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If departments of a magazine were the parts of an orchestra, the production department would be the conductor. By bringing harmony to the efforts of editors, the art staff and the copy room, production pulls a magazine together and sends its contents to the engravers, the printing presses—and, ultimately, the readers.
The production manager of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is Gene Ulrich (SI, Jan. 25, 1982), but while he vacations on his 32-foot sloop Rosebud on Long Island Sound, Deputy Production Manager George Infante is holding the conductor's baton. Ulrich couldn't have left the magazine in better hands.
Infante contracted what he calls "printing ink syndrome" at 15. After classes at Manhattan's High School of Commerce, he worked first as a messenger and then as a proof boy for a typography shop on East 45th Street. His artistic roots go back further: His late father, George Sr., was art director at the Young & Rubicam ad agency, and a master calligrapher who was occasionally commissioned by President Dwight Eisenhower to create scrolls for Proclamations of State.
The elder Infante tried to interest young George in calligraphy by having him practice rows of circles and ovals on a big white artist's pad. "But it got boring," says George. "I reached a point in the art end where I knew it wasn't for me." Happily, for us, he turned to production.
After that first job, Infante decided to forgo college and went on to work at several New York publishing concerns before he came to SI in 1977. "I've always been a sports addict," he says, "but since coming here my perspective has changed somewhat. I care less now about scores or players, and a lot more about how long it takes to fly film from the game to New York."
Infante says that working at SI is the high point of his production career, but admits his second job, at McGraw-Hill, or at least applying for it in 1960, was the most important of his life. Infante was helped in filling out his application by a charming secretary, Patricia Fiordalisi. "She got to the question about my home phone number," he says, "and I told her I wouldn't give her mine until she gave me hers." She balked, but Infante's persistence paid off; not only did he get the number, he got her hand in marriage.
The Infantes live in the New York City suburb of Larchmont and have three children, George, 18, Donald, 16, and Ruth, 12. Having grown up in the city himself, Infante particularly enjoys suburban pleasures like gardening or swimming at the beach club with the family. "He also reads anything he can get his hands on," says Patricia.
Infante's favorite book is The Pilgrim's Progress, which could not be more fitting. Like its hero, Christian, at the end of the book, Infante is unflappable as he encounters the trials of magazine life, such as Impending Deadline and Revised Layout. When the tempo really picks up around here as SI closes on Sunday nights, it's comforting to know a man like George Infante is calling the tune in production.