I’ve amassed a small collection of teenage fan/fashion magazines from the 60s through the very early 80s (I’d love to have some from “my” era of 1984 through 1988, but for whatever reason they’re hard to find and/or absurdly overpriced). As pop culture time capsules they just can’t be beat, and reading them from an adult perspective provides both an amusing and slightly unsettling experience.
The gimmick of “celebrity lifestyle” magazines is focusing on how accessible most celebrities are, how much they’re just normal people, even though they make more money per month than most people will see in a lifetime, often just for doing little more than standing around and looking attractive. This is how you end up with people like Gwyneth Paltrow “writing” cookbooks, when in reality the closest she probably gets to entering her kitchen is when she’s directing the maid which way to leave the house.
Even the kid celebrities are portrayed as just regular folks, who still have to do their homework and listen to their parents, whose salaries they often pay. One of the magazines in my collection, an issue of Tiger Beat from 1979, features a two page photo spread of Scott Baio and his family moving into a new house, with a picture of Baio holding a cardboard box captioned “Moving into a new house is a really big job and he had to lift some very heavy boxes!” What the article doesn’t mention is that the house was likely paid for by the money a then-barely out of high school Baio earned from being a child actor. Stars: they’re just like us!
Teen magazines also encouraged their young, predominantly female readers to believe that, after getting tired of dating beautiful but vapid Hollywood girls, what their favorite stars really want is a regular girl who they can just kick back and be themselves with, maybe someone like…you? Perhaps Shaun Cassidy’s soulmate would be found in an eighth grade homeroom somewhere in a suburb of Omaha, and it was only a matter of time before they’d be together. That resulted in articles with headlines like “Leif: What it Takes to Be His Girlfriend–Or His Wife!”, ignoring the fact that Leif Garrett was 17 at the time, and had no business even pondering what he wanted in a wife (in case you were wondering, the article recommended that the future Mrs. Garrett should enjoy celebrating holidays and receiving flowers).
An October 1972 issue of Tiger Beat ran an article purportedly to be a list of 25 young male stars, and the ways they’d tell that special girl how they feel. Quotes are used, as if to suggest that they’re direct from the source, but the corny, stilted tone of all of them reads more like some hapless intern got stuck having to come up with things a teenage girl might want to hear a boy say, rather than what he would actually say. Also, the fact that some of the stars listed aren’t exactly boys puts a vaguely creepy edge on the whole thing. Nevertheless, don thine heart eyes, and read forth…
- Wayne Osmond (age 21, member of the Osmond Family): “A little something picked out especially for you. And a great big kiss to go with it!”
- Alan Osmond (age 23, member of the Osmond Family): “A gentle squeeze upon your fragile hand, as we walk together under the moonlight!”
- Randolph Mantooth (age 27, star of TV’s Emergency!): “Sweet nothings. The kind I’d whisper softly in your cute little ear!”
- Jackie Jackson (age 21, member of the Jackson Family): “A song I’d sing only to you! One that describes my love for you. I could be singing forever!”
- Marlon Jackson (age 15, member of the Jackson Family): “A phone call, bright and early to tell you good morning and wish you a happy day!”
- Jermaine Jackson (age 17, member of the Jackson Family): “A bouquet of flowers. Those I picked myself in an open meadow with you on my mind!”
- Michael Gray (age 21, star of TV’s Shazam!, also recently played himself in two episodes of Archer): “Lots of love notes, cards and things, so every day you’ll be sure to know how much I love you!”
- Butch Patrick (age 19, Eddie Munster himself): “Just one look at you! Being near you is the best place to be. It’s wonderful!”
- Donny Osmond (age 14, the only Osmond that matters): “A card I made just for you, that tells you what’s inside my heart!”
- David Cassidy (age 22, David fucking Cassidy): “Lots of gentle kisses on your sweet and tender lips, morning, noon and night!” (NOTE: this was some six months after Rolling Stone ran this infamous cover story on Cassidy, in which he expresses his strong distaste for being a teen idol, and cops to banging groupies on a regular basis)
- Mitch Vogel (age 16, co-star of TV’s Bonanza): “A gentle touch upon your cheeks and tender kiss upon your lips!”
- Benny DeFranco (age 19, member of the DeFranco Family, the white, Italian, less successful answer to the Jacksons and the Osmonds): “Red roses, because they’re the color of your sweet lips, and lemon drops, because they remind me of sunshine and so do you!”
- Merrill Osmond (age 19, member of the Osmond Family): “Flowers by the dozen–especially roses. Or, just one rose. Did you know that means love?”
- Danny Bonaduce (age 13, future reality show scumbag): “A message I’ve written in the sand that says it clearly–I love you!”
- Bobby Sherman (age 29(!!!!), actor and singer): “Intimate moments. All the beautiful ones we’d share together!”
- Sam Hyman (age unknown, evidently famous just for being David Cassidy’s best friend): “A basket of bread, cheese and wine, for a Sunday picnic in the park!”
- Mark Hamill (age 21, at this point he was known mostly for guest appearances on The Partridge Family and Night Gallery): “A romantic dinner by candlelight, a walk along the beach and a sweet, soft goodnight kiss at your door!”
- Michael Jackson (age 14, Michael Jackson): “Laughter! The beautiful kind we share when we’re together just being happy!”
- Nino DeFranco (age 17, member of the DeFranco Family): “Incense, peppermints, flowers and candy! All the sweet things that remind me of you!”
- Jay Osmond (age 17, member of the Osmond Family): “Hugs and kisses as we’te cuddling together in front of a roaring fire!”
- Ben Murphy (age 30(!!!!), star of TV’s Alias Smith and Jones): “An evening shared over a romantic dinner with soft music, and later, an embrace in my arms that you’ll never forget!”
- Tony DeFranco (age 13, member of the DeFranco Family): “A poem I’ve written especially for you, to keep in your heart forever!”
- Wayne Osmond (age 19, member of the Osmond Family: “A little something I picked out especially for you. And a great big kiss to go with it!”
- Christopher Knight (age 15, Peter Brady): “A happy smile! Cause you’d be there smiling back at me.”
- Barry Williams (age 18, Greg Brady): “Tender words. The kind that say how much I love you. What do you think of that?”
Gosh, Barry, I think that sounds positively dreamy!
Now, for the most part, imagining 13 year-old Tony DeFranco awkwardly presenting a girl with a poem he’s written especially for her (to keep in her heart forever), is kind of cute. 29 year-old Bobby Sherman talking about “intimate moments” in a magazine meant for girls half his age? Significantly less cute. But if the whole idea is that this is harmless fantasy, then I suppose “intimate moments” could involve drinking hot cocoa and watching a sunset together. As long as he’s with his special girl, and that special girl is you, Dawn Wiener lookalike from Altoona, Pennsylvania, that’s all that matters. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if it’s not too late to be Leif Garrett’s girlfriend.