updated 03/01/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/01/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

"I feel almost a fool using a 10-cent stamp to tell you I've already wasted 35 cents on PEOPLE," wrote one reader of our first issue. "Publication," another suggested, "should immediately cease." Fortunately, they were in the minority. As we approach our 30th-anniversary issue (April 12), we take a look back—starting with the first five years—at some of the most memorable covers in our history.

May 29, 1978
Bandaged leg and all, prepubescent sex symbol Brooke Shields was one of our most controversial covers.

July 7, 1975
By 1975, Muhammad Ali was making the transition from boxing champ to world statesman.

March 15, 1976
By 1976, Liz Taylor had gotten her second cover—12 more have followed (so far).

July 18, 1977
"This filmmaking stuff may be a fluke thing," Star Wars director George Lucas told PEOPLE in 1977. "I'm not going to have a family until I feel more financially secure."

December 11, 1978
The late John Ritter first appeared with his Three's Company costars

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