Elizabeth Betts, died on August 22 at her home in Sag Harbor after a more than four-year battle with cancer.
Betts enjoyed a successful career as an art & creative director, working at national publications like Entertainment Weekly, Men’s Health and Us Weekly, where, as the creative director, she played a major role in the success of the magazine at the height of the celebrity weekly craze of the early 90s.
Liz hired me to be her art director, her #2, so to speak. It was the biggest job and highest paying of my career in publishing. It also probably ruined me for magazines as the pace was murderous. Bonnie Fuller was the first Editor-in-Chief and she and Liz really invented the blueprint for the celebrity weekly.
People magazine copied our style so fast, after a few weeks it was hard to tell who started it. Not long after, In-Touch was a low rent version of Us and others soon followed. The “scoop” and newsstand sales were everything. It was a grueling pace, and we sometimes scrapped half an issue or the cover story hours before going to press at 3-4 AM.
But it was fun. Like being at magazine boot camp or on the set of a movie that never stopped shooting… and Liz was always the calm steady hand that kept the ship on course.
Liz’s sister, Time magazine’s Style Editor Kate Betts, posted a brief tribute on Facebook,
Former Us Weekly editor in chief Janice Min said Betts was,
“the most understated and talented creative director in publishing.”
Other friends and colleagues had this to say about Betts:
“Liz elevated every layout she touched. She truly cared about the product and had wonderful ideas. Most of all I’ll miss her dry wit.” –Us Weekly Senior Editor, Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund
“She was quite a talent. The glue that held us together at Us Weekly. Possibly the driest person I had ever met, she pushed all of us to think harder, work harder and produce a magazine that people wanted to devour. Her direction made designers want to be part of the magazine. We always said she was the MVP at the magazine. She made me laugh a lot and when something wasn’t going well, she’d always just shut it down, smile and say ‘it’ll be great.’ And it was. She was.” –Us Weekly Fashion Director, Sasha Charnin Morrison
“She rocked. She was also sometimes the sole person to make me smile during those impossibly long days — and she did it with a look, no words necessary.” –Us Weekly Executive Editor, Lori Majewski
“Writer Sarah Grossbart and I started organizing these silly fundraising bake sales while we trained for the New York City Marathon. We were thrilled to get $1 from someone. But leave it to Liz to quietly drop in at least $20 every single week without taking a single cookie for her efforts. She didn’t even want any fanfare about it, so we just referred to her as our secret benefactor. That generous spirit was really unforgettable and helped make her a special person.” –Staff writer, Mara Reinstein
“When I left the magazine 16 years ago this summer, she had a party for me at the Peninsula Hotel rooftop bar. (The drinks there were and are among THE most expensive in NYC. At my going away party (I quit to make art full-time) she personally served everyone drinks, as though she were our waitress, and paid for it all… so generous, unassuming, smart, talented, a dry wit and REALLY reserved. She HATED any kind of attention.” -Us Weekly Art director, Trey Speegle
“I spent a lot of time with Liz on Monday nights fine-tuning the covers… she had such a sly, subtle sense of humor. She and I bonded, in particular, because she [photo director] Patti Wilson and I all shared the same birthday: May 7. We were the Us Weekly birthday triplets, and her passing is especially sad for me because one of my other thirds is gone.” –Us Weekly Senior Editor, Jeremy Helligar
“She did not bask in the spotlight, but loved creating it for others to shine in.” –Us Weekly Art Director, Pino Impastato
“I really respected her, she taught me everything… all of my virtues as a successful designer (work clean, fast, keep pushing, try again and try again) all came from her. She gave me her critical eye, and that’s a whole lot. I can thank her for that… I can picture her coming into work, every morning, with her black suit uniform, 4 venti coffees in a tray – ready to be reheated throughout the day.” –Associate AD, Us Weekly, Nicole Cummo Tereza
“Liz was was patient to wait for me to catch up with the other art directors. After New York City had that blackout [after 9-11] and Trey took me to his house upstate right after it happened, he asked Liz if we had to come in to work the next day and of course she said, ‘Yes!’… she was hard on us, but was a kind person at the same time.” –Us Weekly Art Director, Mikio Sakai
“I learned so much from her. She had a wicked sense of humor… the day after the blackout, I drove to work since the trains weren’t running, I sent an email out asking if anyone needed a ride home. Liz came to my desk asked what kind of car I drove, then asked if there was room for her to stretch out in the back and drink beer… She then smiled and walked away.” –Us Weekly Photo Editor, Colleen Stoll Calderon
“I was sitting next to her in her office at her desk and we were trying different cover lines to see how they looked. It was very late, maybe on a Friday night, and I suggested something and she typed it in and for whatever reason we both looked at it and both erupted into laughter. We just laughed so hard. Maybe slap happy out of sleep deprivation or endlessly trying to find an interesting cover line about celebrity diets, but I had never seen her laugh so hard…
I admired so many things about Liz and I loved working with her. She was one of a kind and I will never forget watching her do her magic on covers and layouts. As a word person, I was and remain in awe of her talent and her ability to make copy more visually exciting.” –Senior editor, Caroline Schaefer Del Col
“I had featured Creme de la Mer on The View when I did the segment with Barbara Walters… Evelyn Lauder loved it so much she sent me the most beautiful bouquet of rainbow roses from Miho. It was the perfect opportunity to give it to Liz. I brought her gigantic-sized vat and I told her to spoil herself since she worked so hard… and just slather it on like Oil of Olay Body Cream….that cracked her up.” –Us Weekly Beauty Editor, Veronica Hinman
“She hugged me when she told me she was leaving the magazine. I couldn’t believe it. Like I had won the lottery. Which I think I did.” –Marla Garfield
After retiring from publishing, Betts pursued a master’s degree in engineering at NYU’s Tandon School.
It was Liz’s wish that any memorial tributes be made in the form of charitable donations to fightingchance.org
No more deadlines, Liz. But if there’s a Heaven Weekly, you’ll be recruited in no time.
Liz Betts was 63.