It's altogether fitting that Demmie Stathoplos's favorite color is black, because during her seven years as an SI writer-reporter and four years as a staff writer, that was her mood whenever a deadline approached. She worried, fretted, moaned and groaned. But out of her agony would come many splendid stories, especially when the piece dealt with her favorite sport, thoroughbred racing.
Since Stathoplos's sense of humor is also largely black (what else?), she's not quite certain what to make of all the good news that has come her way lately. For one thing, we're pleased to announce that Stathoplos, who joined the magazine as a reporter in 1969, is our newest senior editor. She's responsible for 24 sports, including horse racing, sailing, gymnastics and swimming, and she will be one of the editors directing our team of writers, reporters and photographers at next year's Winter Olympics, in Albertville, France.
"The fact that she was a good writer has a lot to do with her being a very good editor," says assistant managing editor Julia Lamb. "She really cares about a story as if it were her own, and the writers like that kind of involvement. They know they're in good hands."
Award-winning hands, actually. Last Friday, the day before the Preakness, coverage of which begins on page 40, Stathoplos became the first woman to receive the Old Hilltop Award, given annually by Pimlico Race Course for excellence in the coverage of thoroughbred racing. The list of previous winners includes such distinguished names as Red Smith, Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker.
"I hate to sound trite," says Stathoplos, "but so many people go through life working hard and doing a good job without ever getting any recognition for it. To be paid for doing something I really love, and then to win an award for it, makes me feel very fortunate."
On the wall of her office is a photo of Ruffian and a horseshoe from Alydar, both of whom you may have heard, but there's also a shoe from Golden Arrow, a plodder who was 18 years old and still racing when Stathoplos wrote about him in 1979. "He just kept on going," says Stathoplos, who feels a kinship with that kind of determination. Of all the stories she has written for SI, though, her favorite isn't about horse racing. She's particularly fond of a 1985 piece about Marge Schott, the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, because, says Stathoplos, "she reminded me of one of my eccentric aunts."
Stathoplos's close ties to her family are one of the reasons that she has a weekend home in Wells, Maine, where one of her two brothers lives and both of her sisters have summer cottages. Wells is a 4½-hour drive from Stathoplos's Manhattan apartment, but she gladly makes the trek whenever she can. Her usual traveling companion is her cat, Max, who thinks he's a dog. We'll give you one guess as to what color Max is.