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Still Sassy After All These Years

Turning forty has been great for me. I was scared of it; that I would get to be older and complain about whippersnappers or rock and roll. Mostly I've been looking back at my life thinking what got me through? I've especially been thinking about since I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Many things got me through of course: friends and family. Teachers. Little things like Ming Quong, the store I wrote about Friday. Movies, music and television. And Sassy. Ah, Sassy. Sassy Sassy Sassy. How sassy were you? Pretty darned sassy!

In the late eighties, all the "teen" magazines felt fake. It was full of fashion advice, how to get down to that perfect weight, get those perfect jeans. Oh yeah, how to get that cute guy to notice you. Because all girls like boys, isn't that always the way? If you didn't fit the Seventeen/Young Miss world, tough luck, girls. You're on your own. Until 1988, when Sassy made its debut.

Sassy was inspired by the Australian magazine Dolly (by the way, much of the information for this blog was taken from the book How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter To The Greatest Teen Magazine Of All Time written by Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer, a book I wish I wrote) It was going to take a new take on teen girls. They weren't going to be airbrushed. They weren't going to tell girls about getting the right guys. They were going to write about how girls really were. They were going to say that girls were a bit offbeat. They were dealing with a lot. They were-oh my! Having sex. Had issues with their bodies. Or maybe they didn't have those issues, and that was okay too. Sassy was going to accept girls as they were,perfect or unperfect.They were going to be the big sister who told it as it is. You might not like hearing it, but the truth was there.

I believe I got Sassy for my sixteenth birthday. I knew right away this was the magazine for me. It talked about books, movies. This beat belonged to Christina Kelly, who was dubbed by Sassy editor in chief Jane Pratt "rock and roll." Christina interviewed all the actors and rock and roll people. Sometimes she worked my nerves (I felt she was unfair to Natalie Merchant in an interview and was mean to Edie Brickell) but she had no fear. She did an interview with Charlie Sheen where you could tell his ego was already pretty darned big. In April 1992 she interviewed Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. Love was pregnant with Frances Bean, and they both looked young and happy. It's hard to believe two years later Cobain would kill himself. What's sadder is that Love and Frances Bean are estranged.


Karen Catchpole was "Sex"(again, Jane Pratt's nickname for her) Karen was the girl who knew about makeup, boys(if you liked them) and oh yeah, sex. She was the one who was the Dear Abby in the group, who told it like it is, and wrote the column "Zits and Stuff."


Yet my all time favorite was the one nicknamed "Drugs" by Jane, Catherine Gysin. Twenty-five years have passed, yet I can still remember some of the articles Gysin wrote: a girl committing suicide after being forced into stripping. Another girl whose parents were killed by her boyfriend. Kids who gambled. Guys who got their girlfriends pregnant-how one boy after taking his girlfriend in for an abortion had to hold her all night because she couldn't stop crying. In one great article, the story about a teenage marriage unraveling from when the wife decides to file for divorce to the ending when they first met.

Even in my early twenties, I still read Sassy. When I was in London my mother mailed them to me overseas. It started changing though. It wasn't as edgy as it once was. After it launched the magazine was targeted by right-wing groups because of its approach on sexuality.  I was getting tired of their love for 90210. I almost wanted to write them and say "God, are you serious?"  But in the early 90's, Catherine Gysin left. And disappeared. In How Sassy... it said she was writing a novel. But no novel came out. Silence.
In 1995 Sassy was taken over by Petersen Publications. Jane Pratt? Gone. Christina Kelly? Gone. Karen Catchpole was already gone before that. And that's when Sassy wasn't Sassy anymore. It was another teen magazine. Here's a sample of taglines from the covers of the "new" Sassy:
Prom 1995: Glam Slam.
Guys' Secret Love Signs
Fall Looks You Can't Live Without
From gawky to gorgeous!

Girls were turned off by the new format. Teen girls are ruthless yet true readers. They'll give it to you straight, no chaser. And if they don't like what you're saying, they'll say so. So in 1997, Sassy quietly merged into Teen Magazine.

Jane Pratt bounced back with the magazine Jane and now has a website called XO Jane. Christina Kelly and Karen Catchpole are still writing, still out there. Yet I always wondered what happened to Catherine Gysin? What happened to the novel she was writing? If anyone knows tell me; or if Catherine Gysin is reading this: Thank you so much (and Jane, Christina and Karen too) for your honest writing. You all taught a generation of girls to accept ourselves as we were.I hope you're all are well. Most of all, I hope you're still sassy after all these years.

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Great post.  I never read a

Great post.  I never read a teen magazine when I was growing up (my mother disapproved) but the closest I got to being a magazine fan, was Cosmopolitan, in my mid and late twenties.  I read it chiefly out of curiosity.  Like the TV series Sex and the City, years later, Cosmo was about people and issues I had no relation to, whatsoever.  It was like reading about aliens.  Neither I nor anyone in my social circle either had that kind of money, or lifestyle.  Nobody I knew had those kinds of conversations.  Still, it was very informative.