The January issue of Action Magazine was the last one
By Sam Kindrick
After 43 years and 10 months of continued publication without missing a single issue, I have pulled the plug.
The world knows that print advertising is going the way of the buffalo and manual Royal typewriters, but a dearth of paying advertisers is only part of it. And I can’t cite health problems as a major factor, although I am being treated for thyroid cancer which metastasized to my sternum.
Treatment is going well and I feel fine at this time. I have reason to believe I will beat the cancer, and I still had some faithful advertisers when I reached this decision.
So why have I ceased publication at this point in time?
The best answer I can come up with is described in the Bible. Read it in Ecclesiastes 3 which is headed A Time for Everything.
You hear portions of this reading at a lot of Christian funerals. I was brought up to believe the teachings of the Bible, and I can truly relate to Ecclesiastes 3 which says in part: There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build…
I truly believe that Action Magazine’s time to end had come, just as its time to exist came in March of 1975. Now I must find something else to do.
Certainly I was to shed a tear or two. The little entertainment rag has been my life and soul and blood for almost 44 years; it has been my little voice in the forest of journalistic hypocrisy and enamel paper horse shit; it has been my small statement before the junior-sized daily newspaper oligarch whose chickenshit axe job would have banished me to the honking, clattering, mosquito-infested humidity horror which is Houston. Fired from a column-writing job with the San Antonio Express-News, and subsequently offered work with the Houston Post, I hung around to start my own paper. As in Ecclesiastes, it was Action’s time to be. And by the grace of God, I didn’t go to Houston.
I have never made much money with Action Magazine, but I have always had enough.
Johnny Bush has long said that musicians don’t quit the music business.
“The business quits them,” Bush says.
The same might ring true for the entertainment magazine racket as well. I guess it is best to walk out rather than to be carried out, and retired newspaper reporter Arthur Moczygemba speaks for most of us when he says, “Better to be seen than viewed.”
The biblical words offer both closure and hope for me. I would rather laugh than weep, and the prospect of healing while building something new and exciting is the ticket. The monkey ain’t dead and the show ain’t over as long as the organ grinder stays willing.
The late Harry Jersig, president of Lone Star Brewery, got me started in 1975. I don’t think Jersig cared much for the Express and News back then, and he responded favorably when I told him what I had planned.
I told Jersig that I wanted to sell him the back cover of a non-existent entertainment tabloid, and that Willie Nelson and some of the other outlaw musicians who were catching Jersig’s fancy would be featured on Action’s pages.
Jersig wrote me a thousand dollar check and the rest is history. Nelson adorned that first Action cover on March of 1975, and there followed a string of talented redneck rockers that included Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willis Alan Ramsey, Leon Russell, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, David Alan Coe, Rusty Wier, Ray Wylie Hubbard, B.W. Stevenson, and many more.
Action Magazine has featured colorful characters ranging from Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson to Bandidos Chapter founder Royce Showalter and tattoo legend Honest Charlie Potter. Throw in legendary madam Theresa Brown, famed aetheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Bourbon Street Parson Bob Harrington, and world champion bronc rider Casey Tibbs and you have barely scratched the surface of Action Magazine cover articles. Great musicians such as Johnny Bush, Augie Meyers, and Darrell and Mona McCall have stuck with me like family over the years.
Although Action Magazine has never been considered a music magazine per se, I believe it has offered exposure to some fine musicians who might never have garnered a line of ink space without this publication. World class fiddler Ron Knuth called Action Magazine “Our Rolling Stone.”
It was hard, but I had to say goodbye to some faithful advertisers when I shut the operation down last month. Joey Villarreal of Joey’s, Joe Blues, and Blue Star Brewing Company still occupied Action’s back cover when I made the decision to cease publication. I still had other faithful advertisers which have been with me for years–Tony Talanco of Texas Pride Barbecue, Joe Gonzales of Broadway Amusements, Bruce Embry of A-Action Bail Bonds, Frank Mumme of The Other Woman and Spurr 122 nightclubs, Sam Cedillo of Cowtown Boots, Roy Barnett of The Deer Crossing, Mike and Jason and Ruby of Planet K. And I will never forget the many former advertisers who stuck with us for years. Frank Mueller’s Trap Lounge was with us from day one until poor health resulted in him closing the business a few years back.
My late son Grady Kindrick helped with delivery and some editorial work at the outset. He and I both shot photos, and both of us did our own lab work when we were using film and photographic paper before the digital computer age was to swoop down upon my head. And I have had other family help. First wife Vicky sold some ads, and my current wife Sharon has been my proof reader, office manager, and Bulverde delivery lady for a number of years now. I would not exist without Sharon. Musician Amy Heller Reif has sold a few ads over recent years when not performing with her rock band, but Action has had no real sales staff since the 1980s when twin buzz saws Lana Seekatz and Caroline Pound were accounting for advertising which represented 75 percent of a 44-page tabloid. Our last issue in January had 12 pages. For so many years Action sold itself. The ads came to me.
Ronnie Reed has delivered part of the magazine over the past 30 years, but I have personally done the majority of deliveries for most of these years. For hundreds of hours, days, and months I have jumped in and out of a pickup truck, rain and shine and bitter cold. Jim Chesnut has contributed some editorial copy over the past year or so, but I have written the majority of all Action articles and shot most of the photos since the beginning. Sometimes the pressure and the strain of having to crank out a publication by the first of every month was almost too much. I have cussed and cried and gritted my teeth and asked myself why, why on many a night out there with the paper. Wife Sharon says I have been “driven,” and she may be right. For some weird, snarky reason I have been marching to my own drumbeat since I was a little boy. And sometimes there has been blood on my footprints.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what is happening to the paper print industry. The Express-News is but a shell of its former self and personnel layoffs continue unabated. And La Prensa, once the oldest Spanish language tabloid in San Antonio, has gone out of business. Next to take the gas will be Current, the free-distribution alternative that has already changed hands several times.
The cost of newsprint paper continues to soar, and the vast majority of this product comes from Canada where striking lumberjacks and other production woes beset the industry.
My Canadian friend Alycia Ambroziak has first hand information. A former writer for both the Montreal Star and the Montreal Gazette, she has been a friend for years. We met at Willie Nelson’s third July 4 Picnic.
“Newsprint is gone,” Alycia said. “Nobody reads the newspaper anymore. It is going online. In the print industry, only book sales are up.”
I view my years with Action Magazine with mixed emotions. I could have done better, but Ecclesiastes 3 comes to mind when I consider musician friend and museum music curator Hector Saldana and his efforts to land me and Action Magazine in the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. There I am, probably the only convicted felon in the entire lineup with legendary writers like Carmack McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, Willie Nelson, and Sandra Cisneros.
Nothing, I know, happens by accident. And it must have been some powerful and unseen juju that resulted in Express-News writer John MacCormack penning an article about me that commanded a full page Sunday issue spread in the paper that I was fired from so many years ago.
MacCormack’s article was fair and generally factual, but he made one statement that piqued my interest and think process.
Noting that Sam Kindrick columns can be “hilarious, vulgar, pretentious, insightful and self indulgent,” MacCormack also noted in his story that “Action Magazine is unknown to most people in San Antonio.”
This curious juxtaposition of facts and ideas reminded me immediately of musician friend and lay minister Claude (Butch) Morgan’s observation that we are only effective and relevant in our own circles of influence.
I believe Morgan is right.
MacCormack wrote that Action Magazine is unknown to most people in San Antonio. But it was known to John MacCormack or he would never have written the story about me and the magazine.
Action Magazine and Sam Kindrick were also known to Hector Saldana; had we not been known to Hector, he would never have entered us in the prestigious Wittliff Collections at Texas State.
I don’t know for certain what I will do without Action Magazine. I do know that I will likely continue writing in some capacity. I have ideas. I will also maintain some sort of presence on the internet.
It’s in Ecclesiastes 3. There is a time for everyone and everything.
I want to thank each and everyone of you who have been reading me through the year. I hope there will be more of it.