Editor’s Notes

Behind the Peeps

The Magazine’s Peeps Diorama Contest: a dramedy in 34 parts.

By Amy Braverman Puma


“I can’t say that anything else has made me more strangely nostalgic about U of C than looking at all these fantastic dioramas,” reads one of 87 comments to the Peeple’s Choice portion of our Peeps diorama contest. “They are all so delightfully clever.” We couldn’t agree more.

When the Magazine’s editors first saw the Washington Post’s Peeps contest three springs ago, we spent way too much of our workday clicking, laughing, and forwarding. Then-editor Mary Ruth Yoe announced that we had to do our own version. We never got our act together in time for a seasonally appropriate issue, so we considered other options: a Maroon-themed Lego contest? Tootsie Rolls? But nothing was as appealing as Peeps, with their malleable, meltable, pun-inducing qualities.

Then fate stepped in. In December we hired Joy Olivia Miller, craftswoman extraordinaire, as our interactive-content editor. Aside from her other qualifications, Joy was the perfect staff person to spend good home and work hours on a sample Peeps diorama (see Lite of the Mind, Jan–Feb/09, for the result). She made her scene and collected Dan Dry’s photo tips, and we announced the contest.

Then we waited. And waited. As writers and editors we know that deadlines are great motivators, but still we expected entries to start hopping in well before the March 29 deadline. Would no one respond? Did Chicago alumni not appreciate the art of the Peeps diorama? Was our contest a bust?

Finally, in late February we received our first entry: Ana Karen Gobledale’s (AM’76) meticulously detailed depiction of Divinity School Professor Emeritus Martin Marty’s (PhD’56) office. Phew! Soon afterward we realized we had no reason to worry. As March marched on and the Peeps popped onto more shelves, photos of fabulous dioramas arrived daily. In the end we had 34 creative entries, some that looked like works of art. And the details: the bunnies and chicks danced at the Lascivious Costume Ball; read Allan Bloom, PhB’49, AM’53, while waiting for $1 shakes; tossed Harold’s Chicken bags on dorm-room floors; raced in the Kuviasungnerk polar-bear run; watched Dialogo cast its May 1 shadow; walked by Nuclear Energy and surrounding buildings in perfect replica; and caught a Frisbee midair on the quads.

When it came time to judge, the staff took the task seriously. We spent hours peeping over the submissions and rating them on originality, detail, and U of C relatedness. The top three choices appear in Lite of the Mind (page 72), and here you can see the winner of our online Peeple’s Choice contest—the contest was another Joy Miller production. Out of 446 votes, “Eliot Nest and the UnPeepables” won by a landslide with 131 votes. Katie Hrinyak, AM’06, who received a copy of Dan Dry’s 2008 book of U of C photographs, describes her entry: “Featuring Kevin Peepner as Eliot Nest, AB’25, the movie The Untouchables came to a climax on the steps of Union Station. Nest and his men had to protect the witness (“The Bookpeeper”), kill Capone’s men—and they saved an innocent woman and her chick in its runaway carriage while they were at it.”

The comments voters left on the online survey assured us that others enjoyed this contest as much as we did. “Of all the Peep joints in all the world,” reads a note about “Peeps at the Old Law School Films,” by Anthony Borton and Beth Iserman, both AB’96, showing moviegoers watching Casablanca. “U of C cleverness par excellence,” reads another.

For a close look at all the entries, see www.flickr.com/photos/uchicagomagazine. Thanks to everyone who entered and voted. Here’s looking at you, Peeps.