Celebrating the 20th anniversary of FYI, The Star’s features section

04/28/2014 3:33 PM

04/28/2014 3:33 PM

If you’d allow us to be a bit indulgent, we’d like to announce that FYI quietly celebrated a big birthday this month.

We’re 20! Woo-hoo! Almost drinking age!

Did we say “quietly”?

Anyway, yes, The Star’s flagship features section debuted on April 4, 1994, replacing a smaller daily features section called Style. You already know how we love trivia around here, so today we thought we’d share some about ourselves:

• FYI stood for “For Your Information,” but not everyone got that. Occasionally we’d hear someone try to say it phonetically, like “fuh-yee.” Some grumbled that we stole the name from “Murphy Brown,” Candice Bergen’s hit sitcom. The news show Murphy appeared on was “FYI.”

• The section almost got named A.M. Kansas City; a prototype was printed with that name. A.M. Kansas City was apparently nixed because it suggested reading the paper was a morning-only experience. (This was before papers established beachheads online. The Star rolled out two websites, kcstar.com and KansasCity.com, in 1996.)

• That lightning-bolt-looking thing in the original FYI logo? We called that the FYI swish. About three years later, it would disappear in a minor redesign.

• With the launch of FYI, daily columnist Billy Graham’s presence was reduced to weekly. Readers protested loudly, and the evangelist returned to five days a week.

• FYI’s current look, including that top-of-the-cover green, was unveiled in June 2006 as part of a redesign of the entire paper after our new presses got up and running.

We hear from readers all the time that FYI is their favorite part of the paper. Our deep thanks to all of you for reading us, and supporting The Star as a whole, all these years. Here’s to (at least) 20 more!

We asked some FYI writers and editors to share stories (and backstories) from the past two decades that made an impression on them.

‘Calling Kara’

July 2007

Lisa Gutierrez:

I think about Kara Kopetsky often. Is she alive? Is she not?

I wonder what happened to the 17-year-old Belton teenager who just disappeared from her life one sunny Friday in May 2007. She went to classes at Belton High School, and that was the last time her family saw her.

A few weeks later I visited her family at their home, walked around Kara’s bedroom with their blessing but still felt like an intruder as I took photos on my cellphone of the stuff she’d left behind.

Her little brother’s sad face made me feel sad, too.

Where is Kara?

Every report I heard thereafter of a body found somewhere in the area made me catch my breath. Months later I was in New York on vacation when a Star editor called to tell me that a woman’s body had been found. It might be Kara, he warned.

Standing in front of Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue, I cried.

It wasn’t Kara, that time.

Where are you, Kara?

Call someone, if you can.

‘ ’N Sync gets … respect’

July 2001

Jeneé Osterheldt:

I’ll admit the bubblegum truth: ’N Sync changed my life. So did our awesome music writer, Timothy Finn.

I was fresh out of college. And Tim trusted me, the intern, to review the beloved boy band at Arrowhead Stadium. ’N Sync was at its career climax, one of the biggest groups in pop music. This show was a big deal. Tim told me to just go and call it like I see it. And hear it.

I’ll never forget that night. There were screaming teens tailgating in the parking lot — bedazzled signs, singing, dancing. A girl tried to buy my Prince T-shirt off my back.

The hip-hop head in me insisted this would be a nightmare. But a good show is a good show, no matter the genre. This was no lip sync spectacle. I compared their brand of pop to soul food:

“ 

’N Sync is breaking the pop plague on boy bands with this new sound. Ballads such as ‘Gone’ and ‘Selfish’ let Justin’s and JC’s voices show that they are as soulful as Mama’s sweet candied yams.”

Even the managing editor gave me kudos for my review. Not only did Tim give me more assignments, but my pitches were taken seriously. By that next summer, Justin Timberlake launched his solo career, and I began my life as a full-time journalist for The Star. It all started with a little dirty pop.

‘A ringer in the choir’

December 1997

Edward M. Eveld:

Made you laugh. Made you cry. If so, it’s only because in the reporting, writing and editing of FYI, we did the same.

I’ve cried plenty in the past 20 years. I admit it. Not full-on tears in the middle of interviews, of course. Later. Alone.

In the car, for instance, after sitting down with a father whose biologist son would, over a 30-hour period, die from a snakebite. And, after spending time with an elderly couple who had cared for their blind and bedridden son for 50 years, I cried for one of the most beautiful examples of unconditional love I had ever witnessed.

And the smiles? You bet. You need it. We need it.

Which immediately and randomly brought to mind, at least to certain colleagues, my account of impersonating a member of the Dickens Carolers.

That was the season we decided FYI writers should experience a “holiday job.” I was allowed to join a troupe of carolers as they performed at two parties and around the Plaza.

I was in charge of the sleigh bells, which were less about musical accompaniment than an attempt to divert attention from my lip-syncing. Really, no one wanted me to sing.

Go ahead, yuk it up. I’m laughing, too.

Happy anniversary, FYI. And thanks.

‘Two sides of heaven’

November 1997

James A. Fussell:

Trust me. If you ever have the cold steel barrel of a Magnum .357 pressed against your forehead, you will never forget it.

My editor asked me to do a quick story on a young Springfield woman who was one of 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult who died in a mass suicide in hopes of reaching an alien spacecraft supposedly following the Hale-Bopp comet.

But in trying to do the story, I almost died myself.

After taking a wrong turn just before Springfield, I went down a succession of ever-smaller dirt roads. Hopelessly lost, I stopped at a mobile home to ask directions. I walked up three homemade wooden steps to the door, and knocked. A bear of a man in a dirty white tank top who smelled of cigarettes, Jack Daniels and Aqua Velva cocked the hammer of his black revolver and put it to my head.

“Leave,” was all he said.

“OK! OK!”

I threw up my hands and carefully backed away, down the stairs and all the way to my car. With trembling hands I started the engine and drove about a half mile away. Then I pulled over and nearly hyperventillated.

I probably should have called the police on the Aqua Velva man, but I didn’t. I don’t know why. I was just glad to be alive.

‘Heloise’s angel’

November 2006

Tim Engle:

Who wouldn’t want to hang with Heloise, the queen of household hints?

The syndicated columnist and her husband were coming through town with a Russian motorcycle in tow, and she offered her editors at The Star a spin. The FYI editors, however, smelled a story, and assigned me to ride shotgun.

Make that machine gun — there was a place for one on the sidecar.

“I call her Svetlanya,” the chatty, good-natured Heloise said of the Ural cycle, trotting out a Texas-ized Russian accent.

Svetlanya had a special trick: She could go in reverse. Heloise demonstrated this in a parking lot, going backward in circles until I saw two of her.

What readers didn’t know was that a little more than a month before, I’d gotten in a wreck with an 18-wheeler, which clipped my Honda Civic in the rear and sent me spinning into two lanes of interstate traffic. Luckily, I was mostly just bruised and shaken up.

But, as you can imagine, I found myself super-skittish while driving.

My editor had worried that perhaps I wasn’t the best person to send out on the city streets in a motorcycle’s tiny sidecar. But Heloise quickly put me at ease, the trip didn’t last long, and it was a hoot seeing people’s reactions to us.

I even got my picture in the paper.

‘Vampires suck (rule)’

November 2008

Sharon Hoffmann:

It’s not easy being the “Twilight” editor in a cynical newsroom.

My co-workers can tolerate, even appreciate, my little obsessions with “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games” or “The Hobbit,” which occasionally manifest as two-page graphic extravaganzas.

But something about twinkly vampires goes beyond the pale. So to speak.

I blame my daughter for luring me into Stephenie Meyer’s novels. I didn’t want to like them, but, I’m ashamed to say, I fell for the romance. As did hordes of women and girls.

I knew our film critic, Robert W. Butler, was going to hate the first movie. So I needed to take bold action for my fellow fans. With the help of artist Hector Casanova, I scrawled my rejoinders in red ink in the margins around Butler’s snarky two-star review. Like so:

Butler: “With advances in medicine, humans may soon routinely live past 100. There won’t be much point if their long lives provide no more wisdom, wit or joy than is exhibited by Edward, the century-old vampire hero of ‘Twilight.’ 

Me: “Excuse me, Bob, but were we at the same movie? Edward is enchanting!”

And so on. It was a blast, and popular with fans and enemies alike.

With time, I’m not so enchanted with “Twilight” after all. (My daughter moved on long ago.) But I’m still in love with that review.

‘Of love, courage and a kidney’

February 2013

Sarah Gish:

When I met Travis Spire-Sweet two years ago, his body was shutting down.

Spire-Sweet, then 29, was born with one kidney — and despite the Kansas City acupuncturist’s active and healthy lifestyle, it was failing him.

Over tea at a Crossroads coffeeshop, he told me that if he didn’t find a kidney donor soon, he would be forced to go on dialysis. It was hard to hear him say he didn’t expect to live past 30.

In the following months, several family members and friends volunteered to donate a kidney, but none of them matched his blood and tissue type.

Then, a miracle: Spire-Sweet’s girlfriend of a few months, Taesha Benson, was a perfect match and bravely offered to give him her kidney.

It was a privilege to watch this amazing love story unfold, and to share it with FYI readers. I’m happy to report that Spire-Sweet and Benson are happy, healthy and getting married next month.

YOU READ IT IN FYI

Kiss Tell dating series, 2005-06

Dress a Dog Fourth of July contest, 2008 and ’09

The 12 Dogs of Christmas, 2005, followed by cats, Daves, etc.

The Lego version of KC, 2011

KC’s hottest construction workers, 2006

A cheerleader’s dream, 2000

Losing It With Lisa weight-loss project, 2006-07

The Month of Love, February 2007

Acclaim, horror over new Bartle “Sky Stations,” 1994

FYI Book Club, launched in 2000

I Grew This, 2011 and ’13

Inside the mind of killer Debora Green, 1996

THE WAYBACK MACHINE: APRIL 1994

↑ The biggest pop culture story that month was probably the suicide of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, whose body was found April 8, 1994.

Meanwhile, as is still true today, FYI covered a wide variety of lifestyle and entertainment topics. Among them:

←  April 4:

In Stargazing, Whoopi Goldberg says she’d consider hosting the Oscars a second time, but she’s apparently upset with unfavorable comparisons to past host Billy Crystal.

April 8:

Top TV shows for the previous week: 1. “Home Improvement” (above). 2. “Roseanne.” 3. Premiere of “These Friends of Mine,” which would later be renamed “Ellen.”

April 9:

A Hallmark movie on CBS features Tobey Maguire as a 15-year-old child of divorce.

April 12:

Bob Dylan thrilled the crowd at his Lied Center show, the FYI review says.

April 14:

A cover story urges parents to keep an eye on kids using online services such as Prodigy, CompuServe and America Online.

April 15:

Meteorologist Dave Sweeney gets the boot from KCTV-5 after two years. His replacement: Gary Amble, from a Des Moines station. Another new hire is weekend weather anchor Katie Horner.

April 16:

Top R singles: 1. “Bump N’ Grind” by R. Kelly. 2. “Feenin’,” Jodeci. 3. “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” Prince (above).

April 19:

Theater critic Robert Trussell reports that the first season of “Starlight Indoors” had disappointing turnout.

April 20:

Top movies are 1. “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” 2. “Cops Robbersons.” 3. “The Paper.”

April 21:

Laura Hockaday profiles “full-time volunteer” Shirley Bush Helzberg. On TV, “L.A. Law” is ending after eight seasons.

April 22:

Top 40 station KISF-FM (107.3) introduces a DJ named “Karyn Barbur” two days before former Q-104 personality Karen Barber starts co-hosting mornings on Mix 93.

April 23:

In Stargazing, “Blossom’s” Joey Lawrence is about to graduate from high school.

April 25:

Top pop albums: 1. “The Division Bell” by Pink Floyd. 2. “The Sign,” Ace of Base. 3. “Above the Rim” soundtrack.

→  April 28: Vice president Al Gore, “the Clinton administration’s pilot on the information highway,” plays music, watches video clips and gets email on “his well-equipped Apple multimedia machine.” On TV, it’s the 100th episode of Fox’s “The Simpsons.”

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