It’s like Christmas around here when the revamped distribution cubes start making their way back to our office. The project, conceived by Circulation Manager Geoffrey Plant, asks local artists to overhaul those blue cubes that house the Alibi each week. Plant delivers the boxes to the artists, and then, a month later, picks them all back up. The staff here gets all excited as the cubes roll back into our offices.
Truly, the artists’ good work is fuel for us. You know how creativity is.
Plant penned a feature this week on all of the participants. Their nonbox artwork is also still being displayed at Boro Gallery (317 Gold SW) through the end of the month.
Newspapers bind their every issue in big green archive books. Ours have been patiently waiting in the upstairs ghost town of our offices until a couple of weeks ago, when they were hauled into the light and scoured. The research for our 20th Anniversary Issue took us way too long because we kept stopping to read nearly every article.
On stands this week is a collector’s edition of the paper, a look back at two decades of the Alibi (née NuCity) and its best friend: Burque. I like the heft of the corporeal version, but you can, of course, dig through it digitally.
... Two young dudes from Wisconsin blew into town and made a newspaper. One of them, Chris Johnson, had launched The Onion in college and sold it. The other, Dan Scott, was the smartest guy Chris could think of to help create a new one. Two decades later, the newspaper you're reading is the newspaper Chris and Dan started.
• The biweekly NuCity manages to claw out of the ethereal womb on Friday, Oct. 9, with 12 black-and-white pages of op-ed and event listings. Page 3 gives Burqueños their first taste of “Real Astrology” by Rob Brezsny (still published all these years later! See page 85). “¿El Norte?,” a column in Spanglish by Juan F. Quiroga, makes its debut. Natural Sound, the Dingo, Beyond Ordinary, Guild Theatre and La Montañita Co-op advertise in this historic issue. Bandido Hideout offers a coupon: beef or chicken tostadas with a drink for $1.95. Complete list of computer equipment owned by the company at that time: Powerbook 140, rented laser printer, Macintosh SE.
When I was hired at the Alibi in 1996, I was a small-town Wyoming girl of barely 22 with an associate's degree in journalism in my back pocket. I was young, naive and ready for the "big-city" life Albuquerque had to offer. My first initiation into Burque and my new job as associate editor was an Alibi personals party at the Dingo, where readers slathered one another in hot wax on stage and led their submissives around on dog collars. I was surrounded by tight, black leather, far from the cowboy bar scene I had recently fled, and vividly remember one man who wore nothing but a black garbage bag, white athletic socks and loafers. Oh, the characters you meet in Albuquerque.
• The paper holds its first-ever haiku contest. A review of R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People appears in an early music section. Soon-to-be Film Editor Devin D. O’Leary’s byline pops up atop graphic novel reviews. Fred’s Bread and Bagel advertises on the Club Calendar pages. Note: All NuCity contributors are paid in “Fred’s Bucks.” Home sales across the state are booming, and the paper can afford four more pages in each issue, pushing the count to 16.
• NuCity goes weekly on Jan. 11.The paper reprints a column from young Seattle writer Dan Savage on the CDC’s new AIDS-prevention marketing campaign. Eventual Web Monkey-in-Chief Kyle Silfer pens a column with the opening line, “There is this thing called the Internet, and it is swallowing up the universe.” Staffer Alma García goes to Ciudad Juárez to write about the Mexican presidential elections. Best of Burque is born. From the introduction: “51 weeks a year we snivel, revile, quibble and criticize this city that we live in, all under our very own directive of cynicism, humor, sarcasm and hope. But the simple facts remain: Many of us came here (on purpose!) to experience life in this town ... .”
• We publish our first Gay Pride issue, as well as an epic gonzo-style interview with Hunter S. Thompson after two staffers follow the man through six days of chaos. NuCity changes its name to Weekly Alibi on Aug. 9 thanks to threat of legal action by Chicago’s New City newspaper, and we throw a party at the Sunshine Theater to celebrate. This includes a satirical “Miss Chicago” beauty contest and an “old-fashioned Chicago-style sausage toss.” This proves to be one of our most controversial events, with many Chicagoans claiming there’s no such thing as a “sausage toss.” Lousy sausage-tossers! The following Monday, 600 “Why I Hate Chicago” postcards are mailed to the New City publisher.
• We launch our first website: desert.net/alibi. The paper also sweats out its first Summer Guide, still appearing inside hot metal distribution boxes every May. Angie Drobnic Holan is a senior staff writer; she’ll go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 as part of the team behind Politifact.com. The paper has a thriving news section and promises an election issue: “Weekly Alibi will present the 1996 general election in a manner only Albuquerque’s alternative press is capable of.” We throw a KISS tribute show at the Dingo Bar.
• We launch the Weekly Alibi Music Awards (WAMmies), and Bovine plays the awards ceremony. Future Publisher Carl Petersen wins the Best Songwriter WAMmy for his work with the Ant Farmers. The first-ever Readers’ Choice Restaurant Poll hits stands. We buy La Cocinita, a food magazine started by Sergio Salvador. An article appears titled “Who Polices the Police?” about 25 police killings going before grand juries without resulting in a single indictment of an officer. Another story about 30 fatal officer-involved shootings within 10 years comes out in December.
It was one of the sickest crimes that many in Albuquerque had ever seen; so grotesque, destructive and brazen that even veteran Albuquerque Police Department officials, many of whom had spent their entire careers dealing with the most heinous of crimes, could only stammer and sputter in outrage and disbelief at the terrible act.
• With Iraqi civilians starving en masse under U.S. sanctions imposed after the Persian Gulf War, Alibi staff writer Stephen Ausherman travels there and reports back in an in-depth, two-part piece. Cap’n Opinion runs a fake Q&A with Democratic congressional candidate Phil (m)Aloof titled “Interview with the Vapid.” The paper changes formats, adopting the short-tabloid.
• The Alibi holds its first Crawl, shutting down Central and filling Downtown’s stages with nearly 70 bands, including: Red Earth, Giant Steps, Atomic Love Medicine, Kimo, Ben Hathorne, Fatso, Stoic Frame and Alpha Blue. We also run a special comics issue, in which the paper’s usual content is turned into comic strips. The “Six Degrees of Luke Skywalker” Summer Film Guide connects every movie in the feature to Mark Hamill. Gwyneth Doland is hired as food editor, ushering in an era of pork love and Atkins Diet abhorrence.