I worked as a freelance staffer for People magazine from August of ’96 through early ’98. I was glad for the income but was never comfortable with the anxious atmosphere inside the 12th floor People offices in West Los Angeles, particularly the tense, watchful vibes that I often got from bureau chief Jack Kelly. Kelly was always giving you a look that said “I’m a wee bit concerned about what you may be doing or not doing….should I be?” He would always close the door when he dropped by the office of this or that staffer to chat. A nice enough guy but he gave me the creeps.
I was visiting the kids in the San Francisco area when I heard about the plane-crash death of John Denver, which had happened on the afternoon of Sunday, 10.12.97. I called the office and volunteered to drive down to Monterey and Pebble Beach to do some reporting. I arrived early Sunday evening and began knocking on doors. People correspondent Ken Baker, who later became an E! News gossip guy, had also just arrived in the area and was doing the same thing.
The following Tuesday I delivered a longish file of observations and quotes, derived from various locals who heard the plane go down or knew Denver in some capacity. I don’t think People used any of my stuff, but I got paid all the same.
The People cover story (“The Life and Death of a Country Boy“) ran in an issue dated 10.27.97.