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Geoff Miller, a founder of Los Angeles magazine who served the publication as its first editor and later publisher for more than 30 years, died Saturday night at his home in Los Angeles from progressive supranuclear palsy. He was 74.
Los Angeles magazine was the nation’s first “city magazine” — beginning in summer 1960 as The Southern California Prompter and eight years before the debut of New York magazine — and Miller and co-founder David Brown are credited with creating the genre.
Miller was developing an urban arts magazine while getting his Masters degree in journalism at UCLA when he met Brown, an ad executive with an idea for a publication that would celebrate Los Angeles and serve as an instruction manual for navigating the fast-growing city. They launched the monthly with $50,000 from an office on Rodeo Drive.
Having little means to pay for articles at the start, Miller and Brown still managed to attract top writers, most of whom were moonlighting from the local Time-Life bureau, Regular contributors included Jim Murray, Charles Champlin and Art Seidenbaum, together with occasional pieces from such brand names as Ray Bradbury, Joseph Wambaugh, Carolyn See and Budd Schulberg.
According to Lew Harris, the veteran editor who worked at the magazine from 1974-95, the pair got the writers to agree to do some of their best work for almost no money by providing them with a journalistic freedom they rarely found in other publications — and frequent three-martini lunches.
Under Miller and Brown, Los Angeles also pioneered the use of celebrity covers in the early 1970s, portraying top actors as fellow residents of the city, often talking them into spoofing themselves in a good-natured way in photos themed around special features of the magazine like dining out and weekend travel guides.
In April 1977, Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett was photographed in a variety of swimsuit poses, including one semi-salacious take of her down on all fours, looking provocatively at the viewer. To Miller’s amazement, it was the shot Fawcett liked best; it turned into a newsstand sensation and later became the actress’ second-biggest selling poster.
The magazine showed its first profit in the late 1960s and in 1973 was sold to the publisher of New York magazine, with subsequent owners including Disney. Brown left the publication in 1974 and died in 1989; Miller retired in 1994 but continued to consult on various publishing and entertainment ventures, splitting his time between Los Angeles, New York and London.
Miller was diagnosed with PSP, a rare degenerative brain disease, five years ago. He is survived by his wife, actress Kathryn Leigh Scott, and his stepchildren Lori Selcer and Steve Selcer. His first wife, Barbara, died in 1985.
E-mail Mike Barnes at: Mike.Barnes@thr.com
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