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City Talk: The key players of Washington's influential and controversial weeklypaper look back on its legacy - Page 4

Ken Cummins, Loose Lips columnist, 1983 to 1999: Loose Lips started in July 1983. For about the first three years, it was pretty much a Washington column. Since I was up on the Hill a lot [covering Congress for the (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union], it would include things that I picked up about members of Congress ... . In 1986, Mark Plotkin, a very colorful, quotable character in local politics, was making a serious run for the city council. Polly Shackelton, the only council member for Ward 3 since [the D.C. Council's] creation in 1974, was giving up her seat. It was a wide-open race. It included not only Mark, but Jim Nathanson, who won. And there was a group I dubbed the Sexcrats -- it was [sex tabloid publisher] Dennis Sobin and his merry band who were out to change the laws of the District more in favor of sex-oriented enterprises. They were great copy. I started covering that race on a weekly basis, and it was the first time in the city that media had done something like that: following a council race from start to finish, writing about all the nuances and twists and turns. There was such an outpouring of favorable response that from that point on, the column was strictly local. The importance of Loose Lips is that it branded and led the direction, too, of City Paper as a local publication.

Mark Perry: You know, though, I remember early on I'd be like, "Russ, why are putting this stuff on the cover?" And he'd be like, "Well, people are interested in this." We had a lifestyle piece titled "Wormboys." I said, "Russ, this is ridiculous." He said: "Run it." It was about how girls don't like soft men. We got more comments on that piece than any other single piece that we ran. I was stunned. It showed that we had a really young readership that was interested in personal relationships more than what was happening at city hall and certainly more interested than what was happening in Nicaragua. It was a good lesson for me on what works in a newspaper like this and what doesn't. next >>

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