3. Louis Desser & The Hollywood STAR NEWS

“Boy publishers!”

I developed a drive to show-off very early. By the time I was 8 years old we were living in the legendary Somerset Arms Apartments on Cheremoya street in Hollywood. My toys of choice centered on simple printing presses and toy typewriters, and I discovered something called Hektograph gelatin, with which I could make about 50 decent copies from a drawing or typed original. It required so-called “indelible” pencils, ink, and typewriter ribbons. When I made the drawings or typed stories on a sheet of paper with indelible pencil or ink, they took on the quality of permanent images when the paper was laid onto the surface of the wetted hectograph gel. My father Joe was a good typist, and we had a real typewriter in our apartment. He helped me with my spelling, and added juicier tidbits to my weekly “Somerset Scandals” newspaper, which I slipped under every door in the vast apartment house. That was my very first step into building a fan base! I had already developed a passion for publishing, and was soon able to get permission from my grade-school teachers to allow me to pass out copies of later versions of my hectographed newspapers and crude little magazines. I was a “boy publisher!” I carried this on all the way into high school with ever more ambitious versions of my kid journal, with the rudimentary tools of the time – the mid 1930’s. By this time we had moved into a smaller apartment house. I discovered other kids who were into amateur journalism. Another same-age boy amateur publisher was Louis Desser, the son of a wealthy doctor, who lived in an elegant home at 222 South Plymouth Boulevard, a walking distance from our poorer-class district.

Louis had a real mimeograph to print his paper, THE STAR NEWS. In the large back garden of his house was a tiny two-room building that was once a servant’s quarters.   Louis set it up with a desk, an old Underwood typewriter and his mimeograph, and called it “THE STAR NEWS BUILDING”. It was a rather drab paper, with no illustrations and rather bland writing, but set up with a location, equipment and financial support I could not match. Still, he was impressed with the jazzier journal that I was turning out on a shoestring. We decided to merge forces, with my ability to add visual and textual pizzazz.  The new joint journal was dubbed, The Hollywood STAR-NEWS. We reformatted it as a magazine, with center stapling, a fold-out page, advertising, and  three-color mimeograph printing (not easy – we had to clean the drum and change the ink pad for each color!). We developed a wide U.S. circulation, got an addressing machine, created a national youth-publishing syndicate, and as 16-year-old hot-shot boy publishers began to get publicity in the grown-up media of the time. We were interviewed in the press and on national radio shows.

I gained great experience in drawing with a metal stylus, scratching through a wax mimeo stencil. And there was also the writing, journalism, technology and business in this boyhood enterprise. One of the continuing features that I introduced into that intense afternoon hobby effort was a series on the various Hollywood animation film studios. With our handmade “Press” passes, and the use of the Desser family car, we were able to gain access to the Disney, Warner Bros, and MGM cartoon studio lots. We ran elaborate double-page spread stories, and thus my other boyhood passion, cartoon animation was fired up. Louis Desser went on to become a feature editor on The Los Angeles Times, while I was heading for a career in animation.

The other kids were planted for this hyped photo. It was really just Louis and me!

Louis Desser visiting me in Prague, G%

Gene age 16  1940 copyGene Deitch at age 16 as co-editor of the Hollywood STAR-NEWS. Note perky pencil in my ear, just like a movie newspaper reporter!



6 thoughts on “3. Louis Desser & The Hollywood STAR NEWS

  1. Wow! This kind of reminds me of PUNK magazine. PUNK was published independly by John Holstrom and Leee Childers begining in 1975.

    It is interesting to see the entrepenuer and artistic spirits joined back in the day!

  2. Pingback: The Cast, in order of appearance: | genedeitchcredits

  3. Gene, How big did the distribution grow to? Please tell us you still made good grades in school? This must have taken up all of your after school time. You never cease to amaze us.

    • The printing, stapling, inserting in our personally printed envelopes,addressing, and posting, (at a real post office!), nearly overwhelmed us. We thought our national circulation was huge, but it was actually a bit less than 2,000. At school, I failed math.

  4. Yeah, Seth, It’s like we used to make scooters out of apple boxes, a two by four, and a pair of old roller skates! Making this crude and naive magazine is one of the happiest memories I have of my growing up days. The difficulties were so normal that they didn’t eve seem like difficulties.
    The AB Dick Mimeograph with registering pins we bought for ourselves seemed ultra hi-tech. We thought it was the ultimate, and that they should close the patent office!

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