Johnson spreads out issues of Tiger Beat and The Lovebook and Front Page Detective ("Her Corpse Bore the Marks of a Sadist's Whip"). There's a stack of Midwest Motorist tabloids (July 1968: "Would you trust a very precious cargo to a woman driver?") and a Right On showing Michael Jackson's real nose. A Dell romance magazine sold for 50 cents in 1969, the cover wailing, "My Wife Thinks Sex Is Sinful." Ten years later, Rona Barrett's Gossip frets over Sonny and Cher's custody battle and wonders, "Has Shelley Hack put the sizzle back in 'Charlie's Angels'?"
"The one they tore the most magazines up over was Liz Taylor and Richard Burton," recalls Whitfield. "They were married in the morning and divorced in the afternoon. I had to take the corrections over the phone and reset everything; it was all done in hot metal in those days." Whitfield never did cotton to cold type. His strength was patience: He was the only one who could set the Ladies' Circle Needlework, line after tiny line of twisted stockinette instructions. He pulls out an old strip of cast lead and regards it fondly: one line of type, squirted out at 550 degrees. If the linotype operator transposed a letter, he'd have to reset the entire line, so he finished out the line with gibberish, running his finger down the keys. (They used to use profanity, until the gremlins made sure it found its way into the printed edition.)
Johnson picks up the lead, turns it over in his hand. He's dreading retirement. He nods toward the old brass elevator cage in the hall: "I applied to run it."
At the Zootique, stuffed animals, games, puzzles and educational books await. Dongola the Hippo and Ruwaba the Rhino need someone to cuddle with. Board games such as Funky Monkey and Rainforest Roundup both amuse and educate. The little ones will want to handle everything in the store and will no doubt beg for this or that toy. When confronted with those pleading eyes, just remember: Golden Garden Spider replicas are not so much a toy as a learning experience (but don't tell Junior that).
The Missouri Historical Society's Louisiana Purchase Shop has the monopoly on gifts with a local connection, from the popular Monopoly, St. Louis style, to oh-so-cute historical-figure dolls -- Meriwether Lewis and Kate Chopin, for example -- in period attire. Culinary enthusiasts may want to serve their guests using reproductions of Madame Chouteau's china, from the egg cup priced at $22 to the $162 fish platter. Also, something new and truly unique: reproductions of prehistoric pottery, copied from finds at Cahokia Mounds.
And you can make a day of it and walk through the park from one to the next to the next.
No more opening your car door, crawling through the automatic doors and exposing yourself to bright florescence; simply drive up, ring a bell, pay the man and get your booze -- and an angel gets its wings. Life is good when you can pick up beer, Red Bull, vodka, smokes and ice barefoot and return to the crib, sit down and get lazy. Plus, there's never a line, a luxury always worth paying for.