George Lois' covers for Harold Hayes' Esquire magazine showed that the 1960s counterculture had become the nation's culture.
An innovative ad man who brought a hip insouciance to TV commercials and magazine ads, Lois' audacious covers trumpeted the magazine's New Journalism inside the magazine. The dazzling supernovas of Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Norman Mailer, John Sack, Michael Herr, Susan Sontag, Rex Reed. Bruce Jay Friedman and Terry Southern revolutionized American literature.
Hayes' magazine under fiction editors Rust Hills and Gordon Lish also published ground-breaking short stories by Raymond Carver, Philip Roth, James Salter, Jim Harrison and Truman Capote. Hayes gave voice to columnists Timothy Crouse, Peter Bogdanovich and the young Mikc Lupica, and, from an older generation,Dwight MacDonald. and Dorothy Parker.
Lois, who died Friday at his Manhattan home at age 91, defined the magazine's provocative style, reflecting and influencing the consciousness of the baby boomer generation that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. While the conservative "silent majority" triumphed in politics, Lois' irreverent style remains prevalent in advertising and journalism.
The collaborative Esquire covers, eventually collected at New York's Museum of Modern Art, ranged from Sonny Liston as Santa Claus to Muhammad Ali as the arrow-riddled martyr St. Sebastian and Andy Warhol swirling into the maelstrom of one of his soup cans. One of my favorites was a beautiful model, her face covered with shaving cream.
Lois' concepts, expressing complex ideas in simple images, gave readers the sense they were part of a hip, insider community understanding a secret code.
Hayes produced a trumpet blast with each monthly issue. Lois covers' were a vibrant fanfare for the brilliant writing within.