Over the weekend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch film critic Joe Williams shared a whopper of a two-part reminiscence involving the late Andy Gibb and a former People magazine staffer. He doesn’t refer to the latter by name, but we’ve deduced that it must have been Fred Bernstein.
In 1987, while earning his Master’s in journalism at the University of Missouri, Williams listened as a visiting prof crowed about a People magazine piece that exposed Gibb’s drug and porn habits. The prof insisted the article was his proudest career achievement.
Upon graduation, Williams moved to LA and started attending freelance pitch meetings at the magazine. When Gibb died of a heart attack in March of 1988, Williams was tasked with his first People assignment–interviewing employees at the singer’s record label. Here, improbably, is what happened next:
When I reached the man who had signed him to a contract, he said Gibb was the sweetest kid he had ever known. “What drove him to an early grave was that hatchet job in People magazine,” the man said. I reported my findings, but nothing that I contributed appeared in the obituary.
By today’s standards, the language in the Gibb People piece actually seems quite mild. But the whole experience was enough to convince Williams to look for a career elsewhere.
[Pictured, from April 21, 1980 People article, Gibb in front of Sunset Blvd. billboard advertising his album "After Dark"]