It was the late 1970's. Albuquerque was on a growth spurt and the steadily increasing numbers of single and divorced people were becoming frustrated trying to deal with a society that was primarily marriage/family oriented. Marilyn Stutt was working in real estate in 1977 when she began listening to the complaints of her many single acquaintances. Among other problems they faced was the difficulty in meeting other singles.
She began talking with friends about putting together a helpful, singles-oriented newsletter that would include a listing of things to do and places to do, a personals column through which they could meet other eligible singles, along with interesting informative articles. However, it was soon obvious it needed to be a magazine rather than just a newsletter, so the "Albuquerque Singles Scene" was born. The publication was an instant success, retaining a large and loyal readership for the next two decades.
The magazine is now long gone, but it documented a unique place in the history of the city. Now that history is available to researchers at the Center for Southwest Research at Zimmerman Library. A just completed archive provides a glimpse of the collection.
Stutt knew nothing about producing magazines when she started. She had never worked on a magazine, but she was undaunted. She set up the office in her home, hired a small staff, talked friends into writing articles for free and plunged in.
The personals column was the most popular part of the magazine from the beginning. Stutt says she took only tasteful personal ads - men seeking women or women wanting to meet eligible men. No swinger ad, no-same sex ads, no fetishes. It was a big departure from other local publications around the country that explored the darker side of love and sex and it made "Albuquerque Singles Scene" unique. That conservative approach helped her convince local businesses to allow her to set up distribution racks.
A breakthrough came when a regional manager at Smith's Grocery chain looked at the new magazine, recognized singles as a potential market, and decided to devote a section in one of the local stores to food items that might appeal to single people. Smith's was also the first to distribute the magazine in its stores and it literally flew off the racks. Another distribution rack at the airport proved popular when visitors and new people in town picked it up because of its entertainment guide.
Stutt was making up her business plan as she went along, so she didn't always take the well traveled road. For instance, when she was thinking about ad sales, she turned to her niece Patti, a young woman with no sales experience.
Here's how she remembers it.
Over the next two decades partners came and went. An effort to franchise the magazine led to start up publications in Dallas, Houston, El Paso and San Antonio.
It was a long and difficult struggle to keep Albuquerque Singles Scene afloat. The magazine itself changed names twice and legal battles with partners had Stutt in and out of the editor's chair, but she always managed to overcome the obstacles and the "Albuquerque Singles Scene" until times changed and singles found other ways to get together.
In 1999, the magazine finally folded. A dozen years later Stutt's son, Scott contacted the Center for Southwest Research wondering whether a complete set of the magazine and an autobiography that she had recently written for her children would be of interest for the collection at Zimmerman Library. The answer was yes, and the collection has just been opened to the public.
Jordan Biro, the graduate student who works with the collection notes that the collection's value lies in Stutt's early recognition of the growing importance of singles in the 1970's and their untapped marketplace potential for retail advertisers in the Albuquerque area. Further, researchers will find useful information on issues of gender roles and the growing public acceptance of the singles lifestyle. It's a part of the history of Albuquerque now – an artifact of the disco era when singles found moral support and an opportunity to find love in the pages of a local magazine.
Media contact: Karen Wentworth (505) 277-5627; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org