The ’90z – 2003 (cont.)
The one in which we get suspended
When last we checked in on the old Weekly Dig, the gang imbibed absinthe and cheered as an archaic statewide ban on body art was lifted. This time, as our scrappy staffers make numerous compromises—financial, moral, chemical, etc.—to reach new heights, destiny shows up to demand further concessions… [Ed. note: Nothing even close to the shit that goes down in this episode happens at the modern day Dig, we promise.]
Contrary to rumors, the distribution manager never lived in the delivery van
MATT KING (classifieds manager): When the hookers came in to buy ad space, my approach was always, “You’re a customer, and I treat you with respect,” and I think they liked that, because they didn’t get it at other places. If they came in and said, “Oh, I don’t have any pictures,” I said, “Okay, we’ll take a couple pictures on the second floor, and you can pick the best one.” It was definitely, like, I was making it up as I went along.
CRAIG TERLINO (distribution manager): In 2000 when I started, we were up to probably 50,000 papers, and luckily, the place that printed the Dig was probably 40 minutes south of Boston. There was only one van, you’ve gotta beat the Phoenix, and they had a whole team of people delivering. Unless I had an assistant, I had to do it all myself. But I didn’t know any better. I was just doing the job I thought I had to do, I didn’t know I was getting overworked while [publisher] Jeff [Lawrence] was like, “I’m not going to tell him to stop until he says, ‘Enough is enough.’”
KING: I never got the sense that [the prostitutes] were all depressed about it. It was a lot of lower-educated young women using their bodies to survive in the city. You can have an argument over whether that’s good or moral or bad or whatever, but it’s pretty much what kept the paper going for those early years. There were definitely some sketchy moments, though. The low point was when this guy made me write an ad for a pregnant escort. I was like, “She’s six months pregnant!? Forget it!” He goes, “She’s got to pay her rent!” I was like, “Uggghhh….” I didn’t call those people back to renew.
TERLINO: There was a rumor that I lived in the van. Sometimes I’d sleep at the Dig office just to get away, and it was cool to have a quiet place to write and not be bothered by my dumb roommates or whatever. So I lived in the van in the sense that I spent most of my days in the van, and sometimes, I did sleep in it. It was a good place to take mushrooms and just chill out. I used to take it camping. I’ve taken the van, not to the highest point of Mt. Washington, but as far up as I could before I’d smell the brakes burning.
CRAIG KAPILOW (associate editor): There was a very rowdy stripper party at the Kingston Street office with many, many hours of lapdances and everything else that Matt King arranged. [Editor] Joe [Bonni] got spanked, which, oh gawd, brings back terrible memories. I think all of us wanted to bleach our eyes. No one needs to see their boss’s bare ass getting spanked.
BENNETT (music editor): I feel like it was a birthday party for Joe, or maybe a going away party for me. It was a huge blowout with maybe two or three strippers. At one point, Joe was lying on his back on the floor with his pants around his ankles, and this is in front of about 100 people. And his Prince Albert piercing was out and available for the world to see.
JOE BONNI (EiC): I don’t think we ever thought about what the consequences of having strippers come to our office parties might’ve been. It’s not like we took people out to a club. This was in the offices.
KAPILOW: I mean, the interns there must’ve been like, “This is the most amazing thing,” or “This is the most horrifying thing.” I think it was Berklee who banned us from ever having one of their interns there again after they found out what was going on.
JEFF LAWRENCE (publisher): This was a private event, not a “party” for the public or whatever. But the reason that Berklee suspended internships with us was because we did a pro-marijuana publication, and we tasked an intern with calling every business or head shop at that time to talk about advertising. The intern put that in a daily report, and Berklee got back to us and said they did not support us having interns working on basically illegal activity, to which we responded in kind, informing them that we thought they were an open-minded and progressive college, and we certainly never harmed this individual intern. The ban had nothing to do with this party.
LUKE O’NEIL (writer/music editor): J. moved to California, and they were hiring a new music editor. I remember it was kind of controversial at the time. There were a bunch of people there who didn’t want me.
LAWRENCE: Our lease was under CherryDisc Records. CherryDisc sold to Roadrunner Records, and when that happened, nobody informed the landlord. So we just kind of stayed there. We didn’t pay rent for, like, two years. And the landlord walked in one day and said, “What are you guys fucking doing here?” We were like, “We don’t know!”
O’NEIL: I was pretty young, and I was kind of a shithead in the way young people are when they come out of school and think they’ve got it all figured out. But I came on as the music editor right toward the end of the Kingston Street era, and I remember the move over to East Berkeley Street.
LAWRENCE: They gave us 30 days and I called every fucking real estate broker in Boston and said I needed 200 square feet for two grand a month. Everybody laughed at me. Eventually a guy said to me, “You need to call [the owner of] the Medieval Manor building. Guy’s a socialist, hardcore progressive, says, “How much can you afford?” I say, “Two grand.” He says, “Done.”
BONNI: The office on Kingston Street being where it was, there was a J.J. Foley’s down the street there, and when we moved to East Berkeley Street, there was still a Foley’s two blocks away. That was fuckin’ amazing to me. But that place on East Berkeley was very much more of an office building and very isolated, as opposed to the Combat Zone in Chinatown. I liked being dead center in the middle of the city.
LAWRENCE: When we got accepted into the AAN [Association of Alternative Newsmedia] in 2003, it was at the Pittsburgh convention. Myself and Joe Bonni went. Every publisher, every editor, every board member pulled me aside and said, “Get rid of your editor.”
In the next episode: Our story takes a tumultuous turn as Jeff does, indeed, get rid of his editor.
Barry Thompson lives next to a highway in the Allston/Brighton vicinity. He has written for a whole bunch of places, enjoys caffeine, and appreciates a good, hearty anxiety attack every now and again.