Toronto Life’s weirdest covers (so far)

Toronto Life’s weirdest covers (so far)

To celebrate Toronto Life’s 50th anniversary, we’re revisiting the best stories, photos and issues from the magazine’s past. Here, 13 of our most memorable—and, in some cases, hilariously dated—covers


November 1966
Barbara Amiel

Barbara Amiel, “a stunning brunette with a matching I.Q.,” graced the cover of Toronto Life’s first issue. The socialite, writer and future wife of Conrad Black had just been hired as a hostess on journalist Ross McLean’s daily radio show, and reporter Cynthia Kelly set out to get to know her in a short profile near the back of the magazine: “I certainly wasn’t prepared for the charming, soft-spoken 25-year-old, with a Marilyn Monroe I’m-lost-please-help-me quality.”



May 1968
The Hippie Revolution

“Too much has been written about the Hippies.” That’s how this cover story starts—and it’s really all you need to know about how author Fred Knelman feels about bohemians. His apocalyptic article laments the loss of morals among Yorkville’s wayward youth and predicts an imminent influx of U.S. draft dodgers, drifters and drop-outs who will wreak violent havoc on the city (hence this bearded, beaded menace with a gun slung over his shoulder). Here’s a particularly uncharitable excerpt from Knelman’s analysis of the hippie hierarchy: “Perhaps the largest groups are the push-outs and cope-outs. These are the born losers. This winter has taken a serious toll [on] this group in mental and physical breakdown, serious drug addiction, complete withdrawal and apathy. They cannot cope with reality in any conscious, positive way.”



July 1973
101 Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer in Toronto

Helicopter parents and iPads have rendered this cover somewhat obsolete, but the idea at the heart of this package—that “a bored kid on a hot day is trouble”—still applies. Unfortunately, not all 101 of these ideas do. Writer Jeanne Scargall recommends a tour of the 7-Up bottling plant (a good idea in 1973, when it was still around), a trip to the TSX (a good idea in…okay, never a good idea) and, our favourite, “You could hire a teenager to take your children for a ride on the GO Train.”



February 1976
Can Food Make You Sexier?

Our onetime food critic (the anonymous Epicure) answered this cover line with a bold, declarative…maybe. “If one’s sex drive is below par, it may be due to nutritional deficiencies—and these can be filled in large part by many of those foods that have been mythologized as aphrodisiacs.” What follows is a list of supposedly sexy recipes (including an artichoke with sharp vinaigrette, featured on the cover). “Whatever else, none of this will make you go blind.”



May 1976
Secrets of the Ladies’ Locker Room

Speaking of salacious cover lines, this one makes Katherine Govier’s investigation into female locker rooms look (literally) steamy. The actual piece is more of a love-in for the changing room at the YM-YWHA at Bloor and Spadina. “The popular image of the women’s locker room is way off,” she writes. “It’s false, for example, that women hide from one another while undressing. The only inhibited women I’ve noticed are the groovy-looking teenagers with great bodies.”



December 1978
High Hustle in Discoland

Philip Marchand’s breathless, self-serious treatise on the changing face of disco should confirm every stereotype you have about the cultural consciousness of the late 1970s. It’s a profile of dancers Robert Martin and Louanne Scinocco, plus a bunch of John Travolta references and a catalogue of the many eras and styles of disco. “The day of the classic funky disco dancer has passed,” Marchand writes, “passed almost completely as the era of Nijinsky and Isadora Duncan. Funky disco has given way to hustle disco.”



March 1979
Gutter Glamour on Glitter Street

In the decade after “The Hippie Revolution” (see cover number two), the magazine came around to the bohemian lifestyle—kind of. Norman Snider’s cover story on Queen West’s neo-bohemian movement gave a fair shake to the OCAD crowd, patrons of Peter Pan bistro and a punk band called the Diodes, but it still had a healthy dose of irreverence: “Oh, the utter ennui of it all, to be exiled to this dreary planet, when one’s true destiny is to be a prince, a star, in some faraway galaxy where you don’t have to bring some boring provincial yobbo his quiche and salad.”



September 1979
Coming of Age in Toronto

This cover story—also by Norman Snider—is a spiritual sequel to the last. The piece starts at a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, where we meet Andrew, “an embattled soul, in all the lunatic throes of that peculiar condition, North American adolescence.” The next umpteen pages contain a whole lot of pot, partying and thoughts on dating, as well as more discoveries from the older, wiser author: “There is now a period of human life, roughly from the age of 15 to 25, where, by and large, nothing very much is expected of you, except that you have a good time and, in a leisurely fashion, discover what you might do with the rest of your life.”



August 1980
Playing Doctors

The cover is outrageous, but the article behind it happens to be one of the most hard-hitting on this list. Writer Sidney Katz interviewed physicians, psychiatrists and clients across the city to piece together a scary story about male doctors who woo their most vulnerable female patients. “Within earshot of my informant and two other staff members,” he wrote, “the head of the department of psychiatry of a large Metro hospital, observed: ‘Every time an attractive woman with a depression problem steps into my office, I immediately get an erection.'”



October 1982
The Big Black Machine

This excerpt from Peter C. Newman’s The Establishment Man: A Profile of Personal Power offers an exhaustive account of the baron’s business dealings and an obsessive fixation on his newest acquisition: 10 Toronto Street, the regal heritage building that housed Argus Corporation, an investment-holding firm (it currently houses another investment company, Morgan Meighen and Associates). The piece mythologized Black as the aristocratic showman we all know: “Black’s magisterial office manners tend to put off visiting executives who arrive unprepared for a papal audience. In most encounters, he exudes an almost Nietzschean intelligence that makes an insufferable companion and an invaluable partner.”



May 1984
Quest for Attire

Let’s just say the outfits inside this issue were exactly as sexy as this one and leave it at that.



July 1986
Where to Eat Really Well—Really Cheap

Samuel Ryan’s service-journalism package recommends a few old-guard institutions that are still standing (Scaramouche, Le Sélect) and a few that aren’t (Fenton’s, Palmerston), and greets the arrival of affordable fine dining: “At a glance, it may seem that Toronto restaurants cater only to eaters belonging to the two nations—that is, expense-account plutos and fast-food proles—to whom price is nothing/everything or taste is everything/nothing. Thank our lucky spoons there’s been a quiet dining-out revolution…and a goodly number of restaurants recognize the needs of the masticating public in between.”



August 1990
Blue Boxes of the Rich and Famous

Yes, this is ridiculous. No, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to know who recycles what. To test the success of the newly introduced blue box, Toronto Life staffers furtively stole and sifted through the recycling of 18 notable Torontonians (seriously). A few notable finds: Loblaws president Dave Nichol had 17 wine bottles in his bin (the most of anyone on the list), and then-mayor Art Eggleton had some sort of weird beef with labels: “The remarkable thing about our mayor’s recyclables was that the labels were removed from almost everything, rendering the tin cans, wine bottles and water containers as bland as the mayor himself.”

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