It was the summer of 1990. I was 14 years old and at a crossroads.
New Kids on the Block, Sweet Valley High books, and Growing Pains didn’t appeal to me anymore, and I was looking for whatever would come next.
I’m not sure how I came across Sassy magazine for the first time, but it was probably while browsing the magazine rack at a suburban Minneapolis Super America, looking for something to read other than the YM I had already read and the dozens of boy-crazy rags like The Big Bopper with Kirk Cameron’s goofy mug on the cover.
I remember reading Sassy for the first time knowing immediately that it was different. It called bullshit on the crap that other teen magazines fawned over and instead covered independent film, music and NYC culture. It was honest and funny and ironic, and it had the tone of a street-wise older sister who was much cooler than I was.
Sassy’s awesomeness is well documented on the internet—there’s even a book about it—so I’m not unique in saying that Sassy magazine changed my life. And it did, in a big way.
Back in the summer of 1990, Sassy’s editors compiled a small pull-out booklet for the July issue of the magazine. Titled 150 Things to Read, Watch, and Listen To, So You Don’t Die of Boredom This Summer, it was an annotated list of seminal records, movies, and books that were favorites of the editors and writers.
Not only had I not seen, listened to, or read any of the titles in the booklet, and I not even HEARD of most of them. And this intrigued me. It was like the cooler older sister was throwing down the gauntlet to see if I was up to the challenge.
And so I made it my personal quest to find the books, movies & music on the list and study them that summer.
Of course, this was all before the internet, before Amazon, Google, eBay, Netflix, YouTube, and iTunes made it ridiculously easy to find anything that you want instantly.
This was when tracking down physical copies of obscure titles was a quest, and the hunt became part of the media’s meaning.
A lot of the stuff on the list I flat-out didn’t get.
Movies I watched went right over my head—Dr. Strangelove for example. And when I listened to a band like the Buzzcocks, I heard mostly noise.
But though some of the movies, books, and music were cryptic to my 14-year-old brain, they planted something in my unconsciousness, and they created a life-long love of Stanley Kubrick, Lou Reed, and Frank Conroy.
In fact, I can trace just about every piece of media that I love back to that pull-out booklet from 1990.
Like almost all pieces of ephemera, my pull-out booklet was thrown out in the trash, and I never saw it again.
Until this spring when I was able to track down on eBay a July 1990 copy of Sassy with the booklet intact.
In the spirit of the true Internet, where everything is shared and nothing is ever lost, I decided to digitize the booklet’s suggestions so some 14-year-old girl has instant access to all the media it took me years to find on foot back in the ’90s.
To today’s 14-year-old girl, most of the stuff on the list is going to seem dated. But I hope it will help her understand her Gen X parents better, and know that wherever we are right now in culture, it came from someplace else.