Charges of Plagiarism: Former St. Louis Magazine Editor Sued by One-Time Friend

By Pollack, Joe | St. Louis Journalism Review, May 1997 | Go to article overview

Charges of Plagiarism: Former St. Louis Magazine Editor Sued by One-Time Friend


Pollack, Joe, St. Louis Journalism Review


John Heidenry - whose literary moves have showed St. Louisans speed, agility and power far beyond anything Lawrence Phillips ever demonstrated to fans of the Rams - is in the midst of another adventure, a controversy that eventually may provide new definitions in plagiarism cases. It surrounds his new book, "What Wild Ecstasy: The Rise and Fall of the Sexual Revolution."

Heidenry, who was editor of St. Louis Magazine in the late 1970s, moved to New York in 1982 to become executive editor of Forum Magazine, working for his good friend, Philip Noblie, who was editor. Heidenry and Nobile had worked together in New York in the '60s and they became close friends. For example, Heidenry drove Nobile's wife to the hospital when the latter's first child was born.

While he was at Forum, Heidenry provided the opportunity for a number of St. Louis writers to make their debuts in the semi-pornographic market. Most used pseudonyms as they brought a variety of fantasies to life. It was fun to write, and it paid surprisingly well. Of course, those who were successful at it were unfortunately not able to brag about it as much as they might have liked, but that's the way the tuna fish sandwich crumbles.

In 1986, Heidenry and Noblie had a falling-out; according to the New York Times' Janny Scott, "for personal reasons that each described differently and that Mr. Heidenry said he would not discuss in detail." Heidenry confirmed that in a recent phone conversation.

Both men have been involved in other writing and editing pursuit, and Heidenry's 1993 history of the Reader's Digest and the Wallace family, "Theirs Was the Glory," was well-received and a solid seller.

Heidenry has kept writing, and his most recent book, "What Wild Ecstasy: The Rise and Fall of the Sexual Revolution," has recently arrived on the stands, and sales probably will be helped by the controversy as well as by a strong review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. But just before it came out, Simon & Schuster, the publisher, began receiving letters from Nobile, letters that accused Heidenry of plagiarism and were accompanied by piles of clippings.

According to Noblie, Heidenry's plagiarism consisted not of using quotes or arcane facts without giving credit, but of merely using ordinary photographs, and pieces of paragraphs, by other writers, including himself.

The Times article, in a sidebar, noted three examples of what Nobile had termed "plagiarism," but two-thirds of their choices stunned Heidenry.

"I was wrong in not properly crediting one of them," he said, "and the mistake will be corrected in the next printing. But the other two were cited in footnotes."

Heidenry didn't want to talk about the clash with Nobile, but noted the two had not spoken in 10 years, and his tone over the telephone was slightly wistful when he said he thought Nobile would be pleased by the fact that he was cited eight times in footnotes and text. …

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