And one of the first great writers I discovered within those wonderful pages was the estimable Dean Latimer, with his street-smart attitude and hard-bitten reporter's instincts, his eternal skepticism when confronted with official pronouncements and his healthy disdain for authority.
Latimer, who started out in the late 1960s with the Screw-like Kiss magazine (this was before the rock band), made a name for himself in the early '70s at National Lampoon before moving to High Times. He had it goin' on.
"I wanna be able to write like this guy," my 17-year-old self thought.
Latimer's words refused to just sit there on the glossy pages of High Times.
They sang, in a way that words can do sometimes when they are shot through with the resonance of a life well-lived, with a rich repository of earthly experience, with a seasoned but eternally fresh viewpoint that makes no wimpy compromises, brooks no interference in its intrepid search for truth, cowers before no sacred cows, respects no undeserving authority.
When I read Dean Latimer, I believed in the possibility of knowledge winning over ignorance, of reason prevailing over silliness, of truth triumphing over deception.
Yes, Latimer -- although he never knew it -- was a major motivator for me to pursue journalism and polish up my writing chops.
And although I feel I've never scaled the heights of an on-his-game Latimer, I do credit the guy for a big chunk of the "tone" that is present in my writing to this day.
Dean has vanished, perhaps somewhat mysteriously, as far as I know. After the 1980s, his appearances in High Times became less frequent, and they never found a comparable dude to replace him.
Dean co-wrote one book, Flowers In The Blood: The Story Of Opium (1981) along with Jeff Goldberg. It is, sadly, now out of print. Amazon says he also wrote the 1999 tome How To Pass A Drug Test: High Times Guide.
The only two real examples of Latimer's writing that I was able to find online are, first of all, "Inside Dope: Raising Appalachia," a High Times piece which appears to come from June 2002, which is actually a long time after I thought he'd stopped appearing in the magazine.
Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji And Why Is He Saying All These Terrible Things About God?"
What a rush of memory and emotion it is to read Dean's words again.
It's very sad to me that a writer the caliber of Latimer has been largely forgotten by the world in this digital age -- so much so, that I was unable to Google up a photo of him.
According to whitepages.com, there are seven people with the name Dean Latimer living in the United States, but none of them is anywhere near New York City, so they probably aren't the Dean I remember.
I don't even know if Latimer is still among the living, but, Dean, if you're out there, THANK YOU.
And if anyone else, anywhere, knows what became of Mr. Latimer, please let me know.