Martha Louise Jordon, age 20, and Edward Peele Gurganus, age 30, were married by a Justice of the Peace in Wilmington, North Carolina on August 20, 1925. On October 3, 1927, Gloria Frances Gurganus was born at 7:30 pm at Bulluck Hospital in Wilmington. Gloria was raised in Goldsboro, North Carolina, but little is known about her childhood, other than it is reported she had rheumatic fever.
After high school Gloria married, some say in order to escape her less than glamorous surroundings. The couple moved to Washington, D.C. and then to Ithaca, New York. This new life also did not appear to fulfill Gloria's ambitions, however, and at some point she left to live in New York City. Choosing a new name for her new life, Gloria Stavers parlayed her glamorous looks and savvy social skills into success as a model. She also frequented the hottest nightclubs such as El Morocco on the arms of well-known moguls, athletes, and actors. Gloria generated regular attention from columnists like Walter Winchell and Earl Wilson, who often quote her witty observations. But being a model .on the fringes of the jet set was still not fullfilling her dreams of big city success. Then a fortuitous meeting at a party in 1958 with French-born literary agent Jacques Chambrun would set Gloria on the path that would define the rest of her life.
In 1957, Chambrum had successfully published a one-shot "All About Elvis" magazine with editor George Waller. With the added vision of agent Desmond Hall, they developed an idea for a magazine about young male rock and rollers aimed at girls up to age 16. They created a fictional editor in chief named Georgia Winters and the first issue of 16 Magazine ("The Magazine for Smart Girls") dated May, 1957 hit the stands at a whopping 15 cents cover price. Less than a year later, 16 Magazine was generating stacks of mail when Gloria and Jacques met. Jacques hired her as subscription clerk at 50 cents per hour to handle fan letters and subscription requests.
Gloria immediately identified with the heartfelt letters full of adoration for the latest teen idols, and she took it upon herself to bring her readers closer to them. Throwing aside the standard press bios, she developed a unique questionnaire to get the type of personal information her readers wanted from their faves. She called press agents, the stars themselves, and knocked on doors if necessary. The success of what would become "40 Intimate Questions" impressed Chambrun enough to appoint Gloria Stavers editor-in-chief of 16 Magazine in late 1958.
For the next 17 years, Gloria Stavers was the heart and soul of 16 Magazine. She conducted the interviews and took the photos with her trusty Rolleiflex. She developed the style for which 16 would become famous by combining interviews, color pinups, contests and advice columns. In addition to the myriad editorial decisions, she was a savvy advisor to many of the young stars, unwavering in her opinions of what fashions, hairstyles and behavior would appeal to 16 readers. Gloria had an instinctive ability to identify and develop stars, and record companies regularly consulted her on how to promote their artists. Her advice columns gave a forum to early teens, many of whom, like Gloria, felt isolated in their small towns. Gloria celebrated their teenage crushes rather than dismissing them. 16 may have been the teenybopper's bible, but Gloria also introduced her young readers (in columns such as GeeGee's Gossip) to folk, jazz, cabaret and other music, as well as to actors and comedians who were outside of the mainstream. Under her leadership, 16's sales reached 1.2 million in 1967. In 1975, Gloria made the decision to leave 16. She wrote freelance articles and took photographs, edited Hit Parade magazine, and pursued other passions such as studying Buddhism. In the fall of 1982, Gloria was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died on April 1, 1983 in New York City at age 55.
Gloria Stavers was a pioneer in the male-dominated world of publishing, single-handedly creating a genre that would mature into today's rock music journalism. She mentored and inspired other writers, photographers, and editors, many of whom are still in the business today. Gloria also left a legacy beyond her influence on the publishing and entertainment industry. She encouraged millions of young people to follow their dreams, and presented them with a glimpse into a groovy adult world where anything was possible.