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Signs of the times

Our 50 favorite CL cover stories

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Over the years, Creative Loafing has published more than 1,000 cover stories, including regular "special" editions such as the hugely popular annual Best Of Charlotte issue, a host of Summer Guides, and issues devoted to Food, Music, Fall Arts Previews or Lust Lists. Those special issues complement the paper's regular weekly take on what's really going on in Charlotte, usually exemplified by the cover story. Here are 50 favorite CL cover stories, listed in chronological order, that represent some of the paper's best journalistic work.

July 25, 1987: "Hope In Optimist Park" by John Grooms. Habitat for Humanity launched an inspiring project that brought former President Jimmy Carter to town and built 30 houses in Optimist Park. Our story included an interview with the former president. Not bad for a brand-new publication.

Feb. 6, 1988: "Women's Music" by Jerry Klein. A report on the local lesbian community and an upcoming concert by singer Chris Williamson. The story set off a vicious anti-gay campaign by Rev. Joe Chambers, while the Observer editorialized that we should never have brought up the subject to begin with. Issues swirling around the acknowledgement of homosexuality would resurface more times in Charlotte than we could imagine possible.

Sept. 30, 1989: "Night of the Living Hugo" by John Rodgers, writing under the pen name Xavier Ashe. Rodgers produced a remarkable firsthand report of one of Charlotte's wildest nights. How? At the height of Hurricane Hugo, the city's greatest natural disaster, he decided to take a long walk and look around. We republished the story on the 15th anniversary of Hugo, September 22, 2004.

Oct. 28, 1989: "Unexamined Issues of the Myrick Campaign" by John Grooms & John Schmidt. One of our most talked-about articles ever, this is the only one on the list that wasn't a cover story per se. In the middle of a mayoral campaign in which Myrick was touting her moral superiority to her opponent (he had admitted to prior cocaine use), we published court records that proved that Mayor Myrick had, in fact, broken up her husband Ed's first marriage.

May 19, 1990: "Reasonable and Prudent Killing?" by Philip Rutledge. An investigation into the death of Sidney Bowen, the black former mayor of Bolton, N.C., killed by highway patrolman Alfred Morris, who received light treatment by then-prosecutor Mike Easley.

July 4, 1992: "Women In Rock" by Fred Mills. This roundtable discussion with four Charlotte women rockers was the first time Charlotteans had looked at, and taken seriously, the thoughts, goals and problems of some of our top female musical artists.

Jan. 30, 1993: "Fortified Wine Tasting" by the "CL Wine Tasting Task Force." We were still getting comments years later about this story, in which a group of writers compared various varieties of rotgut. At the time, City Council was considering a bill to ban the sale of the stuff at convenience stores.

May 29, 1993: "Speed Metal Rules!" by Frye Gaillard. A thorough and insightful look at how Charlotte became the heart of stock car racing country.

Nov. 6, 1993: "Violence In Charlotte". Near the end of a brutal year, CL published a special issue which featured a series of stories by Frye Gaillard, Vance Cariaga, the late Debra Warlick, and John Grooms, looking at the reality and causes of, and possible solutions to, the surge of violence in Charlotte.

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April 2, 1994: "Welcome to Charlotte!" Subtitled, "Final Four Fans, we'll do anything to impress you," the cover featured the nighttime skyline of New York City. The entire issue was a hilarious spoof of Uptown boosters' breathless rush to create an illusory "entertainment zone" on Tryon Street for college basketball's Final Four. Strangely enough, someone took all our papers out of our Uptown boxes. Hmmmm.

June 11, 1994: "Karen Graham At The Crossroad" by Frye Gaillard. A subtle portrait of pro-life activist Graham, at a point when she was reconsidering the battle against abortion. This story went against CL's liberal stereotype, and its complex picture of the issue displeased some progressive supporters. Which, frankly, was just too bad, because Gaillard's story was beautifully written, thoughtful journalism.

Sept. 17 and Sept. 24, 1994: "Charlotte's Suburban Virus" by David Walters. A special (as in, the only time we did it) two-consecutive-cover-stories series, in which urban planner/professor/columnist Walters examined the problems engendered by Charlotte's sprawling growth, and offered ideas to work toward a more livable city that's not so dependent on endless car commutes.

Jan. 14, 1995: "Don Swan 1956-1995". A tribute to a friend and associate, the late Don Swan: photographer, actor, filmmaker, comic dynamo and invaluable Loafer.

His untimely passing left a hole in Charlotte's creative fabric.

Feb. 25, 1995: "Nowhere To Run" by Debra Warlick. An extraordinary report of one woman's story of being beaten, kidnapped and held at gunpoint by her husband -- and then finding out that the legal system would see to it that her problems had just begun.

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