Back in 1961, when the first issue of Los Angeles rolled off the press, late-night TV was a relatively new invention. Jack Paar was hosting NBC’s The Tonight Show (Johnny Carson wouldn’t take over for another year), and his only competition in that sleepy time slot were the old movies the other networks would occasionally rerun into the wee hours—when they weren’t airing staticky test patterns.
Much has changed in the ensuing 60 years, with late-night TV evolving into one of the most ferocious battlefields in showbiz, peaking in the 1990s, when the brawl over who would inherit Carson’s chair became such a Game of Thrones-like blood sport that HBO made a movie about it (The Late Shift, based on Bill Carter’s best-seller).
In this month’s issue, veteran media writer Brian Stelter looks into James Corden’s exit from CBS’s The Late Late Show and what his decampment signals about the uncertain future of the talk show genre, which now draws just a fraction of the audience it did when Paar was in his prime. (Paar drew 11 million viewers a night, more than 10 times Corden’s audience.) Does late-night TV have a future? Or are old movies and test patterns about to make a comeback?
This May, we also introduce you to the most powerful publishing mogul you’ve probably never heard of: Jay Penske, the notoriously press-shy racing and trucking heir who has spent the last decade snapping up dozens of distressed but iconic media properties — Rolling Stone, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Artforum, Women’s Wear Daily, and, most recently, Vox Media, owner of New York magazine. Penske’s West L.A.-based company, Penske Media Corporation, is now one of the largest publishing empires in the world. (He also co-owns South by Southwest, Dick Clark Productions, and the Golden Globes.) Like late-night TV, print media has undergone seismic changes over the last 60 years, with its fortunes looking increasingly uncertain. What’s Penske’s game plan? What does he see in publishing’s future that nobody else has divined? Is it a good idea to have one man control the most important pop culture titles in America?
Elsewhere in this issue: Our exclusive interview with Sara King, the hard-partying, headline-grabbing Orange County lawyer who allegedly gambled away millions of other people’s money in a mad Las Vegas slot machine spree that she blames partly on her ex-husband, a grandson of the last Shah of Iran’s twin sister. Also, a portfolio of photos by Julian Wasser, the legendary shutterbug who captured L.A. life in the ’60s and ’70s—whether it was Marcel Duchamp playing chess with a nude Eve Babitz or Robert F. Kennedy’s final moments at the Ambassador Hotel. And don’t miss Matthew Specktor’s clear-eyed appraisal of Gustavo Dudamel, the charismatic soon-to-be ex-conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic.
While life in L.A. is eternally evolving, one thing remains certain: There will always be a need for smart, thoughtful journalism of the sort we strive to put between these pages.
Maer Roshan, Editor-in-Chief
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