Thirty years. That’s approximately how long I’ve had a subscription to Entertainment Weekly (EW). And this is their last issue. I shouldn’t be waxing nostalgic, but I can’t help it.
Shabbat is the time that most of us observant Jews turn off our phones and televisions, and actually — gasp — disconnect and read books. As a kid, I inherited my older brother’s MAD Magazine subscription, and devoured it and continued subscribing for a number of years; but I also was a very young movie and TV fanatic.
I once sat down with a piece of loose-leaf paper and pen, and tried to recall all of the movies I’d ever seen. I was a kid, maybe eight or 10 or so. I couldn’t get up, because I found myself obsessively remembering more and more and more. It went on for about eight pages or so, just line after line of movie titles, plus even a one-phrase synopsis, and, God help me, I am sad that I don’t still have it framed somewhere.
But the point is that I was entertainment-obsessed from a young age. My first movie in the theater was who knows what, but I can affirm I was gleefully watching R-rated movies with my parents, and although things may have been over my head, I still loved them all. (I recall hearing a certain crude zinger from Danny DeVito’s mouth during the hysterical “Ruthless People,” and on my fifth viewing or so at home, suddenly realizing, “Ohhhhh, that’s what it means!”
As a child and teenager, I kept a collection of the movie stubs from films I saw for years, writing the name of the person with whom I’d seen it and stuffing them into countless Ziploc bags. Again, I wish I had kept those. To be fair, I still keep my stubs each year and write down the person’s name, but once I mark my tally on my Excel spreadsheet, I just toss them.
Around 1992 or so, I decided to add one other subscription to look forward to, Entertainment Weekly. This was before the age of the internet offered me minute-by-minute updates, and my only entertainment news source was the Calendar section of my parent’s LA Times. (Side note: Every Monday I would pore over the Calendar section to read the Box Office results from the weekend, along with its corresponding commentary. I don’t know if there were any other 10-year-old kids who cared about movie receipts as much as I did, anywhere on earth.)
So Entertainment Weekly quickly became my guide to what was happening behind the scenes. I was reading book reviews and articles about musicians. I was learning about up and coming actors. And my favorite issue each year listed the domestic and international grosses of the top 100 movies, which I practically memorized. I devoured it all.
At some point in my adulthood the magazine either became more political, or I just started to notice it; and although it continued to be a fun weekend read for me, it never quite gave me the same sense of total relaxation and pure fun as it had before. Not everyone agrees with this sentiment, but some things in life just need to entertain us, and allow that part of our brain that’s always tense and focused on the world’s strife to take a backseat for the evening. That’s what I hope for from most of my entertainment, whether it be magazines, TV, movies or sports. I didn’t ever enjoy Entertainment Weekly to the same degree again, but I still looked forward to it as my Shabbat reading material. (Only when finishing the magazine would I allow myself to continue whatever book I had been reading.)
The years passed by, and my first college job was at Blockbuster Video, but that’s a story for another day; or, rather, it was already written by me in 2013. Oh, and did I mention my movie blog was and still is called “Boaz’s Movie Obsession”? I believe that says it all. (Important side note: My dear, extremely close childhood friend Josh Rothstein, who I write about in the story, tragically died in October, and even at his funeral I was honored to recount our Blockbuster days while eulogizing him to his family and friends.)
At some point in 2019 EW became a monthly magazine, really truly disappointing me, but they made the bizarre choice to keep the consequently-ironic name “Entertainment Weekly.” In an eerie maybe-not coincidence, MAD ended its publication after 67 long years, also in 2019. Although I had stopped subscribing to it for many years, I still found it quite sad. I remember cracking up at a few MAD issues that skewered Entertainment Weekly with entire mockups of it section-by-section, renaming it EntertainMe Weakly. Those were brilliant.
Last week my friend Mike told me that Entertainment Weekly’s print magazine had come to an end. Sure enough, the final issue had been published without so much as a goodbye.
Last week my friend Mike told me that Entertainment Weekly’s print magazine had come to an end. Sure enough, the final issue had been published without so much as a goodbye. The magazine, which often included editor notes about each changing of the guard in the staff, and about each stylistic change and decision, went out with a whimper, like any other issue. It arrived last week and there was not so much as an editor’s note, or final issue notice, making me wonder if they didn’t even have time to put one in before publication. Since I have a subscription that was not due to expire for a few years, I called customer service to get a refund, and here’s the insane thing: I realized that I knew their phone number by heart.
[Author’s note: “Well now I feel stupid! Multiple reports were that EW had immediately finished any and all print issues, but I just found out to my horror and amusement that there is still one last issue to come, with Star Wars on the cover (a fitting final topic in my estimation).”]
For some context, I’m not a mad genius with numbers. The only phone numbers I can remember are my own, my wife Adi’s and my parents. But then there’s a special part of the brain that can remember childhood phone numbers and addresses. You know this is true if you grew up before the age of cell phones and the internet. You had to rely on memorizing numbers. I can still remember the address and especially home phone numbers of friends Ronnie Rosenberg, Daniel Stein and Seth Isenberg. I can still remember the work phone number to Nagila Pizza (priorities, people)! And I can still remember, God help me, the customer service number to Entertainment Weekly, which I would call every time my issue didn’t arrive, a few times a year or so. I never planned to write a eulogy for a somewhat mediocre magazine, but when you realize you’ve known their phone number since your Bar Mitzvah, and the last issue brings up memories of times road tripping with your mother, when you’d read articles to her in the front seat, or times you’d be studying the box office chart harder than you ever practiced for the SATs, you realize that it’s time to put pen to paper once again.
Boaz Hepner works as a Registered Nurse in Saint John’s Health Center, and teaches COVID vaccine education throughout the hospital, and to the community at large. He grew up in LA in Pico/Robertson and lives here with his wife and daughter. He helped clean up the area by adding the dozens of trash cans that can still be seen from Roxbury to La Cienega. He can be found with his family enjoying his passions: his multitude of friends, movies, poker and traveling.