By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: April 12, 2011
Charles Laufer, who as a high school teacher in 1955 despaired that his students had nothing entertaining to read and responded with magazines aimed at teenage girls desperate to know much, much more about the lives of their favorite cute stars, died April 5 in Northridge, Calif. He was 87.
The cause was heart failure, his brother, Ira, said.
Mr. Laufer’s best-known magazine was Tiger Beat, published monthly. With its spinoff publications and its competitors, of which the most popular was 16 Magazine, Tiger Beat had it all covered — or at least what mattered most to girls from about 8 to 14. The Beach Boys’ loves! Jan and Dean’s comeback! The private lives of the Beatles!
Exclamation points, sometimes as many as 50 a page, added emphasis. Pix, as pictures were known, were glossy, glamorous and frequently poster-size. Fax, as facts were known, often included “101 things you never knew about (fill in star’s name)”: he uses a blue toothbrush!
Titles were catchy, oddly innocent by later standards: “Shaun: A Junk Food Junkie?,” “Leif’s Sad Childhood,” “Bobby’s Favorite Type of Girls” and “Marie: Fighting With Donny?”
Mr. Lauder told The Los Angeles Times in 1974 that the newsstand price of Tiger Beat, then 75 cents, was the same as the price of a hot-fudge sundae, and that the magazine probably provided the same dollop of entertainment. He was even clearer in describing his mission in a 1979 interview with Parade magazine: “Let’s face it, we’re in the little girl business.”
Charles Harry Laufer was born on Sept. 13, 1923, in Newark, where his father, Isadore, owned a taxi company and was a state assemblyman. Charles was a star basketball player in high school before moving to Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of Southern California. He taught English, journalism and history at two high schools.
To tempt his students to read more, Mr. Laufer in 1955 started a magazine called Coaster, which later became Teen, and which he sold in 1957. In 1965 he published a one-shot magazine crammed with Beatles photos. It sold 750,000 copies in two days. Later in 1965 he started Tiger Beat. Its mainstay, copied by so-called teenzines to this day, was “guys in their 20s singing La La songs to 13-year-old girls,” Mr. Laufer said in an interview with The Seattle Times in 1992.
His brother put up half the initial capital for Tiger Beat, but Charles ran it as publisher. His strategy to compete with 16 Magazine was to build promotional relationships with production and record companies.
But it was often Mr. Laufer’s own perspicacity that yielded the advantage. At a screening of new television shows in 1965 he saw the Monkees for the first time, and recognized Davy Jones from his performance in “Oliver!” on Broadway. Recognizing the Monkees’ potential, he put them on the cover of Tiger Beat. That put the still-struggling publication in the black, and he signed an exclusive deal for special Monkee magazines, Monkee picture books and Monkee love beads, which added to the bonanza.
Tiger Beat also used glossy paper (16 used newsprint) and a more advanced process for colored pictures. And it gave away bonus posters and ran contests in which readers could compete for stars’ personal belongings.
The Laufer brothers sold Tiger Beat in 1978 for a reported $15 million. Its circulation was then 700,000.
Charles Laufer stayed on as a consultant to the new owners for several years, then retired. Various combinations of his family members have since owned Bop and other teenage publications, as ownership of Tiger Beat passed through five or six companies. In 2003 Mr. Laufer’s son, Scott, bought Tiger Beat, which he now publishes with Bop.
Mr. Laufer’s first marriage, to Ottile Hangst, ended in divorce. In addition to his brother and his son, he is survived by his wife of 55 years, the former Dorothy Lacey; his daughters, Kerry Laufer, Laurie Fitzgerald and Julie Jenkins; and 10 grandchildren.
In 1985, Mr. Laufer told The Los Angeles Times that it would be hard to duplicate his success if he were just starting. “Today you have rock stars coming out and saying they’re bisexual, or you see four-letter words in print,” he said.
Still, some things never change: the cluttered collages of the covers of his day featuring the likes of David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman bear a striking resemblance to today’s Tiger Beat, with its endless renderings of Justin Bieber.NY Times Source