When a young reporter named Richard C. Lemon sat face-to-face with the Beatles in 1964, he had no idea that he would one day ride high on the masthead of a magazine devoted to popular culture. After all, the very concept of ”pop culture” scarcely existed at the time, and few could have foreseen that Lemon’s mop-top subjects, whose first American tour he chronicled in a cover story for Newsweek, would come to have such a large place in it.
As it turned out, that young reporter would go on to cover more than three decades of entertainment history. Last week our friend and colleague Dick Lemon, for five and a half years an assistant managing editor of this magazine, retired at age 65. In a career that included distinguished stints at The New Yorker, Newsweek, The Saturday Evening Post, the New York Daily News, and, for a decade, EW’s sister publication PEOPLE, his work was marked by a delight in fine writing, a flair for the telling phrase, and a profound love of accuracy.
At PEOPLE, Dick’s empathetic nature made him the magazine’s best editor of human-interest stories. In 1987, for instance, he presided over a mammoth and memorable cover story titled 24 HOURS IN THE CRISIS THAT IS BREAKING AMERICA’S HEART, which may have done as much as anything published to alter America’s attitude about AIDS. ”It was one of the most timely, moving, and best articles People has ever run, and it was guided by one of the most creative editors and charming people I know,” says TIME INC. corporate editor James R. Gaines, who was then at PEOPLE‘s helm.
Luckily for us, in August 1990 Lemon was whisked to 1675 Broadway to help manage a coltish upstart called ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. He arrived with his trademark generous grin and irresistible stash of jelly beans. Well before the end of his foundation-laying three years editing the publication’s feature stories, Dick’s uncanny style had so permeated EW that one senior writer refers to the process of writing clever headlines and captions as ”Lemonizing.”
In his most recent EW project, Dick spearheaded our first Yearbook, a just-published, newsy entertainment roundup. He put it together with ”boundless energy and enthusiasm,” says Yearbook picture editor Julie Mihaly. ”As always, he gave his gentlemanly and unflappable utmost — along with a sense of humor.” Consummate Lemon qualities, indeed.
If space allowed, we could treat you to endless stories about Dick’s regular pilgrimages to a Wyoming dude ranch with his wife, Molly (they have two sons, Ben, 40, an actor, and Ted, 38, a wine maker), his service as a Navy lieutenant (j.g.) on a destroyer, his interview with Jackie Kennedy aboard Air Force One, and how he came to be the first Democrat elected to the town board of Bedford, N.Y., in this century. We wish him all the best as he leaves to complete a book of children’s poems he began for his two grandchildren, resumes work on two novels (his first, The Probity Chorus, was published in 1986), and indulges his love for adventurous travel.
Good luck, Monsieur Citron, and Godspeed.
James W. Seymore Jr. Managing Editor