40 years of Salt Lake City Weekly—Volume 1, 1984-1985 | City Weekly REWIND | Salt Lake City Weekly

40 years of Salt Lake City Weekly—Volume 1, 1984-1985 

City Weekly Rewind

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"Women's Lib surely has nothing on this place!" So read the opening sentence—under the front-page headline "Club 90 ... Where the Girls Are"—of the first-ever Salt Lake City Weekly, printed in June of 1984.

The newspaper has changed a lot in the soon-to-be 40 years since then. For starters, it wasn't called City Weekly in 1984, and it wasn't exactly a newspaper either (unconfirmed: whether or not "the girls" are still at Club 90). Known then as Private Eye, CW originated as a monthly newsletter mailed to members of the state's "private clubs"—watering holes of the era that were prohibited from serving alcohol to off-the-street customers.

click to enlarge The first-ever front page of The Private Eye, published in June of 1984. - SALT LAKE CITY WEEKLY
  • Salt Lake City Weekly
  • The first-ever front page of The Private Eye, published in June of 1984.

As envisioned by teetotaling Utah lawmakers (some things never change), would-be bar patrons had to first register as dues-paying members before ordering a drink. And while the private clubs were strictly blocked from advertising through traditional channels, they were free to privately distribute information to their membership lists, or—hypothetically speaking—partner with a guy named John Saltas to package, print and distribute that information.

Thus, City Weekly was born—under a different name and format, yes, but unchanging where it counts. Private Eye dove headfirst into the ambiguities of liquor law, finding—and occasionally creating—the loopholes that would push Utah along its path of modernization. In time, it became the state's unflinching chronicle of the unvarnished truth, elevating voices that would otherwise go unheard, challenging superficial notions, celebrating diversity in all its form, shaking the foundations of power through groundbreaking investigations and remembering, at all times, that it's good to have a little fun.

Today, City Weekly maintains this legacy through award-winning coverage and commentary on local news, arts, dining and entertainment; through events like the City Weekly Pride Pageant, Utah Beer Festival, Utah Cann and Best of Utah; and through the ever-evolving battle against government censorship, which in recent years has seen our friends in the medical cannabis industry hitting the same arbitrary walls that the city's private clubs did four decades ago (for a deeper dive into that dynamic, check out our sister publication Salt Baked City).

Over the next 40 weeks, we'll be counting down (up?) the years, one City Weekly "volume" at a time—checking in on old friends, old fights and old fads, all leading up to our grand ruby anniversary in 2024.

We also invite longtime readers to participate in this project by submitting your contact information and your Private Eye/Salt Lake City Weekly memories—up to 500 words in length—to comments@cityweekly.net for possible publication in a future issue.

Happy birthday, City Weekly, and thanks for reading, Salt Lake City.
—Benjamin Wood, news editor


Remembering Vol. 1
In the news: These days, the only place you're likely to see a mini-bottle of liquor in Utah is on an airplane, as they are largely illegal to sell here despite their ubiquity elsewhere. But it wasn't so long ago that Utah's entire alcohol industry revolved around individually packaged, 1.7-ounce containers of hooch.

Lawmakers have long set strict caps on the amount of booze that one retail beverage unit can contain. In 2023, this takes the form of metering devices and other dispensing hardware but in 1984, the "solution" was for a patron to purchase a mini bottle of liquor separately from their preferred mixer (i.e., one Jack and also one Coke) or to store their privately owned bottle of booze behind the bar.

Cumbersome in its own right, this approach opened up its own set of trickle-down problems. As explained by Don Beck (then-executive director of the Utah Licensed Club Association) in an op-ed for the inaugural issue of Private Eye, a 1.7-ounce pour is, ironically, a little strong for a single and the practice of "splitting" a mini between two drinks made it difficult to keep track of who had purchased liquor on site and who had "brown-bagged" their own.

"Some club managers are disinterested in obtaining dispensing units because of cost. Other club operators, however, take a more responsible attitude toward the over-consumption problem which is caused by the 1.7-ounce mini drink," Beck wrote. "All clubs agree that they would like to serve normal-size drinks which do not encourage over-consumption."

In the city: Judy Foote was the first woman in Utah to operate a private club—the Widow McCoys—and was featured in issue No. 1 for not leaving the business. Private Eye also tracked the renovation of Midvale's Sage Supper Club—now A Bar Named Sue—throughout 1984, while humorist J.D. Menelle argued that "Cigar Smokers Are People, Too!" in issue No. 2, back when smoking indoors was still a thing.

"So the next time you are in a restaurant, and the guy at the next table lights up a cigar, don't throw food in his lap. Sit back and enjoy the pleasant aroma," Menelle encouraged. "If it does smell a bit gamey, politely suggest to the gentleman that perhaps a change of corona is in order. He will understand."

click to enlarge The masthead from Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Private Eye. - SALT LAKE CITY WEEKLY
  • Salt Lake City Weekly
  • The masthead from Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Private Eye.

Also, in issue No. 2, sports writer Dan Pattison caught up with Pete Williams after he left the University of Utah Men's Basketball program and was drafted (seventh round) to the Golden State Warriors. During their interview, Williams sized up his fellow NBA draftees, including Charles Barkley and future Utah Jazz legend John Stockton.

"He's a surprise choice," Williams said of Stockton's first-round pickup. "I know nothing about him but word of mouth. I've heard that he's a fine defensive player and is always thinking one ahead of the rest of the players because of his quickness."

Summer fashion was among the topics in issue No. 12, the final issue of the first year in print. Fashion editor Michelle Wilberger recommended the classic blazer-and-slacks combination for men, though she encouraged readers to "dress it down."

"For example," she wrote, "you may try a poly-cotton shirt with interlocking stripes matched with periwinkle poly cotton shorts."

For women, Wilberger suggested mixing and matching with different styles, colors and materials. "A big favorite this year are textured trousers. They're as crisp as the morning air!" she wrote. "With a big variety in cotton or linen, these pants have flare and dash. They are traditionally worn full from ankle to hip, but the shorter, cropped style is also perfect."

In the ads: Jeremy Ranch, the upscale golf club and residential community in Summit County, ran full-page advertisements in Private Eye during its first year in print. In one, then-Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton holds a child (his?) up to dunk a basketball next to text describing the development's "optimum lifestyle ... just 30 minutes from Salt Lake City." Another ad lauded the perk of free golf to potential residents, "just 20 minutes up Parleys Canyon."

"You've always wanted to play Jeremy Ranch's scenic, uncrowded fairways. Now you can do it for free!," the advertisement states. "Come play Jeremy's lush, private fairways on us. You'll soon see why Jeremy Ranch is the place to live ... really live!!!"

And long before the Fun Bus and Utah Trailways offered shuttle rides to West Wendover, Salt Lakers could hitch a ride on a Casino Caravan for $11 to the Silver Smith—known today as the Montego Bay—that hugs the Nevada-Utah border. Ads for the service in Private Eye promised customers a "valuable gift" and the chance to win a Hawaiian vacation, in addition to transportation services.

In the stands: In issue No. 9—February of 1985—writer and attorney Ron Yengich argued against the National Basketball Association's substance-abuse policies, instituted by then-league commissioner David Stern. His column focused on John Drew, a player for the Utah Jazz who was the first to be banned from the NBA under the rules.

Yengich remarked on seeing Drew in the stands of the Salt Palace (where the Utah Jazz played at the time, prior to the construction of the Delta Center, and alternating schedules with the Golden Eagles hockey team), dressed in street clothes, watching the game along with the team's fans.

"Drug and alcohol abuse has found its way into this nation's most pompous oak-paneled law offices, the bacteria-free scrub rooms of our major hospitals and even the stately mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue," Yengich wrote. "People abuse these substances for as many reasons as there are people to abuse them. Doctors, lawyers, actors, wives of presidents, truck drivers and even pampered athletes."

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About The Author

Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood

Lifelong Utahn Benjamin Wood has worn the mantle of City Weekly's news editor since 2021. He studied journalism at Utah State University and previously wrote for The Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News and Entertainment Weekly

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