There’s a framed magazine cover that I have had in my office for years. A former magazine owner, who collected interesting covers as a hobby, gave it to me. The image says a lot about the magazine industry. Dated Jan. 19, 1959 the LIFE magazine cover shows a young Fidel Castro, dressed in his classic olive colored military combat fatigues, on the way to his conquest. The cover line stated boldly: “Castro in Triumphant Advance to Havana.” I have kept the cover because it reminds me of what a heroic image Castro was in his early days. There he was, a guerrilla from the mountains taking on a corrupt regime. With his grizzled beard suggesting ruggedness, the world, including many United Sates citizens – if not the government – cheered him on. It turned out, however, that the loudest cheering would be in the Kremlin.

Castro to me is a reminder of the volatility of the news – how things can change; how image can betray reality; how Robin Hood can turn into the Sheriff of Nottingham. Those in the media can capture the moment and speculate about the future, but the advance is not always triumphant.

Some things are predictable, however. Look at the other copy on the cover. One says, “Turmoil on Capitol Hill: A Look at a New Kind of Congress.” For whatever way LIFE saw congress changing there would be more changes to come, especially with population shifts and the passage of the voting rights bill in the next decade. As the nation shifts politically and culturally, Congress is always becoming a new kind. But the real telling headline, and probably what sold the most copies, was at the top of the cover: “Crash Diets are No Good.” There are probably magazine editions on the newsstand today dealing with the same issue. Dictators come and go, the world changes, but the war against weight gain continues. That conquest would truly be heroic.




BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.