top of page

One Dollar Magazine

By Melissa Delzio


In the landscape of Portland’s print media scene, One Dollar magazine was a comet streaming through the 1970s, aglow with flashy design style, unafraid of hot takes, and overloaded with creative talent. Just three years after it arrived, it vaporized amidst rising creative and economic tension. But in its short life, it shone bright in the world of Portland’s alternative press, and kicked off a few creative careers in its wake.


March 1974 issue of One Dollar.

The Genesis of One Dollar


One Dollar was founded as a Portland “magazine of entertainment and the arts” in August of 1973, the dream of its design director, James (Jake) Kiehle. Jake’s creative output of One Dollar, rocketed his future success, as Art Director at institutions such as Rolling Stone, Chic and OUI. By his side from the beginning was his editor, Mark Christensen, whose writing career at a variety of Portland publications similarly launched him to the national stage, writing for magazines like Rolling Stone, Wired and Playboy as well as authoring eight published books. 


Both Jake and Mark were born in Portland and had early passions for the activities that would develop into their careers. Jake describes falling in love with magazines as a child as he searched and studied their pages at shops and libraries. Initially he was searching for something specific, his much older, estranged sister who he was told was working as a model in Chicago. As a child, he idolized her, and would scour fashion magazine pages hoping he could find her. He later learned she had lied about being a model, so his search seemed fruitless, but inadvertently he had gained a keen understanding of and appreciation for the design of magazines. “I was captivated by them,” Jake reflected. 


Jake at a typewriter
Jake at 14 writing his first novel.

As a child, Jake used to draw at the kitchen table, making his own magazines based on topics he was learning in school. “I was really into the Civil War. So I did the Gettysburg Gazette. I did the elaborate [title] type and headlines.” He was working diligently on this project during the Columbus Day storm in 1962 when a tree crashed through his family’s picture window in the kitchen. Young Jake was so focused on his project, he barely had time to duck out the way before it struck.


For Mark Christensen, son of a prominent eye surgeon and inventor, school was a bit of a slog. He was a self-described terrible student, but some early teachers saw a lot of potential in his writing skills, leading him to enter the University of Oregon Honors College based on those skills. Mark finished his college adventure at the University of Denver, which he derided as “high school with ashtrays”, but came back to Portland the minute he graduated.


In their early 20s, Mark and Jake both worked odd jobs to get by. Mark worked at a steakhouse called Rian's Eating Establishment (which later had their ads featured in One Dollar). Jake worked at a variety of establishments from grocery stores and warehouses to a movie theater and nursing school, before he and Mark found their way to Portland’s publishing world. Jake landed his first job, not as a designer, but as a writer, working for another Portland startup magazine called Behiston Rock, which boldly declared that they wanted to “reduce Rolling Stone to a pebble”. Three issues later they were a bust, but Jake got a few interviews under his belt, got paid for his first story, and saw his name in print. His first attempt at starting up a Portland-based publication was a project he called The Shopper’s Guide which delivered on its promise advising readers where to buy things in Portland. Jake reflects that this project was moderately successful—he had sold a few ads—but he abandoned the project because he had more literary ambitions.


One day Jake Kiehle walked into the Scribe offices, Portland’s most well-known alt weekly at the time. He was in search of a writing job, but they could only offer him a job as an ad salesman. Since Jake had his sights set higher, he declined. He passed by a man in the lobby on his way out, noting his tall, slender frame. Later that afternoon, Jake headed to the American Museum, a bar at SW Third and Burnside, (now Dante’s Inferno) and there he stumbled upon the tall man from the Scribe at the bar waiting for his girlfriend. The man introduced himself as Mark and, after introductions, Mark asked Jake why he didn't want the job. Jake explained he was not a salesman. Mark replied, “Well, I took it!” Mark’s girlfriend Debbie (who is today Mark’s wife) arrived at the bar and they became fast friends, inviting Jake to come sleep on the couch at the hippie house they lived in across the street from Wilson High School.


While Mark started at the Scribe as an ad salesman to get his foot in the door, the Scribe was a small team and in no time, Mark was entrusted to take on writing assignments. Soon he was getting an article published every week. Jake remembers a particular story of Mark’s that ruffled the feathers of a local biker gang, who showed up in the parking lot of the Scribe with a bone to pick. In Jake’s telling, before he knew it, the tension had eased. Mark had charmed them and he and the bikers sat down and had beers together. Mark remembers the Scribe days fondly. He was more moderate than the other lefty writers, but he got along with everyone. He described meetings which, in line with some Marxist thinking, participants underwent self-criticism sessions, underlining their own faults and highlighting the faults of others. Needless to say, these meetings would get a bit heated! But Mark’s stint at the Scribe wasn’t to last long. Soon he was sucked into the orbit of Jake’s next big idea.



Left and center: Jake's first self-published project,"The Shopper’s Guide" volumes 1 and 3 advise readers where to buy things in Portland. Right:"Post Meridiem" Mark and Jake's first collaboration.


The magazine sucked. We were out of business in no time. It looked unappealing, was hard to read and proved about as popular as communism in Miami. I think we sold one ad.” And yet, he says, “I was undaunted.” — Jake

The first publishing attempt by Mark and Jake as a writer/designer team was a magazine they called Post Meridiem, which was an entertainment guide. But, in Jake’s words, “The project was sunk from the name onward. In hindsight, it should have been titled PM”. This early project gave the two an early experience with stretching a budget. “We needed more than a 100 more dollars to send [Post Meridiem] to press. Between us, Mark and I scraped together 38 dollars.” To cover the rest, a random stranger wrote a check against the wishes of his disgruntled wife. They never saw the generous stranger again, but their publishing careers were off and running. Unfortunately, Post Meridiem was not to become their big hit. Jake’s critique was biting and sharp as he reflects back 40 years later. “The magazine sucked. We were out of business in no time. It looked unappealing, was hard to read and proved about as popular as communism in Miami. I think we sold one ad.” And yet, he says, “I was undaunted.”


Jake Kiehle had a new magazine forming in his mind. A city magazine like Milton Glaser’s New York but with an entertainment focus like Rolling Stone or Esquire, that was punchy and funny. He first needed to assemble a team. W.M. (Bill) Hobgood Jr. soon entered the picture as a business manager. Jake had met Bill when they were coworkers at a retail shop called The Wearhouse, which was a clothing and record store. He described Bill as, “an energetic fireplug with an impressive mustache and an engaging personality.” Mark later filled in more details to round out the character. He notes Bill at age 21 as a great athlete, potbellied and already balding. Jake knew Bill to be a stellar salesperson. “I first asked him for a loan, but hearing the magazine idea, he thought he could sell it and wanted to become partners.” According to Jake, Bill said, “You supply content, I’ll supply the startup money.”


With a budget in hand, he had what he needed to fully lure Mark Christensen away from the Scribe so that he could be instated as One Dollar’s editor. In addition to Mark and Bill, the publishing team included James (Jim) Nyman as photographer.  


The team rented a small space downtown on SW Taylor Street, by what is now Director Park. To furnish it they traded furniture for ad space. Jake and Bill asked their former retail coworkers to pitch in, selling ads on commission. Soon the ink was dry on their first issue.


The Magazine Catches On

One Dollar landed in cafes and shops across Portland on that August day in 1973. The first issues were free, showcasing the team’s big ideas within their small production budget. In those early days, Mark reflected, it felt like we were “playing magazine”.

"... One Dollar is not welded to rigid format, partisan politics, outside business interests or the occult.” — One Dollar introduction



The first five issues (August - December of 1973) of One Dollar magazine in the square format.



In the introduction of the first issue, One Dollar states: “We have spent a good deal of time preparing this first issue and have done what we can to see that it is more than just an expanded alcoholic's version of the Yellow Pages or a fawning conduit for our advertisers. If we feel a restaurant's service is poor we will tell you. (…) One Dollar is not welded to rigid format, partisan politics, outside business interests or the occult.” Fair enough!


To Jake and Mark’s relief, the magazine was an instant hit. "My ego was boosted. I got dates because of it, and occasionally, free beer.” Jake recalls. “For one early story, Mark and I teamed up to cover the Miss Teen USA pageant at the Hilton Hotel and I brought along a friend, Bill Reinhardt, then program director for KBOO, the local alt radio outlet. Bill wasted no time telling me the whole thing had gone to my head. ‘You’re acting like an asshole, you think you are better than others,’ he told me. ‘Knock it off.’ I did, too. I learned from that.”


Jake smoking a joint in an office.
Jake Kiehle in the One Dollar offices, 1974. Photo by Clyde Keller.

As time went on under Mark’s leadership as editor, the stories took on a more provocative approach. “We ran stories like "The Mayor's First Acid Trip" and "Sometimes a Great Lotion—a Guide to Portland Pornography,” Years later the Oregonian would describe Mark’s style as "pedal-to-the-floor editing”. Mark reflected with a glimmer in his eye. “It was a balance. You couldn’t be provocative all the time. You had to be mild every once in a while because the publisher was always scared that we're going to publish something that would freak the advertisers out.” In Jake’s succinct summary of the content, “We scored stories about stars who were passing through town, made fun of annoying people and greedy corporations and all things government."


Staff photo from the first issue. Left to right: Jake Kiehle, Jim Nyman, Mark Christensen (seated) and Bill Hobgood.

The bread and butter of the publication was arts and entertainment listings, film reviews, music reviews, letters to the editor and even the occasional horoscope. For the longer editorial content, music remained a focus. One of One Dollar’s claim to fame was they were the first publication to interview the band Kiss. In May of 1974 the interview was published, written by a One Dollar regular contributor, John Shirley, who went on to become the originator of cyberpunk science fiction, horror novels, and the screenplay of the 1994 film, The Crow. Additionally John was a musician known in the Portland punk scene for founding the band SadoNation. As a 2022 Oregonian article on Shirley states, “Ultimately, he didn’t make it as a punk rocker. And that was OK. He loved performing for an audience, creating noise and upheaval. But he loved sitting by himself in front of a typewriter too.” This was the foundation he had cemented at One Dollar.


In his intro to the Kiss interview, Shirley imagines Kiss’s music as the soundtrack to the aftermath of World War III. “Who could play the background music for the good clean fun of the apocalypse?” the article’s subtitle asks. Looking back on his One Dollar experience, John Shirley has fond memories of working with Mark, who he remembered as a “highly charged battery of enthusiasm.” He also appreciated Mark’s patience and mentorship. “I was quivering with vanity, a sort of defensive vanity, and he tolerated that. He edited me when needed, and I learned from his edits. He tried to make my freaky self more palatable to the public.”


One Dollar magazine issues February - August 1974 left to right. There was no January issue.


One Dollar magazine gave writer and author Mikal Gilmore his start. Mikal was a regular music columnist who went on to work at Rolling Stone, where he is still a contributing editor. He later also wrote “Shot in the Heart,” a critically-acclaimed memoir, about his relationship with his brother, Gary Gilmore, a convicted murderer who was executed by a firing squad. For One Dollar, in addition to standard music reviews, Mikal wrote a long essay about Jennifer Lobianco’s independent music magazine for Portland called Ragmag in May 1975. Little did he know Jennifer would go on to be Portland punk royalty as guitarist for the Neo Boys in 1978. 


One Dollar magazine issues September - December 1974 left to right. The December issue is labeled December/January (1975).


Sports was also a hot topic, especially the Portland Trail Blazers. The 1970s would end up being an epic era for the Trail Blazers, who won the championship in 1977. But in May of 1974 a One Dollar headline read, “An Open Letter to the Trail Blazers in the Wake of Another Disastrous Season”, a title which might resonate with some today. The author, Howard Waskow, questions whether the Blazers should hang on to Bill Walton, their latest draft pick. He worried the Blazer owners have hooked themselves on “the American myth of the All-American, the one superhero, the one Big Man, who can turn it around, making a four-time last-placer into a championship team.”



May 1974 spreads of One Dollar featuring an article about the Blazers by Howard Waskow and Vietnam by Michael McCusker.


Jake was a writer too, contributing film reviews, news stories, fiction, and a story about taking the train to Seattle which, he said, “did not win a Pulitzer.” 


Despite the entertainment focus, One Dollar did not shy away from deeper journalistic interrogations in a “gonzo” style such as “Why is Beaverton so Ugly?” (February 1975)  and “The Pillow Fight for the Governorship” (October 1974) about a softer period in Oregon’s politics when, according to the author, “the campaign itself has worked up all the excitement of a gunny sack race at the old folk’s home.” Not all articles were snarky, some took a serious tone like features rallying against urban development, an interview with a trans woman, and a story about the plight of temp workers.



May 1975 spreads that include the article, "Fifty very good reasons why Portland is the most exciting city in Multnomah County" and a gorgeous illustrated ad for Music Millennium by an unknown illustrator, "Steve".



The February 1976 issue introduced the first annual City Awards, which One Dollar self-deprecatingly deemed “laughably subjective” and “arbitrarily noteworthy”. Categories include “The best things in life cost $6.50” award which went to vinyl raincoats. And the “Sure it’s obnoxious, but is it art?” award which of course went to 82nd Avenue.


Death by Spray Mount


“I recruited articles from Portland's best young writers, got them edited and Jake placed them very handsomely on our pages.” Mark succinctly described, when I asked him about the process of bringing an issue to print. We are sitting comfortably in his Lake Oswego home, a snack prepared by Debbie sitting in between piles of One Dollar magazines. We dive into the details, interrupted regularly by side tangents spurred by an open magazine’s headline.


June 1974 issue of One Dollar featuring an article and illustration by contributor Richard Weholt.

I learned the creative collaboration process for One Dollar was very egalitarian, but Jake was in charge of design. Jake’s original vision for the magazine was a square format, which he thought would stand out on shelves. But a few issues in, he realized there was so much paper waste from a non-standard size. As the December 1973 issue states, the format was “too much like playing football in the hallway”. Jake’s cover choices (especially for the first issues) skew toward illustrations and photographs of attractive women, much to Mark’s chagrin. Jake’s defense? “I wanted to get eyeballs.” He didn’t think a cover with a man on it would get as much attention. “It seemed to work,” Jake shrugged. But he blamed his obsession with women on all that time spent pouring through fashion magazines looking for his sister. 


One Dollar magazine issues February - July 1975.


Jake is feeling reflective as I interview him on Zoom from his new apartment in Las Vegas, Nevada. Much of his life’s work is still in storage. Our conversation was interrupted only by the pause to light up a joint. He blames his memory loss on the habit, but then proceeds to highlight every detail of bringing the magazine to print with descriptive precision and wit.


The headline typography of One Dollar was diverse and often expressive of 1970s trends thanks to a dry transfer lettering system, Letraset. Jake remembers, “We couldn't afford to get headlines done at the press. [It is] not like today [where] I can noodle around with 700 different looks, all in minutes. Every headline and every subhead in the magazine was done by me using the transfer type.” Body copy was sent out to a company specializing in typesetting that would work from Jake’s specifications. Then photos, illustrations and other elements were physically added to the pages compositions, and the full layouts were precariously set in place using spray mount, which Jake laments may kill him eventually. The final step was to send those final compositions out to have a photostat made. The photostat machine would generate a negative which in turn could be used to print! 


As for the title treatment, Jake laments, “I had a tendency to want to change the logo all the time. Gradually I found exactly what it should have been.” Jake referred to the logo that graced his final issues, a hand-drawn type reflective of the type from an actual one dollar bill. “I should have found it earlier. Oh well, live and learn,” he shrugs. The magazine was an opportunity for creative growth.


One Dollar staff portrait with Jake Kiehle, Meta Jardine, Bill Reinhardt, 1976. Courtesy of Jake Kiehle via Albina Music Trust.

One Dollar magazine staff portrait at Veritable Quandary,1973. Courtesy of Jake Kiehle via Albina Music Trust.


The magazine’s photography was led by Jim Nyman, but others like Clyde Keller were frequent contributors. Clyde Keller had already become a prominent photographer with a unique photojournalistic style that captured the likes of Robert F. Kennedy (who he followed on the campaign trail) and later Ken Kesey. “He shot photos like movie directors shot film,” Mark remembered. “Clyde worked much more free form, often not even using his viewfinder, his subjects barely aware of his camera. He'd drift around, talking away, and click, click, click. The result: stunning graphic reality, found and fresh. Real life in black and white.”


As staff photographer, Jim Nyman is credited for many of the custom photoshoots which were especially creative when it came to subjects of fashion. For example, the April 1976 issue featured a very film noir photo spread titled, “Raincoats for the Wet or Wet at Heart” with a variety of models on a moody train track in what I presume is Southeast. Or the April 1975 gun-slinging photos shot in full Western gear at Couch Street Outfitters in Old Town.


One Dollar magazine issues August - December 1975/January 1976 left to right.


Most Illustrations were done by Jake himself, but they often were able to hire out illustrators. Some of One Dollar’s favorite illustrators to work with were Bill Plympton, Marilyn Higginson, and Michael Strickland. Jake remembers Bill Plympton came into the office with a portfolio of caricatures of famous people like Ed Asner and Ronald Reagan. Bill was already a successful illustrator by then, cutting his teeth in New York City, after having grown up in Oregon City and attended Portland State University. He would contribute to One Dollar when he was in town for the summer. Bill Plympton is still today a famous animator, (nominated for an Academy Award in 1988 for “Your Face”), cartoonist, illustrator and filmmaker. Illustrator Michael Strickland remained a mainstay in the Portland design scene through the 2000s, known later for an eponymous branding studio and leading one of the first digital design firms in the Portland metro region.



Spreads from the September 1974 issue about Portland music, Oregon artists and a full page illustration by Bill Plymton to accompany an article about Woodstock.



The magazine’s print ads are a Who’s Who of Portland’s bars, restaurants, retail and entertainment. Ads of note are for Slabtown, The Old Spaghetti Factory, Music Millennium, Darcelle XV and even National Lampoon’s Radio Hour.


It didn’t take long for the young creative entrepreneurs to realize that they needed to put a real price on One Dollar magazine. Jake remembers, “We decided to charge 50 cents. And my slogan, which I'm still proud of, is ‘At 50 cents, it's half free’”. Later promotions for a year’s subscription read, “Now you can get 12 Dollars for $5.35”.


The ad revenue and publication costs were just enough for the small team to scrape by. Contributing writers were paid $25, regardless of word count.


Mark remembers being poor but with plenty of money for drinks because of the low cost of living. He made maybe $300 a month at One Dollar, but worked a second job as a bartender to get by. With rent at $90, It was enough. Jake recalls that he was living on nothing. “Portland was inexpensive. My rent was $45 a month. Of course, I was sharing [a house] with 12 other people, but $45 is nice!” Restaurant reviews were an opportunity for a free meal. “We were so thankful when a new restaurant would open. They would say, could you send a reviewer down? Yes. I'll be there in an hour. Get the plates ready!”


"One Dollar" magazine issues February, April, May, July, and September of 1976. There was no August 1976 issue. Issues from March and June are missing. If you have one of these old issues, please reach out to melissa@meldel.com.


The Tail End

“We just rode a free-wheeling wave of post-hippie years gonzo journalism that made us all, if not rich, well, not poor either. —Jake

Mark, Jake, Bill and the team kept the publication going for three years. For Jake, who started the publication when he was 22, keeping the magazine afloat that long was quite an accomplishment. What he couldn’t know then is that ahead of him lay a long career in magazine design taking him to over 18 cities across four countries, working for dozens of publications. For Jake, the experience of making One Dollar was “… an unpaid college education that led to the kind of work for me I could only have dreamed of a few years before.” But the magazine industry Jake loved was notoriously fickle. “There was a period in the 70s where magazines were sprouting up left and right and dying left and right too.” Jake says, “I worked for three magazines in New York that all went out of business within a year of being developed.” Finances were the driving force behind One Dollar’s demise too. 


One Dollar magazine folded in September of 1976. “Ultimately we ran out of cash and personality conflicts began to tear us apart.” Jake said, “We closed the book on the occasion of our third anniversary. Bill and I, partners, had to go bankrupt. Our collective debt was $14,000.”


Despite his happy reflections, Mark was secretly glad when One Dollar folded. “It was so much work, there was so much fighting. I felt it had done what it was supposed to do.” When asked what he is most proud of, Mark cites publishing the first work of writers who became novelists like John Shirley and Mikal Gilmore. Mark and Jake continued to work together across their careers including for another publication Oregon Times (later called Oregon magazine) where Jake was the Art Director and Mark was the Senior Writer. They collaborated on a book, “Wild Life”, a guide to the unusual aspects of Oregon life published in 1997. When Jake left Portland for Los Angeles, New York and beyond, he started getting work at big publications. He would then recommend Mark for writing gigs. So while they were no longer co-workers, their resumes remained entwined.


One Dollar as a publication may have had a shorter life span than Scribe and other independent rags, but its sharp takes, and mature design set it light years apart. 


Before the interview with Jake, I read a 4-page primer he had written on One Dollar. In it, he writes, “We just rode a free-wheeling wave of post-hippie years gonzo journalism that made us all, if not rich, well, not poor either. We traded ads for sandwiches and beer.” On Zoom in 2023, exhaling a puff of his joint into the computer screen, Jake confides, “Knowing I had this interview coming up, I have been thinking about [One Dollar]. I realized that was probably the happiest I was, ever in my life.” Nearly 50 years later, I think he still is living off the wave of those free-wheeling days.



 


Thank you to Mark Christensen and Jake Kiehle for letting me interview them and tell their story! And to Debbie Wenner (Marks's wife) for copyediting this article and many of the original One Dollar publications. Special thanks to Bobby Smith from Albina Music Trust who first told me about One Dollar, and who coordinated the scanning. Check out their amazing new community music archive.


Have something to add to this story? A memory, a correction, or a snarky comment? Leave it below, or reach out to Melissa at melissa@meldel.com.

Comments


bottom of page