Editor’s Notebook, Regulars and Shorts

Editor’s Notebook: CATALYST’s Birth Story

By Greta Belanger deJong

—by Greta Belanger deJong

Rollerskating with friends at an indoor rink —the man in the box DJs disco (this is, after all, 1978) and we dance on wheels in a wide circle. Toward the middle of the floor, a young guy skates alone. He skates with a cane. It is clear that he is blind.

During a break, I ask if I can buy him a Coke and chat a bit: I want to hear his story. He is amiable. I ask what gives him the courage to do what he is doing here tonight.

He tells me about a woman he’s been studying with. Her name is Victoria Fugit. She teaches something called Alpha Awareness— where one learns how to call upon various brain states at will for creative as well as practical purposes. He says Victoria, and the techniques she taught, has changed his life. He gives me her telephone number. I am a relative newcomer to Salt Lake, and looking for something like this. I call Victoria the next day.

Victoria quickly became my teacher and friend, introducing me to people I would never have imagined finding in Salt Lake City.

The energy was high and ripe for something like CATALYST. Politically and environmentally, people were getting frustrated with “business as usual.” Organized religion was losing its grip on the word “spirituality.” Psychologically, people were becoming interested in the workings of their own minds. More and more related gatherings and events were happening right here in Salt Lake, as witnessed by the burgeoning bulletin board at Cosmic Aeroplane (see the CATALYST 100 story in this issue).

I’d grown up knowing I would someday be a magazine editor. I had experience. I was ready when Victoria challenged me. We worked together. Her artistic sensibilities directed us. We produced the first edition in April of 1982.

So you could say, with 100% accuracy, that Victoria Fugit, who now lives in Moab, was the catalyst of CATALYST.

Prior to that, however: Some credit must also go to a man who would never have imagined himself in this position: Gary Couillard, my CPA boyfriend who taught economics at the University of Wiscon­sin and worked for the Public Service Com­mission. In 1978 he took a job in Salt Lake and invited me to join him. Till then, I thought Utah was a land of horse-and-buggy people in black bonnets. He got me here. It would not have happened otherwise.

In spite of his ill-conceived notion that I would make a good real estate agent, he supported me in following my dream. Gary Couillard is a definite catalyst, and hero, in my book. Gary still lives here, has written for CATALYST through the years, and was associate publisher for a while.

After the first issue of CATALYST was printed, our friend Lezlee Spilsbury offered to help us with promotions. Lezlee believed in what we were doing; and Lezlee’s belief had the power to move mountains. In the days before marketing agencies on every corner, and books on self-promotion, Lezlee got us interviews on radio, television and in newspapers. In addition, Lezlee did the sorts of things we wanted to write about, which made our jobs even easier: The Spilsbury compound on Murray-Holladay Road, complete with sweat lodge, stream and treehouse, was a warm, eclectic salon—sacred and raucus by turns (and sometimes simultaneously). She and her husband Ray hosted musicians, Hopi native elders, philosophers, psychedelic researchers. Music was made. Food and wine flowed. People danced. Those were good days. Lezlee lives in San Raphael, California.

Thank you Victoria, Gary and Lezlee, for your seminal influence upon the birth of this magazine. You are some of the people I will think of with deep gratitude on my deathbed. And today, too! Thank you!

Greta Belanger deJong is the editor and publisher of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on December 27, 2012.