While rummaging through boxes of stuff in the attic recently, I came across a heavy one marked ‘Neon’. Opening it up immediately opened up memories of being a student nearly 20 years ago, one who dutifully collected a film magazine that I thought was just the bee’s knees.
I remember the first time I saw it. I was waiting for a bus home and decided to get out of the rain by browsing in a newsagent. On a bottom shelf a weird alien with bulging eyes and a lipless grin gazed up at me. I was transfixed. It was Neon #3. I bought the magazine and every subsequent monthly edition for the next two years. Neon was quite unlike its sister movie magazine, Empire. They shared a British publisher but nothing else, not tone, style, or design. Chiefly, Neon took a skewed look at the film industry, focusing on the shadows rather than the light. As an example, when Neon published its Issue #1 in December 1996/January 1997 it didn’t put an image of a Hollywood starlet on the cover, or even a Tinseltown icon. It went for Robert Downey Jr. So what, you say? Well, in 1996 the guy who would become Iron Man was at the beginning of a five-year descent in drugs and rehab that would see him tell a judge:
It’s like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth, with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal
– Robert Downey Jr to Judge Lawrence Mira, August 1999
The Downey Jr on the front cover of Neon‘s first issue is no Hollywood golden boy. It is a troubled but talented actor – the Lindsay Lohan of his day – who managed to avoid killing himself, cleaned himself up and now busts blocks with billion-dollar movies.
Inside Neon #1 there is a panel on Hollywood news, the deals being hammered out during hundreds of high-powered LA lunches. It tells of the Coen brothers’ next movie, a comic thriller called The Big Lebowski, and the ‘bizarre’ news that Woody Allen was taking the role of an insect in Ants [sic].
Neon magazine lasted just 26 issues. That’s 2 years and 2 months. However, it took me that long again to track down the half-dozen issues missing from my collection. Ebay came to my rescue when it came to getting copies of first and second issues.
I’ve scanned all 26 front covers – you can peruse them here. I shall blog about the magazine that inspired a young cinemaniac all those years ago.
The heavy box can go back in the attic for safe-keeping.