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Tangents Magazine cover

Tangents Magazine spread

A month before the first issue of Tangents magazine was published, Charlotte-based graphic designer Greg Russell saw a flyer on the wall of La-De-Da's coffee and antique shop on 7th Street which announced that a start-up publication was looking for writers and artists. He saw this as an opportunity to have some fun and exercise his creativity.

He called the number the next day and was told that there would be a staff meeting at La-De-Da's on Thursday.

At the meeting were a handful of people involved with the conception of the magazine. They included founders and former UNC-Charlotte newspaper staffers Carl Fulmer, Cindy Sites and Dann Dunn and staff members Daniel Coston and Erin Hubbs.

Russell became more and more interested as they talked about creating a monthly publication that would showcase the work of local writers, artists, musicians and poets. By the end of the meeting, he offered to buy a computer and design and produce the magazine if he was allowed to enter the partnership. The team quickly went to work, and the first edition was published on September 8, 1995.

5,000 copies of the tabloid size newsprint magazine was printed at Mullen Publications and distributed all over Charlotte and in some of the surrounding counties.

The small staff did everything themselves. They sold ads, recruited talent, wrote stories and reviews, took photos and distributed the magazine.

Fulmer was the ringleader of the meetings which were held every Thursday evening to plan and organize the itinerary for the following months. The location of the meetings alternated between Fulmer's and Russell's living rooms each week. The entire staff brainstormed ideas for stories and themes while Fulmer wrote them down on a flip chart. The creative people assembled in those meetings wanted to make a mark on Charlotte, state the truth as they saw it, and just maybe shock a few people while they did it.

One result of such a group effort was the magazine's mascot Dickie Typoe, who was featured on every cover and on the masthead. He often appeared in fictitious stories which fleshed out his background as a rich Dutch pornographer who was the ruthless owner of Tangents.

One of the most outrageous themes appeared in the November 1996 edition. The front page took on the look of a daily newspaper, and all of the stories were about Charlotte/Mecklenburg seceding from the state of North Carolina, complete with a militia, a moat and a canal leading to Charleston, S.C.

The 1998 April Fool's edition was done in the style of the Weekly World News. In it, the mayor was haunted by the ghost of Fred Kirby and members of the county commission turned into disco-dancing machines.

The most popular section was the annual Charlotte Rocks insert which listed nearly all of the local bands complete with information on the type of music they played, where they played and how to contact them.

Every issue contained a topical lead story, an interview with a band, a centerspread featuring a short story with original artwork, a humor page, local album reviews, concert reviews, poetry, an event listing and a comic book review.

Coston was the backbone of the magazine. He wrote lead stories, humor, reviews, interviews, took photos, sold ads, distributed and generally got things done. He always got what he wanted whether it was an interview with "A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" author Douglas Adams, Jim Mallon and Kevin Murphy from Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule of Velvet Underground ... quite a coup for such a small magazine.

Sites was an excellent writer who was in touch with the gothic scene in Charlotte. She gave Tangents much of its dark ambiance.

Melanie scored interviews with national musicians such as members of Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue and Orbital.

Chainsaw was a kind-hearted, noble punk rocker who always offered a level-headed point of view, and his barbarian style of writing was fun to read. He was also an excellent cartoonist.

E. Ross's fashion column was one of the most well-read sections of Tangents. Colorfully written and full of suggestive innuendoes, his stories always brightened up the sometimes dark and gloomy publication.

Jessica Deltac covered the most creative artists in the Charlotte area.

Benjamin Robinson, who often wrote under the pseudonym of Pithy, was acerbic, very politically incorrect and hilarious.

Hubbs and Nancy Homs were staff photographers.

Skeet provided the detailed pen and ink drawings that often featured his own dragon characters.

Jason Jenks reviewed movies.

Tremont Music Hall owner Penny Craver wrote a how-to column for bands, and record producer Rob Taglione wrote a column on recording.

Fulmer, Coston and Dunn also sold advertising while Russell rounded up contributors and materials.

After a month of preparation, Russell would spend two all-nighters putting the magazine together. Then the core members of the staff would gather the Sunday before the paper went to press to proof the pages. The paper would be printed by Wednesday, in time to be distributed before the weekend.

The press run was upped to 10,000 copies per month, and the magazine began to be distributed in the mountains of North Carolina, New York state and Georgia. Moe Tucker, a member of the Velvet Underground, distributed Tangents in Athens, GA!

In September 1997, the editors arranged to produce WEND FM's program for their annual Weenie Roast outdoor, daylong concert and distribute it in that month's edition of Tangents. The staff was also responsible for handing out programs at the event. WEND and the The program design won a PICA award from The Printing Industry of the Carolinas Inc.

Tangents also won awards from the N.C. Press Club and the National Federation of Press Women.

Tangents t-shirts were printed and bumper stickers were plastered all over town. Members of the staff were interviewed on the radio. The company hosted poetry readings at 23 Studio and had an anniversary art exhibition and party at Wrightnow Gallery.

Tangents was considered an alternative to Creative Loafing and The Charlotte Observer's weekly Break section. Most thought Tangents was a big company with a corporate office instead of a ragtag gang operating from their homes.

After 2 1/2 years of publishing the work of local writers and artists, Tangents folded in the summer of 1998. During that time, Tangents proved itself a vital part of Charlotte. Among many others, Tangents published short stories by David Childers, John Schacht, Lawrence Woody and D.G.K. Goldberg.

Featured artists included Jim Nicholson, Raid Ahmad, Clay Durkin, Scott Partridge, Mark Hamilton, Brad Thomas, Montgomery Borror, Riva Stump and Duy Huynh.

Contributing poets included M. Scott Douglass, Joseph Semenovich, John Grey, William Seward Burroughs, David Hunter Southerland, Todd Dills, Tomani Lewis and M. Tryke.

Tangents promoted local and regional bands such as Antiseen, Sugarsmack, Belmont Playboys, Violet Strange, Laburnum, Ublisch, It Could Be Nothing, Kudzu Ganja, Spite, Lou Ford, My So Called Band, Lodestar, Major Nelson, Southern Culture on the Skids and Squirrel Nut-Zippers.

Tangents was a magazine created by people who were very much like its readers. The editors, writers, photographers and artists all wanted more out of the local media, and spoke to region's varied tastes, interests and sense of humor. That no magazine in the area has filled its ever-widening void speaks volumes about what the mag was able to achieve, despite its shortcomings in budget and time.