In Entertainment Weekly’s glory days, the Chicks took a big risk

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It was March 2003, and the Dixie Chicks (now known because the Chicks) had kicked off their new tour. Throughout the opening night time in London, on the eve of the Iraq Conflict, lead singer Natalie Maines criticized George W. Bush and altered her and her bandmates’ lives: “We’re on the nice aspect with y’all,” she informed the viewers. “We don’t need this warfare, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the US is from Texas.” Immediately, the nation music trio — America’s top-selling feminine group of all time — was engulfed in controversy as enraged followers and others known as for a boycott, nation radio stations pulled their songs and album gross sales began to drop.

A month later, the members of the Chicks (Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire) responded in an in-depth interview with Leisure Weekly — and, in a transfer deemed particularly stunning, posed nude for the duvet, their our bodies painted in phrases that folks have been calling them: “Dixie Sluts.” “Proud Individuals.” “Traitors.” “Fearless.” The picture was so putting that it went viral earlier than going viral existed.

The duvet set the group’s defiant tone going ahead; they weren’t going to again down or apologize for being girls who had opinions. It modified the course of their profession — paving a path for his or her 2006 Grammy-sweeping album, “Taking the Lengthy Method” — and influenced numerous different nation acts. To some, particularly these already impressed by their music, they have been heroes. To others, they have been a cautionary story, and regarded, to at the present time, to be the explanation many Nashville singers refuse to say a phrase about politics. It’s additionally why most nation stations nonetheless gained’t play the Chicks.

However at the same time as Leisure Weekly fades away (a lot to the frustration of showbiz followers who grew up on the journal), the Chicks cowl won’t ever be forgotten. Right here’s the story of the way it occurred.

John McAlley, who was the music editor for EW, often needed to push for the journal to prioritize music protection, on condition that the publication was heavy on TV and flicks. However he knew the Chicks controversy was going to be an enormous story, and it wanted to be entrance and middle. So he was decided to land the interview — his greatest concern was that he was going to be scooped by Time journal, which had a bent to “bigfoot” EW for tales, though they’d the identical proprietor.

“The information weeklies on the time have been actually highly effective and actually excessive profile,” he stated. “There was a lot status and visibility connected to being on the duvet of a information weekly, that on a couple of event, we misplaced a battle for a narrative as a result of Time was promising the duvet. However Time by no means gave the duvet — it might all the time find yourself being an inside story.”

In the meantime, Cindi Berger, the Chicks’ publicist, might inform this backlash was not going away. She and the band’s workforce decided the trio wanted to do three interviews: a syndicated radio present, a broadcast TV interview and the duvet of a preferred journal. So she booked them on nation character Bob Kingsley’s radio present, an ABC particular with Diane Sawyer, after which known as … Rolling Stone.

Berger needed the duvet to run at a particular time in Could to coincide with the Sawyer particular, in addition to the beginning of the Chicks’ U.S. tour dates, however Rolling Stone writer Jann Wenner declined, she stated. Her subsequent cellphone name was to McAlley, who was wanting to make it occur, they usually started negotiations.

Berger needed to ensure they have been assured the duvet and that the editors and artwork administrators would collaborate with the band on the pictures idea.

“It was many, many days of backwards and forwards, nice uncertainty whether or not we’d land the duvet or not,” McAlley stated. He vividly remembers receiving the go-ahead name: “I used to be in the lounge of my mother and father’ home in suburban New York when my flip cellphone rang on a Saturday morning. It was Cindi Berger. She stated, ‘We need to do that.’ ”

Brainstorming started, and the EW workers felt pressured to provide you with the right thought.

“All of us felt like, ‘Wow, we acquired the news — now we want a picture that’s going to be equal to the truth that we acquired the unique on it,’ ” stated Geraldine Hessler, EW’s inventive director.

Concepts started to circulation between the workforce and the band: As a result of individuals have been screaming that the Chicks have been unpatriotic, the preliminary thought was to wrap Maines, Maguire and Strayer in an American flag. However then the editors have been involved it might appear like they have been denigrating the flag. Another person steered the singers put on American flag earrings or kerchiefs. Fiona McDonagh Farrell, the photograph editor, recollects being on the convention name the place Maines stated one thing alongside the strains of, “We should always all be bare and branded with the issues they’ve been saying about us.”

“The publicist, naturally, was like, ‘We aren’t doing that!’ ” Farrell stated. “I waited a couple of minutes after which stated, ‘Let’s return to the concept Natalie talked about, as a result of it could possibly be a extremely, actually fascinating idea.’ ” Farrell preferred the concept of juxtaposing a few of the horrible issues they’d been known as (“Saddam’s Angels,” for instance) with a few of the optimistic reactions (“courageous” and “heroes”). Close to the top of the decision, they determined the Chicks would wrap themselves in bumper stickers with all of the phrases.

Certainly, Berger was mildly horrified by the concept of a nude cowl. However the band all the time had very particular inventive concepts. “The duvet wanted to be vital and wanted to make a press release,” Berger stated. “When the ladies got here up with this, I stated, ‘Effectively, that’s a press release.’ ”

The photograph shoot was booked in April, and it was a scramble — Hessler recollects they’d 5 days, at most, to arrange for the shoot, which occurred in a distant airplane hangar in Austin. Although Maines, Strayer and Maguire maintained a way of calm and good humor, it was an intense ambiance: Loss of life threats have been nonetheless rolling in towards the band, and safety was in every single place.

At that time, they agreed on the bumper sticker thought, and the artwork division designed them. But Farrell began to fret that the stickers wouldn’t arrive in Austin on time — and extra importantly, even when they did, that they’d look terrible. She conferred with the photographer, James White, who agreed stickers may not be the perfect look. They determined to rent a physique make-up artist who might paint the phrases on the Chicks, simply in case.

Positive sufficient, the stickers by no means confirmed up. “I believed, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to should get to set and have to inform Cindi we don’t have stickers — however we do have this different particular person,’ ” Farrell stated. “Happily, all the celebs aligned. And whereas Cindi was justifiably terribly nervous about this idea, the three girls on the coronary heart of the story have been courageous sufficient to say, ‘Sure, let’s do it. Let’s go for it.’ ”

“Terribly nervous” could have been an understatement for Berger, who was making panicked calls to the EW editors again in New York. Her greatest concern was that the duvet was going to be deemed too specific and wrapped in brown paper on newsstands, which might defeat the entire objective. “I bear in mind saying, ‘I don’t suppose that is going to work,’ ” she stated. “And James White stated, ‘I’m going to position them completely.’ And he did.”

White recalled the shoot total was a “very good day” regardless of the tense circumstances and admired the trio’s bond in troublesome occasions. “They have been very supportive of one another,” he stated. “They caught collectively, and I cherished seeing that.”

In 2013, on the tenth anniversary of the duvet, Strayer told EW that “it positively was probably the most daring factor” the band had ever carried out: “I felt like we knew the gravity of that shoot whereas it was occurring.”

McAlley assigned the story to Chris Willman, a revered country-music author who had already been making an attempt to get a characteristic story occurring the Chicks and their newest album, “Residence.” At EW, he stated, it was “all the time a giant combat” to get nation music within the New York-based journal. Immediately, the tables had turned.

Willman wasn’t allowed on the photograph shoot, so he met the band later at a sushi restaurant for the interview. He stated it was exhausting to know the enormity of the controversy on the time, and thought possibly every part would blow over in a number of months. However as soon as he noticed the duvet photographs, he realized that for the band, there was no going again.

“All of us realized what a defiant assertion it was,” Willman stated. “The duvet was expressing them as being susceptible and having been victims in some sense in all of this, but it surely was additionally the most important center finger you’ll be able to put as much as the world.”

In New York, Farrell began modifying the pictures, and it was a “no-brainer” about what was going to be the duvet. Hessler stated that sometimes, EW put loads of textual content and extra imagery on covers, given the significance of newsstand gross sales. This was totally different.

“You didn’t should have loads of phrases on the duvet as a result of the picture was so sturdy,” she stated. “We have been simply overjoyed by it — it was that thrill when you might have a inventive imaginative and prescient after which it utterly comes collectively, and never solely as executed, however in a method that’s so significantly better than you ever thought it could possibly be.”

Regardless of Berger’s considerations, the journal was not wrapped in brown paper; some retailers, resembling Walmart, wouldn’t show covers with nudity. However as Hessler stated, the journal “wasn’t about to compromise its editorial mission” based mostly on that chance.

EW doesn’t enable cowl approval from topics, so when Berger lastly noticed the journal, she felt an enormous wave of aid and was blown away by the picture. She instantly faxed it to the band. “It was a strong, highly effective second,” Berger stated. (She stated she acquired a name from Wenner at Rolling Stone, who stated, “Effectively, that’s the duvet of the 12 months.”)

Over at EW, the editors have been overwhelmed by the response — it was on each information present and reprinted on the entrance of the New York Submit. The journal acquired a whole bunch of letters from readers. “It simply instantly sort of exploded within the tradition,” McAlley stated. In a uncommon prevalence, he acquired a bottle of Dom Pérignon from Berger, who expressed gratitude that the story handled the Chicks with respect and allow them to converse their piece. “Thanks. You’re a man of your phrase,” learn the be aware.

All the EW staffers interviewed say it was a profession spotlight, at the same time as Willman joked that his prolonged Q&A with the band accounted for a mere 1 % of the response. In 2005, the American Society of Journal Editors named it one of many prime 40 covers of the final 40 years. “It was one of many these moments the place we took a danger, and the Dixie Chicks, they took an enormous danger,” Farrell stated. “Typically a canopy could be the least fascinating picture, however generally, it may be an actual assertion.”

The staffers additionally spoke with a touch of wistfulness — journal covers don’t make fairly the identical splash today. “This was an act of defiance and power and it was only a super-bold cowl,” McAlley stated. “And considered one of Leisure Weekly’s best moments, for certain.”

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