Magazine Urban Legends Revealed #1

Monday is “Grab Bag” day here at Entertainment Legends Revealed, with each Monday featuring a different area of the world of arts and entertainment (that is not featured on the other four days of the week, that is). They’ll eventually repeat, but for now, we’re still on the initial installments of each of the various “Grab Bag” legends!

This is the first in a series of examinations of legends related to magazines and whether they are true or false.

Let’s begin!

MAGAZINE LEGEND: Time magazine intentionally placed “devil horns” on Billy Graham and/or Bill Clinton as some sort of commentary.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Back in early January 1993, there was a bit of controversy when Time magazine revealed it’s Man of the Year. They chose the President-Elect, William Jefferson Clinton.

Here is the cover.

People were all, “Hey, are you insulting Bill Clinton by making it look like he has devil horns via the M in TIME?”

Time Magazine said, “No, it’s just a coincidence.”

Five years later, Clinton was on the cover again, and again…

And again, Time Magazine said, “No, it’s just a coincidence.”

Two years ago, Billy Graham was on the cover. Time magazine put him on the cover of the magazine and, once again, if you check out the cover, the M in Time looks like devil horns…

And yet again, after criticism from people offended by the cover, Time said, “No, it’s just a coincidence.”

And while I can’t PROVE it (because I can’t read minds), I’m going with “yeah, it’s just a coincidence.”

Here’s the main reason why.

Check out these covers. Time magazine has put “devil horns” on…

Person of the Year Vladimir Putin…

Maggie Thatcher…

Bill Gates…

George W. Bush….

General Petraeus…

Now, some lesser horns…

Ronald Reagan…

Lyndon B. Johnson….

Abraham freakin’ Lincoln…

South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem…

Prince Charles…

David Rockefeller…

and this one I wouldn’t even mention except that when it came out, people DID complain that it made her look like she had devil horns, so Hillary Clinton…

So, look at those people!

They are from all facets of life and temperament, so it’s extremely unlikely that the editors at Time magazine have a problem with ALL of them, right?

It just looks like occasionally the M in TIME can look like devil horns – it sure seems like a coincidence to me, and since that fits the “official” explanation, I’m willing to go with a false here.

MAGAZINE LEGEND: TV Guide once put Oprah Winfrey’s head on Ann-Margaret’s body for a cover.

STATUS: Oddly True

Nowadays, we’re a little more used to the idea of photoshopping, but in 1989, photoshopping was a bit more of a secret.

Not that photoshopping is new, of course. Basically as soon as they had photographs they had photoshopping.

But it wasn’t as popularly used as it is nowadays with the rise of technology like, well, PhotoShop.

So yeah, in 1989 it was certainly something that people knew existed but it was not used popularly.

So imagine people’s surprise when not only did TV Guide photo shop Oprah Winfrey on the cover of an August 1989 issue of TV Guide, they did so by putting Oprah’s head on Ann-Margaret’s body!!!!

Here’s Oprah in 1989…

Here’s Ann-Margaret in the late 1970s…

Besides the difference in figure, they’re, of course, not even the same SKIN COLOR!!!

Still, a photo editor took a publicity shot Ann-Margaret did in 1979 and added Oprah’s head to it and then added a pile of money on the bottom of the shot and you got the following…

What’s funny is that the first person to notice it was Ann-Margaret’s fashion designer, who recognized the dress rather than the body. Upon closer inspection, you could even see Margaret’s jewelry on her hand!

TV Guide apologized (particularly because they did not ask for permission from either Margaret OR Winfrey, who was not appreciative of either the body switch OR the whole “sitting on a pile of money” idea).

And the world was prepared for a whole onslaught of “heads being placed onto different bodies” magazine covers in the years to come.

MAGAZINE LEGEND: A Playboy centerfold is the standard test image for image processing algorithms.


It was in 1973 that Alexander Sawchuk, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Signal and Image Processing Institute, and a graduate student were looking for a good image to scan for a colleague’s conference paper.

They wanted something glossy and they wanted something with a human face and, most of all, they wanted something that seemed a bit out of the ordinary – something that would pop a bit more than the standard test images they always used.

Well, someone happened to have a copy of a recent issue of Playboy (I don’t know if it was the LATEST Playboy or not) and the men decided that, hey, why not use the centerfold?

The centerfold was of Lena Söderberg (who Playboy changed to Lenna Söderberg for some reason). They naturally cut the centerfold so it would not have any nudity in the picture.

Here is the image…

The whole “out of the ordinary” nature of the image, plus its very nice texture (depth, shading, etc.) plus, of course, the whole “it’s a Playboy centerfold” thing, made the image a bit hit. Soon, it was used basically everywhere.

In fact, the Society for Imaging Science and Technology brought Ms. Söderberg out for their 50th Anniversry conference as the keynote speaker!

Naturally, there are some critics of the use of the image.

On the one hand, some folks feel that it is fairly sexist to use a Playboy centerfold as the main test image.

On another hand, some people feel it is wrong to use a copyrighted image in such a manner (Playboy, for its part, while they normally aggressively protect their copyrights, have let them “get away” with using the image, figuring it was good publicity).

Amusingly enough, according to Playboy, the issue with the Söderberg centerfold was their highest-selling issue EVER (Playboy’s popularity as a magazine peaked in the early 1970s).

Can you imagine Söderberg’s reaction when asked to give a speech at the Society for Imaging Science and Technology?

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is

12 Replies to “Magazine Urban Legends Revealed #1”

  1. The funny part is, the Bill Gates cover actually makes them look more like devil horns than any of the others do, what with the red lighting on the face and the letter M in TIME being red.

    While I agree the “devil horns” are almost certainly a coincidence in nearly every case, I wonder whether or not it was a bit intentional in his.

  2. Pingback: Resonating Art

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