C = Cleo, centerfolds and circulation

Asher Keddie as Ita Buttrose (via www.abc.net.au)
Asher Keddie as Ita Buttrose (via http://www.abc.net.au)

I’ll be the first to admit I love a good mini-series … add Asher Keddie playing Ita Buttrose, a focus on media in the 70s and I’m hooked.

The ABC will be hoping some of the magic from Cleo, which sold out its premiere print run of 105,000 within 48 hours, rubs off on Sunday night when their new two-part series, Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo premieres.

The mini-series will follow the development of the team behind Cleo, which started life as Cleopatra and gave us the Cleo Bachelor of the Year, the infamous male centerfold and the doyenne of Australian media, Ita Buttrose.

The two-part series starts in 1972 and tracks 30-year-old journalist and editor, Ita Buttrose and 35-year old Kerry Packer, heir to what was then Australia’s most ruthlessly powerful and influential publishing family. It follows them as they create a magazine that became one of the most dramatic sensations in Australian publishing history.

Buttrose, played by Asher Keddie, was born in Sydney in 1942 with journalism in her blood. She was the daughter of former Daily Mirror editor Charles Buttrose and set about becoming editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly, becoming the first female editor of a national newspaper and founding editor of Cleo along the way.

It is amazing to think that there is even a magazine to make a mini-series about. Research and marketing analysis showed the project would be a failure and the magazine was vehemently opposed by the domineering Sir Frank Packer (whom Ita called “God”). It just goes to show you sometimes you need to trust your gut!

Here’s what the ABC has to say about the magazine and the forces behind it:

With courage and a stubborn belief in each other the odd couple went for it, and the result was a magazine that not only surfed the emerging 70s zeitgeist, but led the way in articulating for women a new way of thinking about themselves and their place in cultural Australia. Women readers found in CLEO a manifesto for a new confidence and an argument against the entrenched patriarchy that had for too long defined the relationship between the sexes. Filled with intelligence, wit, and a ‘go for it’ attitude, the fledgling CLEO took off on its first issue, taking Kerry, Ita, and a hand-picked bunch of iconoclastic staffers along for the ride. CLEO was a women’s magazine with a libido and a curiosity about almost everything…

The two-parter will screen at 8.30pm, Sunday 17 April and 8.30pm, Monday, 18 April, on ABC1.

You might also enjoy Inside the Great Magazines which the ABC is re-showing at the moment.

In the meantime, here are 10 Australian Magazines that have left a lasting impression:

1. Cleo

2. Australian Women’s Weekly

3. TV Week

4. The Monthly

5. Woman’s Day

6. FHM

7. People

8. Dolly

9. Who

10. BRW

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

PS. Our first dog was called Cleo after the magazine. She was the best dog – a blue heeler.

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