A Tribute to Sassy Magazine

by Grace Evans


Posted by Ariana Anderson and Grace Evans



Sassy Magazine, arguably the best teen magazine of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s and a great source of inspiration for BUST, was paid tribute this week by The Talent Show Brand Variety Show, hosted at Littlefield in Brooklyn. The event sold out with lighting speed, but we were lucky enough to get in.


Hilarious hosts Elna Baker and Kevin Townley threw pinches of glitter into the air and read letters from readers that had been published in Sassy throughout the evening. Kevin and Elna even brought the Sassy fashion of the early ‘90s to life right before our eyes: Kevin showed off Doc Martens with socks and sported a windbreaker tied around his waist, and Elna had several wardrobe changes, including an American flag turban (inspired by the Mayim Bialik cover) a denim maxi skirt made from a pair of jeans and “the pillowcase dress” inspired by Sassy’s DIY section.



Later Elizabeth Spiridakis, of the style blog White Lightning, walked us through the fashion pages of Sassy, pointing out what a truly unique (and at times hilarious) look Sassy presented to teenagers. 


The night kicked off with host Kevin and his band, Bambï, playing a mash-up of two songs (“Hey Baby” and “Don’t You Want Me Baby”) from the EP of Sassy’s staff band, Chia Pet.


Then the darling band Supercute! covered two Chia Pet songs, and one of which they were accompanied by original Chia Pet member and Sassy staffer, Jessica Vitkus, on vocals and guitar.


Authors of the book How Sassy Changed My Life, Marisa Meltzer and Kara Jesella led a panel discussion between Sassy fashion editor Mary Clarke, Sassy fact-checker/writer Jessica Vitkus, and former Sassy intern Christine Muhlke. 

Christine Muhlke had the privilege of tagging along for the famous interview with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, and she described the effect that meeting Courtney had on her: “I had never seen feminists like that before. I wanted to be that kind of feminist.” Jessica Vitkus explained how the staff band didn’t actually exist before a staffer got them a gig at CBGB’s and they were forced to learn to play instruments in three weeks.


Various sections of the magazine were recreated. One of our favorite moments of the night was the recreation of Sassy’s “Dear Boy” advice column. The questions were asked by totally endearing teenage girls from Supercute! (one of whom is still a pre-teen), Tavi Gevinson, and Jamie Keiles of The Seventeen Magazine Project, and answered by Kurt Braunohler, who managed to deftly answer their questions with the utmost sensitivity while being totally hilarious. Another contributor to the show was Jodi Lennon, who had a letter published in the “Dear Boy” column. Iggy Pop wrote back to her. Her question asked how to know when you’re receiving a hickey, and comedian Dave Hill posed as Iggy while he read to read the response: “It feels like you’re being nibbled by an electric snake.” How helpful.

It was neat to see old Sassy editors and hear them talk about the magazine that they loved. Sassy Editor-in-Chief Jane Pratt sent in a video, since she couldn’t be at the event, describing her joy and amazement at how much Sassy meant, and still means, to readers. 


Mandy Stadtmiller, one of the runners up for the “Sassiest Girl in America” competition, explained how she has Sassy to thank for most of her successful career. Then Janeane Garofalo led a live competition for the “Sassiest Boy in America.” Contestants included Joe Coscarelli, a talented jump-roper and the token male-writer for Rookie, then perennial teenager Dave Hill sang a rendition of Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” with backup from a member of Guided by Voices which ultimately disqualified him from the competition for having outside help. Clearly Janeane took her judging duties very seriously! The winner was sixteen year-old Evan from Illinois who rapped an original song.


And, of course the highlight of the night: This American Life host Ira Glass interviewed Tavi Gevinson, famous teen author of the beloved blog Style Rookie from her bedroom in Oak Park, Illinois. The fifteen-year-old feminist talked about her upcoming digital and occasional print magazine Rookie, and how it will be aimed at a wider audience than simply cool, alternative teens; “I think that teenagers, maybe, feel like a different person everyday,” Tavi told Ira. Tavi has found endless inspiration in Sassy, and she even said that she might want to steal the “Ask A Boy” column.


Top photo: Elna Baker, host of  The Talent Show Brand Variety Show

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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