Wet, revisited

In the late '70s, one magazine had an unparalleled artistic influence on L.A.'s bohemians

Topics: Imprint,

Wet, revisited(Credit: Photo: Raul Vega. Design: April Greiman and Tom Ingalls. Art direction: Leonard Koren.)
This article originally appeared on Imprint.

ImprintIn the late 1970s, bohemian hipsters on L.A.’s west side were getting Wet. At the time, it was highly influential among local artists, designers and architects, despite its small circulation. And now, “Making Wet: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing,” provides a sampling of its spirit.

Poster illustration and design: John Van Hamersveld.

Leonard Koren admits in his book that when he launched Wet in Venice Beach in 1976 he had “no skills in writing, editing, designing, art directing, advertising sales, publishing or business generally.” The first one, printed at Peace Press Graphics, “looked an awful lot like a newsletter.” After a few more issues he met Thomas Ingalls. “Tom had pale white skin, a long, straight nose, and limp blond hair parted rakishly on the side. He was exactly how I imagined a graphic designer might look.”

For the next six months or so, Tom tutored Leonard on layouts and paste-ups and connected him with photographers, illustrators, and designers who contributed to the magazine in exchange for freedom from commercial restraints. “In Wet they were able to express their bolder, brasher weirder visions – unfettered. April Greiman was one of those creators. She and Tom were romantically involved but on the verge of breaking up. In calmer times they had both agreed to assemble Wet issue number six. It was to be the first time someone other than me designed the magazine. When I brought in the text and visuals, April and Tom were screaming at each other. Nervously I sat around waiting, wondering if I had made the right decision.”

As it progressed, each issue became an innovative, off-the-grid visual experience. Graphic sensibilities varied from punk to pre-New Wave to proto-PostMod. Leonard recently told me, “I wouldn’t know where to begin about the various art directors who’ve worked for Wet.”

Leonard Koren signing books last month at L.A.'s La Luz de Jesus Gallery. Photo: M. Dooley.

The magazine lasted 34 issues before it went under in 1981. While afloat it covered the likes of David Hockney, David Byrne, David Lee Roth, David Lynch, Dick Dale, Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Sissy Spacek, Tim Leary, Merle Haggard, Mick Jagger, Henry Darger, Henry Miller, Helmut Newton, and on and on.

Those features, and a full survey of the magazine’s groundbreaking graphics, will have to wait for their own anthologies. Rather than an immersion, “Making Wet” is mostly a frothy, self-indulgent soak, with snapshots and drawings of men, women, and children in various stages of undress, cavorting and luxuriating in all manner of showers, spas, and tubs. There’s also a ten-page comic strip review of bath soaps by a pre-”Simpsons” Matt Groening, work by Gary Panter and Peter Shire, and some striking covers, including the ones below. So take a dip.


#7. Photo: Raul Vega. Design: April Greiman and Tom Ingalls. Art direction: Leonard Koren.

#9. Photo: Matthew Rolston. Design and art direction: Tom Ingalls.

#12. Illustration: Lynn Robb. Art direction: Leonard Koren.

#13. Photo: Jules Bates. Design and art direction: Elizabeth Freeman, Leonard Koren, and Margaret Wynn.

#14. Photo: Herb Ritts. Design and art direction: Leonard Koren.

#19. Photo: Larry Williams. Design and art direction: Roy Gyongy and Larry Williams.

#28. Photo illustration and design: Taki Ono and Lisa Powers. Art direction: Leonard Koren.

#30. Collage and design: Bob Zoell. Art direction: Leonard Koren.

#33. Illustration and design: Teruhiko Yumura. Art direction: Leonard Koren.

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2012.

Salon is proud to feature content from Imprint, the fastest-growing design community on the web. Brought to you by Print magazine, America’s oldest and most trusted design voice, Imprint features some of the biggest names in the industry covering visual culture from every angle. Imprint advances and expands the design conversation, providing fresh daily content to the community (and now to salon.com!), sparking conversation, competition, criticism, and passion among its members.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>