Readin', Writin' and Riches: Reader-Written Titles for the Wealthy (Seriously) Are Looking for New Backers

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LOS ANGELES-Imagine a magazine where almost anyone can get their old diaries, love letters or poetical ramblings into print. Where the local deli owner, who happens to think he's a darn fine artist, can submit graphics. Where editing is largely taboo and where 40 percent of potential advertisers are actually turned away for being too "mass market."

Well, that's the philosophy behind three regional magazines serving Los Angeles. And if The Metropolitan Media Group can find investors, New York City, Boston, Palm Beach and other cities will have their own reader-written magazines.

Most editors would flinch at the editorial philosophy behind Metropolitan's magazines, which include literary The Brentwood Bla Bla and Beverly Hills, The Magazine, along with satirical The Prince and The Bear.

"If the First Amendment meant free speech, then all of us would have access to the media and the printed page," says Michael Lobkowicz, Metropolitan's executive publisher. Almost everything we read today has been sanitized and bleached." He has thus devoted his life to "eliminating the editor."

To date, only the four-year-old Bla Bla is completely reader-written, but Lobkowicz is working toward that goal for the other two titles, launched in April.

To fill the literary titles, Kelly Bushinsky-who does hold the title of editor-relies largely on nonprofessional writers and some journalists looking for additional creative outlets. No payment is given, but the thrill of a byline seems incentive enough, since Bushinsky receives no shortage of submissions. One lawyer, in fact, abandoned the legal field to write and produce for the theater after becoming hooked writing theater reviews for Bla Bla.

But Metropolitan's readership is not quite as democratic as it would appear. Lobkowicz minces no words in telling you that his titles target the very rich. Bla Bla claims its trendy West Los Angeles readers have an average income of $170,000; similarly, Beverly Hills captures the wealthy in its area.

All the titles are distributed free through restaurants, galleries and other local outlets throughout upscale parts of Los Angeles. But more than half of Bla Bla's 78,000 copies, and 40 percent of Beverly Hills' 60,000 copies, are hand delivered to carefully targeted homes.

So what do the wealthy like to read-and write-about? While theater and restaurant reviews are staples, the rest of the editorial is up for grabs. That's why in one issue of Bla Bla, for example, you might see a poem about nature by a 10 year old, a first-person account from a heartbroken lover and a photo collage of funky neon around Los Angeles.

Despite the editorial free-for-all, Bushinsky says she never rewrites anything and does not copyedit. "I am very careful to keep the flavor of the writer," she explains, adding that she does check for clarity. "I am interested in what people say about their lives and not how they say it. …