Christine Hopf-Lovette Marketed the 1970s Ladies Home Companion Calendar….Here is my interview with her

Half Moon Bay Memories (HMBM): What does “Bo-Tree�? mean and where was the business located?

c.jpgChristine Hopf-Lovette: Bo-Tree is the tree under which Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment. Oddly enough, the name came from my mother, a librarian. I told her I was entering into a publishing venture. I failed to enlighten her about the exact nature of our first product, however.

The company was first headquartered in my apartment in San Francisco. After a year or so, we rented space in the back of an old Victorian on an alley off Union Street.

HMBM: What did Bo-Tree originally produce? Was there something before the Ladies Home Companion Calendar?

Christine: The Ladies Home Companion was our first product.

HMBM: This was, when? The early 1970s– or earlier? Producing books and calendars was very different then [note: I’ve had some experience with both.] You had to hire a typesetter & designer– please tell me about the process, how different it was from today.

Christine: The calendar grid and all the type was pasted on boards that were delivered to the printer along with the photos. The printer made plates and the job was printed by the offset litho method. I don’t think the printing method has changed much but the preprint materials have changed tremendously since the advent of computers.

HMBM: You did the marketing: what did that mean? You contacted the press, got the books into the stores? Which bookstores? Nationwide? How did you sell, pre-Internet?

Christine: We marketed the calendars through gift and stationery reps. We found our first reps through a directory. Some worked but some did not. I remember that we had hired a rep in southern California—a firm that was recommended by our New York rep. Judy [Horst] flew down to the Los Angeles Gift Show. She called me after the first day to say that the rep wasn’t even displaying the calendars. He seemed to be hiding them under the table. The rep was uncomfortable with the product, to say the least.

I told Judy [Horst] that I would come down to L.A. and see what I could do. It was easier for me, as a person a step away from the creator of the product, to assess the situation and find another rep. I walked the entire show, looking for a gift rep who I felt would appreciate the concept and the quality of the product we were offering.

I found that rep in Holst-Bowen—two men who happened to be gay and also had a good sense for the market for this product. At first, they were reluctant to even take a look at the calendar at the show. They told me to make an appointment next week. But I convinced them to take a look and they loved it. I remember Chuck Holst saying, “My little old ladies in Orange County are going to love this!’

They did love it, and Holst-Bowen sold thousands of calendars.

We also took the calendar to what was then known as the American Booksellers Show. The Vice President of Waldenbooks thought Ladies Home Companion was terrific and placed a big order. I learned later that his calendar buyer, a rather religious man, was very upset about the purchase.

We sold about 50,000 calendars the first year.

HMBM: How did you and Judy Horst meet? You were co-partners, how did that work?

Christine: Judy and I met through our involvement in Big Sisters. She was the president of Bay Area Big Sisters at that time. We were looking for an idea for a fundraiser for the group. I was the print production manager for a San Francisco ad agency. Judy suggested that we produce a calendar with photographs of San Francisco. She had a good friend who was a photographer. I agreed to handle the production. The calendar worked out well as a fundraiser and we felt that we were a good team. It was at about that time that Burt Reynolds appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine and Judy had the idea that the time was right for a pin-up calendar for women.

HMBM: Did you meet any of the photographers involved in Bo-Tree’s projects? Michael Powers?

Christine: I have met Michael Powers and Mark Fraser. Many of the models in the calendars were friends of Judy Horst and Carol Fulton.

HMBM: Did you help conceive the LHC calendar?

Christine: I think I answered that above. It was really Judy’s idea. Later, another friend suggested that we do playing cards (13 guys, four poses each.) We also produced a Ladies Home Companion Book of Days and a Book of Friends as well as Bridge Score Pads.

HMBM: Did the calendar shock after it was published?

Christine: The calendar was a lot of fun. Since we were careful about covering penises with shadows, the images were not considered pornographic. The men were not chosen for their muscular bodies—in many cases they just had nice smiles or great eyes—or a nice tush. They were just friendly and comfortable.

HMBM: How did you handle the publicity?

Christine: We sent press releases to newspapers and magazines One of the best things to happen wa that a stringer for “Women’s Wear Daily�? attended the Los Angeles Gift Show and saw the calendar. She interviewed Judy and me for an article that ran that week and was picked up by Time and Newsweek. Then we got calls from TV shows like To Tell the Truth and What’s My Line. Judy Horst and Carol (Fulton) Turner appeared in those shows.

The Ladies Home Companion calendar provided the seed money to produce a number of other calendars which were very successful over the next 13 years or so. We produced calendars of cats, dogs, horse, zoo animals, whales, and lots of other topics including a wonderful series called “In Praise of Women Artists” that included art by women from the 15th century to the present along with brief biographies. We donated a portion of the proceeds from these calendars to non-profit organizations.

Eventually we had a mail order business and a number of greeting card lines.


Last Words

Christine: Mark and Flower Fraser became very good friends and convinced me to visit Bolinas where I owned a house for a few years.

Today Christine Hopf-Lovette is associated with Edgewood Strategic Communications–specializing in public relations.

Update: April 24 2008 Visit Christine’s NEW crazyquilter online store, click here