by Carl Fulmer
Tangents Magazine was born in the basement of the Cone Center in what were then the Student Media offices of UNC Charlotte. It was born out of the frustrated imaginations of Cindy Sites, Carl Fulmer, and Dann Dunn. The three students had had it with what they saw as an incredibly mundane school paper and lacking literary choices for Charlotte’s teens and twenty-somethings. They felt that with their experience and exuberance they could at least give it a good try. After a few months of planning and flyers posted in coffee shops, record stores, bars, and a hell of a lot of networking, they started to attract a group of young and very talented locals who wanted to help them get the publication started.
Greg Russell, Daniel Coston, Erin Hubbs, Cynammon Hoyle, E. Ross, Jessica Deltac, Michael “Chainsaw” Cooper, Melanie Calhoun, Charlotte Reeves and other creative souls joined them, meeting weekly in living rooms and coffee shops to write and plan the first and future issues. In a very communal process, the first issue came together in the Spring of 1995 and Greg did a mock-up to show to early advertisers. There were those more conservative business owners who were repulsed by some of the contents while others saw the possibilities. Some of the early advertisers included The Double Door, Fat City, 106.5 WEND, Reflections Sound Studios and Tremont Music Hall. Once that first issue came out, the team was already planning future issues.
After a campaign of flyers around town that stated, “Charlotte needs a good spanking. Tangents,” the first issue premiered in September of 1995. It was mix of fiction, art, music, poetry, and internet etiquette. They were quickly snatched up or returned. There were some business owners who did not appreciate the humor or points of view. After a few months and a running count of how many locations the ’zine had been kicked out of, they found which businesses embraced them.
The meetings could be wild and raucous with everyone making sure that their voices and opinions were heard. This led to people jockeying for space and respect and yet Tangents continued to come out every month for two and half years, peaking at a circulation of 10,000 in and around the Charlotte region. Articles, art, fiction, poetry, and comics were submitted by a large number of the region’s artists so every issue was 100% original and made up of never before seen material. Whether the reader liked everything that was in an issue of Tangents was beside the point. There was going to be something in every issue to light up their imagination.
Dann Dunn eventually moved on to focus on his career, as did several other important members of the staff. Tangents Magazine was a creative success but as with many regional ’zines of the era, it could not sustain itself financially over the long haul. After two and half years, the publication shut down. Staff member Chainsaw was once asked during a particularly loud staff meeting if he thought Tangents was run like a band, having been a member of the local punk band Black Plastic. He mused, “Yes we are. We just haven’t broken up yet.” This issue is our reunion show. Please enjoy it.
The following is a fairly accurate list of Tangents Magazine’s highlights and staff members which is reprinted here with permission from Little Shiva’s website, WeirdCharlotte.com:
Coston wrote lead stories, humor, reviews, interviews, took photos, sold ads, distributed and generally got things done. He always got what he wanted whether it was an interview with A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams, Jim Mallon and Kevin Murphy from Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule of Velvet Underground ... quite a coup for such a small magazine.
Cindy Sites was an excellent writer who was in touch with the gothic scene in Charlotte. She gave Tangents much of its dark ambiance. She also proofread almost every article that was published in the magazine.
Carl Fulmer attempted to run the staff meetings and fielded questions and concerns from advertisers. He also is the originator of the idea for the “Great State of Mecklenburg” issue.
Cynammon Hoyle gave the magazine its first fictional serial. It was published in the gate fold for the first few months.
Melanie Calhoun scored interviews with national musicians such as members of Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue and Orbital.
Michael “Chainsaw” Cooper was a kind-hearted, noble punk rocker who always offered a level-headed point of view, and his barbarian style of writing was fun to read. He was also an excellent cartoonist.
E. Ross’s fashion column was one of the most well-read sections of Tangents. Colorfully written and full of suggestive innuendoes, his stories always brightened up the sometimes dark and gloomy publication.
Jessica Deltac covered the most creative artists in the Charlotte area.
Benjamin Robinson, who often wrote under the pseudonym of Pithy, was acerbic, very politically incorrect and hilarious.
Erin Hubbs provided artistic photography and wrote features, including an early article on the generation that was going to become the Millenials.
Nancy Homs was a staff photographer.
Skeet provided the detailed pen and ink drawings that often featured his own dragon characters.
Jason Jenks reviewed movies.
Tremont Music Hall owner Penny Craver wrote a how-to column for bands, and record producer Rob Tavaglione wrote a column on recording.
Fulmer, Coston and Dunn also sold advertising while Russell rounded up contributors and materials.
After a month of preparation, Russell would spend two all-nighters putting the magazine together. Then the core members of the staff would gather the Sunday before the paper went to press to proof the pages. The paper would be printed by Wednesday, in time to be distributed before the weekend.
The press run peaked at 10,000 copies per month, and the magazine was distributed in the mountains of North Carolina, New York state and Georgia. Moe Tucker, a member of the Velvet Underground, distributed Tangents in Athens, GA!
In September 1997, the editors arranged to produce WEND FM’s program for their annual Weenie Roast outdoor, daylong concert and distribute it in that month’s edition of Tangents. The staff was also responsible for handing out programs at the event. WEND and the program design won a PICA award from The Printing Industry of the Carolinas Inc.
Tangents also won awards from the N.C. Press Club and the National Federation of Press Women.