‘It was nice just to tell interesting stories about interesting people in the city’: ‘Improper’ editor talks about his favorite issues

“I hope people just, when they looked at the ‘Improper,’ that it reflected the best part of Boston, the vibrancy of Boston."

Aly Raisman on the cover of 'The Improper Bostonian.'
Aly Raisman on the cover of 'The Improper Bostonian.' –Brian Doben

For the past 28 years, “The Improper Bostonian” has given Boston twice-monthly doses of culture and interviews with some of the region’s most recognizable people. But the “Improper” announced Thursday that it would cease publication, an abrupt terminus to a magazine whose honor boxes were empty every two weeks, according to editor Matt Martinelli.

In the shadow cast by the announcement on Thursday, Martinelli spoke of some of his favorite covers and most memorable times at the magazine over the last six years that he’s been at the helm.

The first that came to mind for him was when Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots head coach, appeared on the cover of the issue that dropped Aug. 19, 2015. It was Belichick’s first magazine cover in over a decade – the previous was for “Globe Magazine” in 2001, Martinelli said.

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“We wanted to keep it kind of a secret until we had pulled it off,” he said. “We went out to Nantucket and shot him out there, and it was pretty great to sort of get him relaxed … That was one of my favorites.”

Another cover Martinelli thought of was for the issue that came out on June 27, 2018. It featured Needham-native Aly Raisman, Olympic gymnast and one of the voices of the #MeToo movement after she openly spoke about surviving abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor.

“She was a delight at the photoshoot and she was revealing in our interview with [staff writer] Jonathan Soroff,” he said, noting that Raisman spoke about “the toll that everything had taken on her.” “It was great to sort of show her at once being very human, but still very strong. It was a good one.”

Sometimes memorable doesn’t always mean everything went smoothly. That was the case when “Improper” intended to feature Celtics star Gordon Hayward on the cover of its winter sports issue, set to drop on Nov. 1, 2017, according to Martinelli. But, as fans may remember, Hayward broke his leg about six minutes into the season opener.

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The injury happened just a week before “Improper” was supposed to go to press, he said.

“We had to pull the cover, and we had to plan a new cover, a new cover shoot, a new story within that week,” Martinelli said. “And we felt awful for Gordon.”

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were swapped in, with the proof of the Hayward cover running online. Hayward got a second chance on the “Improper” cover for the issue that came out on Oct. 17, 2018.

Beyond memorable “Improper” issues, Martinelli thought back on the work of Soroff, who would write “Soroff On.” There was also Paul Robicheau, who wrote “Top 10 Local Acts on the Rise” each year.

“It was nice just to tell interesting stories about interesting people in the city,” Martinelli said.

Over the past few years, he said the magazine stepped up its art coverage, noting that “our food and drink coverage has always been fairly stellar.”

“I hope people just, when they looked at the ‘Improper,’ that it reflected the best part of Boston, the vibrancy of Boston,” he said. “We had so many talented people who worked here over the years.”

What’s next has a large question mark looming above it, according to Martinelli. The announcement was “obviously pretty sudden.” He added that “nobody really knows what’s next for anybody.”

Writing the magazine was a cycle – when one printed, work began on the next, Martinelli said. He didn’t rule out there someday being a digital equivalent to the “Improper,” but he said the magazine “never had the resources for strong digital as much as we should’ve.”

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“There’s some really talented people here, so I’m hoping they find a voice elsewhere in the industry,” he said. “But if they’ve had enough of the industry, I wouldn’t blame them.”

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