Emerging from the Wilderness
Ten years ago today, the National Police Gazette was reborn. The greatest American magazine in history had run for 132 years, from 1845 to 1977, but suspended publication with the January 1977 issue. It entered a wilderness period of 30 years before emerging again on April 8, 2007, as PoliceGazette.US under proprietor William A. Mays. Since then, we’ve been busy with many things. But no matter what we’re up to, the one constant, undeniable thing is the Police Gazette itself, as much a part of the fabric of America as the Constitution or Declaration of Independence. At the time of the January 1977 issue, a National Police Gazette had been on newsstands for two-thirds of this nation’s entire existence.
Over the course of 5,000 issues—inventing almost everything we know about pop-culture journalism along the way—the Police Gazette didn’t just chronicle the American zeitgeist, it helped to create it more than any other media outlet in history. Nothing can ever take away an accomplishment like that. And we are pleased and proud to be the magazine’s current custodian. So without further ado, here are some highlights from our past 10 years:
-In late 2006 and early 2007, our due-diligence research shows nobody had registered the National Police Gazette name or logo or used them in any form of commerce for at least 10 years prior to April 2007.
-Later, working with the heirs of the Gazette‘s last publisher Joseph Azaria, we reach an agreement on previously copyrighted materials and obtain the official magazine archive of original issues—the largest single collection of original National Police Gazette‘s in the world, with the possible exception of the Library of Congress.
Current Police Gazette publisher Steven Westlake, left, with Mitch Azaria, son of last Police Gazette publisher Joseph Azaria, at the transfer of the official magazine archive. Shown are about half of the total volumes.
-PoliceGazette.US goes live on April 8, 2007, and we affix the “TM” designation to the name and logo on every page of the site, which quickly rises to the first page of results in searches for “Police Gazette” and “National Police Gazette.”
-From the first day we feature originally written news and sports items, opinion, reprints from the archive, and merchandise. First-day headlines include “Beats Attacker With Own Infant Son” and “The Truth About the Popularity of Reality TV.” (In the 10 years since our reality-TV editorial, we’ve entered a new golden age of scripted television. Could our pleas have been heard?) The sports section included “The Police Gazette Line,” betting information on everything from sporting events to the latest celebrity controversies. And all of it came with the unique Police Gazette attitude, which can perhaps best be summed up by the actual fortune-cookie fortune we placed on our news page: “Life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think. :-)”. Some headlines over the next couple years included:
Ex-Chef Dissevers Upper-Crust Beauty
Shot in the Head While Singing Country Music
New Jersey’s Latest Legal Atrocity
Fetus Robber Will Get the Needle
The Schenectady Prostitute
One of the first-day articles. The illustration is by publisher Westlake’s daughter, who now has even better artistic skills 10 years later.
-Then there are the conspiracies. Conspiracy theories these days are all the rage and may even be reaching critical mass. But did you know the Police Gazette invented this too? (Yes, you have the Police Gazette to blame for Alex Jones!) In 1951, the Gazette created the conspiracy theory as pop-culture phenomenon with the first in its very long series that proved “Hitler Is Alive!” (see Books below). Along those lines, in 2008 we provided evidence six months before the financial crash that Captain Smith of the Titanic was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s illegitimate great grandfather. Later, we proved that John F. Kennedy had actually committed suicide.
-Serious investigation, however, has always been just as important to the Gazette as fun and games (there actually was serious reporting and analysis in the Hitler series you couldn’t find anywhere else). In 2011, we—along with surfing historian Skipper Funderburg—dug into the mystery of “Sandwich Island Girl,” a woman depicted on a Police Gazette cover surfing off the coast of New Jersey in 1888. This is, by far, the earliest image or description of anyone surfing on the East Coast of the United States. But her identity has remained unknown even though she is likely the first person ever to have surfed on the East Coast. Some very recent developments have provided a few more clues, however, which we will present after further research.
-Then, of course, we’re not opposed to a righteous crusade. In 2008, when Maryland farmer Stan Dabkowski was being harassed by government officials over his pig mud-wrestling attraction, we did an exclusive interview with Stan and helped plead his case.
-Finally, because of the incredible impact the Police Gazette has had not just nationally but around the world, we’ve run a research service beginning day one to field the many requests for information from everyone from Hollywood producers, museum curators, and book authors to ordinary people whose relative once appeared in the Gazette‘s pages.
Merchandise and Trade Shows
We’ve offered Police Gazette merchandise from the beginning—posters, T-shirts, mugs, calendars, etc—but made it even more official when we set up booths at the New York International Gift Fair and the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center in New York City.
Publisher Westlake plying his trade at the NYIGF, Javits Center.
Our NYIGF Javits Center display the following year.
From May 2011 to November 2013, we published the National Police Gazette as the premier print alternative monthly in south-central New York State, distributing to 125 locations from the Greater Binghamton area to Ithaca, NY. The focus was on local news, sports, bands, and businesses. But we also snagged national and international scoops such as the exclusive with famed magician Todd Robbins and coverage of the red-carpet premieres of major films Parker and Louis Cyr. Not to mention the exclusive with Steve Perry of beloved band Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, the “official” band of the National Police Gazette. But the Gazette‘s crowning achievement during this time may have been the exclusive nine-part series on Leonard Melfi, the local playwright who went on to become one of the most famous Off Broadway talents of the 1960s and 70s, but then who died a mysterious death that could only be told best by the Police Gazette. An expanded version of the series, as well as an unpublished play by Leonard, will be available in book form this summer.
This print-edition cover features pro wrestler Fit Finlay ahead of his visit to Binghamton, NY. “Use the leg! Use the leg!” Those who were there know what we mean.
But as with many newspapers and magazines these days, the costs of printing and distribution forced us to move the publication entirely online, where we continued publishing great features like Briggs Seekins’s hugely popular series on an upstate New York con artist running fake MMA schools. And we continued promoting local music shows through our event arm NPG Enterprises.
Plus, we continue to put out special print issues from time to time, most recently the one reintroducing the public to the Gazette‘s past, present, and future with the sport of bare-knuckle boxing (see below).
Through our book imprint Police Gazette Publishing House, we’ve put out a number of scintillating volumes such as The Plot to Assassinate Barack Obama, a thriller; Memories of Uncle Gunnysack, a magic-realist masterpiece; and First Impression, a romantic erotica.
Then, in 2016, major publishers Open Road Integrated Media and Mysterious Press released Hitler Is Alive!, edited by current Police Gazette publisher Steven Westlake. Beginning in 1951, the Gazette ran a 20-year-long exposé series proving Adolf Hitler survived World War II and ended up in South America—the same premise driving the History Channel show Hunting Hitler. But, once again, the Police Gazette did it first. Hitler Is Alive! collects the entire series together for the first time and is available through any fine book outlet online.
Bare Knuckle Boxing
For those who don’t know, in late 19th century America the Police Gazette was not just the premier boxing journal, it was also the de facto sanctioning organization for the sport. The Gazette was Don King, the WBC, and The Ring magazine rolled into one. Part of the reason was all forms of competitive boxing were illegal everywhere in the country. But the Gazette and its owner Richard K. Fox didn’t care. They openly presented championship belts to the top boxers, preferring the bare-knuckle style—which Fox and the Gazette considered the highest and purest form of the sport. But when gloved boxing became legal in 1892, the Gazette decided it would go along and suspended the use of its belts as representative of bare-knuckle championships. Fast forward 124 years and the Police Gazette is once again in the bare-knuckle boxing business. We authorized the world bare-knuckle championship belt currently held by Bobby Gunn, and we’ll be building the Gazette back up as the official publication of the sport.
Police Gazette at the Movies
From Charlie Chaplin, Daffy Duck, Some Like It Hot and Andy Griffith to Clockers and Gangs of New York, the Police Gazette has always been a favorite of producers to include in movies and TV shows. And the trend has only continued over the last 10 years. In 2009, the Gazette logo was used multiple times in Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. We wrote the producers a letter congratulating them on their good taste, and the next installment, A Game of Shadows, prominently featured an actual London edition from the 1890s. Then came a call from the Canadian producers of a biopic on famous Quebecois strongman Louis Cyr. Police Gazette owner Richard K. Fox was Cyr’s U.S. and international manager, and the producers needed help with research and materials. Well-known actor Gil Bellows of Shawshank Redemption and Ally McBeal fame played Fox in the movie, which turned out to be a huge success, becoming the highest-grossing Quebec feature-film production in years. More recently, the Gazette has appeared in the Showtime production Penny Dreadful. And yes, we even put a copy of the new Police Gazette into the hands of Jason Statham at the premiere for Parker.
Publisher Steve Westlake, left, with actor Gil Bellows who played 19th-century Police Gazette owner Richard K. Fox in the film Louis Cyr. Bellows holds our latest print edition.
Publisher Westlake, left, and Police Gazette culture editor Judith Excellent flank Jason Statham at the premiere for his film Parker, based on the book written by Westlake’s father. Statham took a genuine interest in our print-edition article describing how Donald E. Westlake developed the Parker character.
It’s been 10 years, but it’s still just the start. Big things are coming for the National Police Gazette, as the next 10 years bear the fruits of labors performed in the first 10. Stay tuned through this website and by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.