What the heck happened to you, Charlotte?
by Dickie Typoe
When I left this wasteland of Moon Pies and Sun Drop in 1998, the cultural growth was lagging far behind the population explosion. We were trying to find our footing again after the whole County Five fiasco that saw the entire arts budget dropped because of the performance of one play, Angels In America. (Yes, newbies, that really happened. It sucked.) Like many southern cities at the time, Charlotte was caught between the city it had been, and unsure about what it wanted to be. The world’s largest small town? A gaping downtown area that rolled up its sidewalks at 5pm? Anything but Atlanta? Yeah, Charlotte was all that, more or less.
In the summer of 1998, the era of Tangents Magazine in Charlotte was coming to a close. With my wad of cash from my topless dinner theaters in Europe, I had built Tangents into a juggernaut of underground media. We were hip (kind of). We were goofy (in spades), and had the guts to share it with the whole city. And people took notice. Radio stations paid us to do their programs. We got banned from 14 locations! This included the Main Library of Charlotte, albeit for a brief time. By the way, you can find now original issues of Tangents as part of the permanent collection in the Carolina Room. Which did make me smile a bit. Okay, I’ll admit it, I laughed like hell. But by the summer of 1998, Tangents was starting to fade from Charlotte’s “hip factor,” and changes had to be made.
Over the next 17 years, I built Tangents Magazine up into the biggest ’zine in the Islamic-speaking world. Petulant teens and misguided adults across the Eastern world look to Tangents for their monthly fix of Western hemisphere weirdness. And I became the mogul I always wanted to be. But, I had to keep it under wraps so I didn’t lose my “indie cred”. You know that largest building in the world, that’s in Dubai? That’s really the Tangents office. We had to come up with a front for it so that kids in Bahrain that still wear Keds and listen to Pavement wouldn’t think that we had sold out. With that delicate balance now in place (and don’t go blowing our cover for us on Facebook, okay), there was one more place left to conquer, one more time.
Ah, Charlotte. What happened while we were gone? Thanks to a lot of people, Charlotte actually became the World Class City that we used to joke about. Musicians actually come to Charlotte to play a show, as opposed to passing though on their way to Chapel Hill, or Atlanta. The politicians that darkened the Queen City’s towels moved away from Charlotte, and instead moved into the North Carolina House and Senate. Pat McCrory went from being a goofy Mayor of Charlotte, to being a really goofy Governor. Suddenly, it’s the rest of North Carolina that’s trying to catch up to Charlotte. As I said before, what the heck happened?
Are there still problems with Charlotte? Yes. The venues where independent artists used to work, live and exhibit have all been turned into sports bars. And bland sports bars, at that. But the city as a whole has come so far. The point of Tangents, when it first hit the newsstands 20 years ago this month, was to talk about what we liked, what we didn’t like, and to shine a light on things that would push the conversation forward. Every month, Tangents reflected the voices of many people, wanting to make the city better. And that happened, and continued, even after Tangents went away to conquer the rest of the world. Some things never change. Charlotte is still impossible to figure out without a map or GPS. Creative Loafing still sucks. But for a brief moment in time, Tangents Magazine was proud to change the minds of our readers, and of the city we lived in. And along the way, perhaps change the people that created the magazine, as well.
So, what of this return, you ask? Like many creative endeavors, it is only a passing moment. One more chance to talk about the things around us, and to say hello, and goodbye. But it is with love, and a proverbial finger up the nose that endeared us to some, and caused others to cringe. But that was us, and we were, and still are proud of that. Wherever this ride takes us from here, we hope you enjoy our “20th Anniversary/Welcome Back Charlotte/Farewell Charlotte/Kiss Off Charlotte” issue, and hold on to those ideals that have driven all of us for the last 20 years. Life is short, so be brash, be proud, and tell the world what you think.
Thank you, Goodnight, and bite me.