TO: BOTH OF MY MANY READERS (Shirley
I Jest) (I hope)
FROM: JANEY MILSTEAD
RE: ROBIN'S HISTORY & ABOUT THE "AUTHOR"
"Almost Famous" was almost the story of my life, except
my experience pre-dates Cameron Crowe's adventure. (Which he might
not have had if the some events I'm going to tell you about hadn't
Here's how a number of feindish thingies went down in the 60's,
including the Beatles, the emerging rock press, the ever-changing
teenmag business, and Robin Boyd. This whole topic is so complicated,
I'm writing a book about it. But don't panic. I promise not to write
I was a teenager in middle America when I picked up the first issue
of DIG Magazine. It was the original teenmag, and I dug it so much,
I managed to talk (okay, whine) the publisher into giving me a job
as soon as I graduated from high school. (Lou Kimzey later went
on to found Easyriders Magazine, which I wrote for occasionally
under various weird aliases.)
Back to my story. Within a few years, I'd become the editor of
DIG. That meant moving to California, then New York City, then back
to Hollywood, which was all very cool. But, unfortunately, by then,
Dig was begining to flounder. The mag had been a true wild card,
featuring early rock scene info, R&B, uncensored humor, real
stuff. But, by the end of 1963, it had been tamed, mostly by the
times. ("Bor-ing," as we used to say back in the
More teen titles had sprung up by then and we were all in the same
boat and sinking. Contents-wise, anyway.
Then there they came. John, Paul, George and Ringo blew into our
world, bringing with them a badly needed breath of fresh air, not
to mention the wind of change. (Cliches both, but so true.) And
they they didn't get here a moment too soon.
I hate to admit that it took awhile for their impact to hit me.
Although, as editor of DIG, I was also editor on two of the first
three Beatle books (one-shot magazines, actually) published in America
(info about the other one later on in this weirdness), and wrote
a lot of the content, I was still somewhat clueless. At that point,
I just thought the Beatles were cute, that their music was fun and
that anything fun to write about was a huge relief even if it did
mean more work for the same salary.
(The Beatle magazines I did were titled "Beatles Talk"
- it was supposed to contain a record but that part of the deal
fell through - and "Beatle Fun Kit," a crazy collection
of Fab Four cut-ups and cut-outs.)
My personal encounter with the magic didn't happen until I saw
the Beatles in person for the first time. That happened at the Las
Vegas Convention Center just a few days prior to their 1964 Hollywood
Bowl debut. That's when it swept me away, the feeling they were
able to evoke in their fans, and blew my tidy little mind. I suddenly
understood what all the hubub was about, and it went on to alter
the course of my life, and my heart, forever. (Make that 4-ever.)
In those days I was passing myself off as a young professional,
capable of editing whole magazines (and often writing every word
in them) at a single bound. But inside I was still a kid. Thankfully,
I still am and I believe most of those thanks go to the Beatles
and the changes they set in motion. The way we felt about them -
and the way they made us feel about ourselves and the world around
us - gave me the chance to let the kook inside me out of mothballs
and put her to work.
And believe me, I needed the work. In those days, publishing was
pretty brutal, with impossible workloads, lousy salaries and near-nonexistent
budgets. (It hasn't changed all that much. Not enough, anyway.)
In my book, I'm going to explain how the following came about,
but for brevity's sake (not to mention for cripes sake), let's just
say that I ended up being a part of two new publications. One was
The Beat, the original rock newspaper, circa 1965, brainchild of
Bonnie Golden who evolved into writer/commentator Wina Sturgeon.
She started the paper when she was working in local radio, and she
also produced the first of the Beatle mags in December, 1963; it
was titled simply "The Beatles.". In fact, she was the
one who called me at Dig around that time and said "Do something
on the Beatles!" ("Whooo?" I asked, as in famous
The other publication was TeenSet Magazine, owned by Capitol Records
and I became Consulting Editor and feature writer for both. But
I couldn't do either under my own name. By then I was the full-time
editor of Teen Screen Magazine (dumb name but a pretty good mag
at the time) and my boss (a good guy in his own way) would have
plotzed if he'd known I was writing for the competition. But the
emerging rock press didn't think of each other in those terms. We
were so caught up in the excitement of the great new music and the
new awareness, we felt we were all in something wonderful together.
(And we were, we were...)
Since I was lucky enough to have a knack for putting Beatle feelings
on paper I was thrilled with these opportunities. It was a chance
to be even more involved in what was happening and to have more
places to share it. Besides, for someone so young, I had some heavy-duty
personal responsbilities at the time and needed the money. (Such
as it was - I made $25 an article at The Beat and up to a whopping
$50 per at TeenSet.)
At the Beat, I used the name Shirley Poston (we made that one up
one dark, deadline night) plus a few others I've forgotten. (Garrett
North was one of them, a pen name I still use.)
This is nuts, I suppose, but Shirley was more the real me than
any of my other bylines, my own included, and she still is. Shirley
started off with a column, and when that caught on with readers,
I talked the bosses into into letting me do a fiction piece (my
real love as a writer).
"The Adventures Of Robin Boyd" was born, and she was an
instant hit. What had started out to be an mini-serial went on (and
on and on, ha) for more than 60 chapters, until The Beat was sold.
Robin was never deliberately geared to a teenage audience (fabbed,
maybe). She just came flying out of me intact. I've never had as
much fun writing anything in my entire career, and I've never again
had such an overwhelming reader response.
Mail began pouring in immediately, often more than 500 letters a
week! Elvis got 500 letters a week, but we sure didn't. I'd never
seen anything like it and still haven't after a lifetime in publishing.
The mail was funny, intelligent, and one big love letter to a kook
named Robin Boyd.
The illustration that accompanied her adventures was an adorable
drawing of a real bird (in Byrd glasses) perched on the finger of
a George Harrison-look-alike genie. Readers had their own idea of
how Robin looked and began sending me fantastic drawings of the
character as they saw her.
The artwork on this website is from a painting I received in 1965
from a teenager named Allison. (Allison, where are you?) I can't
believe I was actually able to find it all these years later, but
it somehow survived my filing system (read: piles). My other favorite
was an entire storyboard, in color, of one of the chapters (one
that featured Robin's zany meeting with all four look-alike genies).
I'm still searching for that. I'm also on the trail of the original
George The Genie Christmas cards I received every holiday season
for years, hand-painted by two Robin fans who'd somehow found out
that I was Shirley.
(Another part of the fun was the element of mystery. People in the
entertainment industry also got a kick out of Robin and some of
my other pieces, but no one was able to find out who Shirley was.
This just added to the interest level. My publisher at Teen Screen
even once asked if we could get this Shirley Poston to write for
us. After I finished my coughing fit, I said I'd try to reach her.)
At TeenSet, I wrote under various names, my favorite being Afan,
borrowed from John. TeenSet went on to become the hippest of the
teenmags, under the guidance of my dear late friend Judy Sims. And
writing for it was a blast. Besides writing a lot of their Beatle
stufff (including the Afan articles), I also had the fun of doing
their movie reviews and humor section.
As Shirley I was free to blither, let my imagination run wild and
revel in my Beatlemania. As Afan, I could express deeper feelings
about those four incredible people. (They were just people, we knew
that, but oh God, the way they made us feel...)
When I decided to do this website, I entered both the Shirley and
Afan names into a search engine out of curiousity. I was amazed
to find that, among other things, the title of the bootleg album
of Bob Dylan's famous Hollywood Bowl concert (where his acoustic
fans booed and some even walked out when he dared to go electric
in the second half) was taken from the last line of Shirley's review
in The Beat. (I wrote some serious thingies by her as well.) The
album is called We Had Known A Lion, and the title is actually credited
to me/her/us. It's a CD now and I finally got a copy, thanks to a dear
pal. I was thrilled to find that my review is printed in
its entirity on the fold-out.
I haven't had time to go through all the Afan listings (there's
about a zillion, this also being the name of several large organizations),
but I did discover that some of what I wrote about John (my favorite
Beatles, my favorite man, my favorite everything) has been reprinted
by Yoko on www.instantkarma.com.
Regarding Robinboyd.com, I always wanted to do something with Robin
(like maybe keep writing her for the rest of my days - it was such
a trip). I copyrighted the material early in the game, and when
the Beat was sold in 1967 (and never again published), another teenmag
bought a six-month option on Robin. But by the end of that period,
things were changing drastically in the youth market.
The teenmag readership was getting younger and younger, wanting
less Beatles and Stones and more Monkees and other bopper-slanted
groups and personalities. The teenmags that survived the change
had to become pre-teen instead. Teenagers into more complex sounds
and artists gravitated toward publications like Circus and Rolling
Stone (co-founded that same year, '67, by Ben Fong Torres, one of
my former readers), a genre that picked up a lot of twentysomething
By the time the six-month option on Robin was up, the publisher
who'd bought it was out of business. In 1968, I was contacted by
FAB 208 in London, an entertainment mag that also ran the weekly
guide for Radio Luxembourg . Thus I began my 12-year run as Fab's
West Coast editor, doing a column and two features a week about
Hollywood and teenage life in America. (For ten of those years,
I was also West Coast rep for Reese Publishing's surviving teenmags,
now catering to pre-teens: TeenLife, Teen World, Teen Pinups. Let's
just say I needed the work. (I can say no more.) (But I was not
what I seemed.) (Down, girl.)
I wanted to do somehing with Robin, but I was so busy with other
endeavors, like making a living as a writer. (I always managed to
and never did have to get an honest job.) Anyroad, a lot happened
during those years, including interviews with a lot of famous people.
If you care to know more about my adventures you can click on my resume above. After Fab slid down
the tube in the early 80's, I tripped and fell into the women's
market and ended up Editor in Chief of BBW Magazine, a fashion and
lifestyle publication for the fuller figured.
Currently, I'm writing several books (as you may have guessed),
but right now, this website is taking precendence over everything.
Here's how (and why) it's happening.
Down through the years, some of Shirley's fans have stayed in touch
with me, those who knew she was one of my noms de plume. I've heard
from even more since I went on the net. (There's an article by Shirley
on my other website- www.janeymilstead.com
- as we speak.)
Shortly after dear George's death, another former reader found me.
(Click on A Day In The Life to read her email and other memories.) I'd already
decided I had to do something in his honor. I'd made that decision
when friends and I went to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
the night after he left us. As I stood there, surrounded by flowers
and flickering candles and grieving fans, I gazed up the street
toward the old Warner Cinerama Building. The TeenScreen offices
had been just above the marquee, on the third floor. And who would
have ever dreamed in those magic times that I would someday find
myself a few blocks up the Boulevard, on a cold, damp California
night, mourning the death of one of those Beatles and still hurting
from the loss of another.
In that awful moment, I knew I had to do something to get a little
of the old feeling back. I'd figured out what it was by then - a
combination of joy and hope - and have any of us have ever needed
that more than we do right now?
At first I couldn't think of a way to accomplish this except to
write a book about that, too. Then, when I got the most recent email,
I realized I'd already written one.
What better way to bring back it all back home than to let George-loving,
Beatle-blithering Robin Boyd loose on the world again. It wouldn't
cost me a lot to produce this website (thanks largely to the wonderous
Francesca Scalpi at Blue Ocean Designs - www.blueoceandesigns.com)
and it would be available to everyone who wanted to have a look.
Robin is the best way I can think of to share the the magic, that
nearly unbearable lightness of being in tune with the Beatles when
they, and we, was fab.
Still crazy after all these years,