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40 Years of You

Richard nixon was president and Bridge Over Troubled Water was about to hit No. 1 on the charts when a brand-new magazine called Gulfshore Life debuted in the little town of Naples, Fla. It was January 1970, and the new “Delineator of Community Activities on the Platinum Coast” cost $1 (a loaf of bread cost 20 cents), and included 24 pages of photos and features focusing on what editor Jean Denmead called the “wondrous life” along the Gulfshore.

Early issues showcased the latest in home décor—shag carpet and Harvest Gold appliances—while interviews with “talented neighbors” revealed the small-town charm of Naples. Lighthearted contests included a black-and-white photo of five pairs of gracefully crossed legs and the caption, “Guess who belongs to these gorgeous gams? Tip: They are Naples society matrons. A bottle of Piper-Heidsich champagne will be delivered by Gulfshore Life to the first person who mails in the correct answer.” (A nearby ad reminded readers to use Zip Code.)

Guessers had pretty good odds in a town so small that a new Porsche made headlines. A special “Wheels in Naples” story noted in March 1970: “The newest Porsche to be delivered to Naples is the orange 914 mid-engine car owned by Ray Lutgert. So far as we know, Wayne Lutter is the owner of the only Porsche Targa in Naples.”

In the era of NOW and Women’s Lib, women executives were on the rise, even in Naples. In February 1972, Gulfshore Life interviewed Nancy Urfer, noting, “Today she is one of the most highly respected local stockbrokers in Southwest Florida and the only fully accredited and licensed woman stockbroker in Naples.” Despite advances for women, however, Denmead noted in an editorial “a continuing wonderment at the overt, or covert, condescension of men toward business women.” Although she added, “This reporter is not a member of NOW, nor ever will be.”

While the glass ceiling remained firmly in place, fashion moved forward, and in 1974, Betty Sherwin, former fashion consultant for Burdines, began writing the “Fashion Futures” column, with pithy advice for the fashion-conscious. For anyone over 40, Sherwin counseled, “These could be some of your best friends: Supp-hose that look like sheer and lightened hair. (It IS nice to fool mother nature.)” By 1975, the peasant look was in, and Sherwin emphasized, “The mini has now become laughable. Weren’t they always?”

While Sherwin traced the rise and fall of hemlines, the magazine began to include more issue-oriented stories, touching on pollution in Naples Bay and “Our Water Dilemma.” By 1977, computers were becoming more mainstream, and the Naples Community Hospital was on the cutting edge of technology, offering “computer diagnoses.” A Gulfshore Life story noted, “Don’t let the word ‘computer’ frighten you. The Delta-Scan utilizes space-age technology to obtain accurate pictures of the body.”

Travel stories, including a review of the record-breaking tour of the “Treasures of  Tutankhamun,” took readers beyond the Gulfshore, but profiles of the people of Southwest Florida continued to be the mainstay of the magazine. The November 1977 issue included an interview with Phil Morse, owner of Boat Haven, who moved to Naples in 1932 and reminisced, “We used to shoot quail on Fifth Avenue. There’d be bullets bouncing all around, and nobody gave a damn.”

In January 1980, Gulfshore Life celebrated its 10th anniversary, and local experts gave their predictions for the upcoming decade. Interior designer Richard Geary III noted, “People will demand more quality. Taste, as a whole, has become more sophisticated due to the ’70s bombardment of designer clothing, sheets, designer everything.” Lawyer Dave Sexton predicted, “Law in the ’80s will be influenced by the computer and the increasing use of legal assistants.” A full-page advertisement for Bill Barnett BMW gave no hint to his future as Mayor of Naples.

Naples celebrated its centennial in 1985, and Gulfshore Life profiled “The 85 most interesting people in Southwest Florida.” The list of movers and shakers included Naples artist Paul Arsenault; Dik Browne of Sarasota, the creator of the Hagar the Horrible comic strip; and Gary Schmeltz, scientist and naturalist for The Conservancy.

On its 30th birthday, Gulfshore Life delved into the darker aspects of life along the Gulfshore with the sad story of the Ray brothers, infected with AIDS and forced to flee from their home in Arcadia. The corny contests of the past were history, and the little magazine had come of age, offering a sophisticated blend of style—and substance—that reflected the Southwest Florida community.

Today, 40 years after its debut in the little town of Naples, Gulfshore Life still showcases the “wondrous” life along the Gulfshore. From bouffant hair and polyester leisure suits to advice from Oscar de la Renta, style remains a hallmark of the magazine, but the heart of Gulfshore Life remains the people of Southwest Florida.

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