest job, she says, was rounding up personal photos from relatives of Heaven’s Gate cult members for our recent cover story. “Holly is tenacious like a Jack Russell terrier,” says picture editor M.C. Marden. “She’s organized and thorough.”

And always has been. Growing up outside Lancaster, Pa., Holly used to snatch up copies of LIFE magazine the

moment they appeared in the mailbox. After studying art history in college, she joined Time Inc. in 1967. “I’ve had great opportunities,” she says. “I was at the finish line at the Kentucky Derby. Saw Apollo 11 take off, the space shuttle land. It’s a lot of pressure and stress but never dull.”

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