Lower East Side bloggerbar Lolita had a decidedly high school-ish vibe last night—a generation of ladies whose lives were so changed by Sassy magazine that they grew up to work in the media gathered there to fete the publication of Marisa Meltzer and Kara Jesella's book about that seminal teen mag. Doree and Emily were there. So was Atoosa Rubenstein.
Emily: Well first tell me what you thought of the book! As you know, I loved it.
Doree: I loved it too. All the behind-the-scenes stuff was great. They were pretty frank about Jane Pratt, I thought, without seeming catty.
Emily: I was talking to Kara about that! I hazarded a guess that they'd gotten much of their info from Christina Kelly. And she said that actually, they got much more of their info from Jane!
So, oh my god, Christina Kelly.
Doree: Christina Kelly. She's like our generation's older sister.
Emily: Exactly, like that Juliana Hatfield song, sort of! Actually that reminds me of the sobering conclusion I drew from last night. That all the people involved in Sassy are old now!
Doree: Yeah. When i was 12 and Jane Pratt was 24 she seemed super old! Or... wait. I was 10 and she was 24?
Emily: I guess when Jane was 24 I was...
Doree: SIX? FIVE? Oh man.
Emily: Um, five. Yeah. Anyway I think I freaked Christina Kelly out by being a crazed fan at first.
Doree: I think she must get that a lot.
Emily: Totally, I'm sure everyone was coming up to her and saying "I just have to tell you that you changed my life." Thing is, though? I can't think of anyone else I'd ever say that to!
Doree: Ha! Kim Gordon.
Emily: Kathleen Hanna.
Doree: Anyway! Can we discuss Atoosa?
Emily: YES! ATOOSA SPOKE TO YOU!
Doree: I know. I have been blessed.
Emily: What were her exact words?
Doree: "Is this the line for the bathroom?"
Emily: And was it?
Doree: No! She was like, "Oh thank goodness!" and ran in.
Emily: What an illuminating conversation.
Doree: She reminds me of that Lily Tomlin character. The little girl in the big chair.
Emily: Whoa! That is so dead on. I actually had to ask her to move when I was fishing my umbrella out of the pile by the door as I was leaving! I did not say, "Hi Atoosa, I'm sorry about being a part of the negative media. We kid because we love. Can you move so I can grab my umbrella?" But I SO should have.
Doree: I did not see her talking to Christina Kelly.
Emily: Thing is, she's very intimidating! I think being 7 feet tall is part of it.
Doree: But she was wearing a little girl dress! It's like she's playing dress up! Whenever she speaks in public she likes to tell the story of how she finally got to intern at Sassy.
Emily: And the way she tells it is a little different than the Sassy book has it, right?
Doree:The Sassy book says she applied for a million jobs there and they finally let her be an intern. She also tells some story about running into them in the bathroom and having toilet paper stuck to her? Or something like that. Remember in the book how they said that Sassy became this refuge for freaks, but only the right kind of freaks? Atoosa was not the right kind of freak. I can't really see her with Nirvana posters in her bedroom
Emily: Yeah, Atoosa has been open about the lack of Nirvana posters in her bedroom, right?
Doree:It's like, she was rejected by the popular cheerleaders and the popular outcasts.
Emily: Her preferred narrative is "I was a teen dork, and not the cool kind."
Doree: She was a dork in all the wrong ways. And it seems like the cool girls still think she's a big dork.
Emily: Well, as you know, I felt a little bit like a high school outcast at that party. (Let's bring it all back to me!) Because, as you say, the cool girls were in effect.
Doree: It was a little much of cool media girl overload. It seemed like people were sitting in cliques and talking shit about everyone else there.
Emily: Which was the coolest?
Doree:The T girls were very cool.
Emily: What other media outlets were represented? Jane obvs
Doree: Lola Ogunnaike was there, as was Alex "not a girl" Williams. There was the curly-haired Penthouse editor. It was funny to watch people kiss Atoosa's ass! Sorry, I keep bringing it back to Atoosa.
Emily: It kind of is all about Atoosa! Let's figure out why. I think she represents a very specific type of Sassy reader. Like, the title of the book is How Sassy Changed My Life. For some of us, Sassy changed our lives by introducing us to zines and bands and making it clear that there were other girls like us out there in the world somewhere.
For others of us, Sassy was just about about how cool it could be to work at a magazine. So all those girls grew up and now they work at a magazine. And maybe it's not what they'd envisioned, because nothing could ever be that awesome again for a variety of reasons, including the internet? So the party is like a reunion, but it's also sort of a wake for peoples' lost dreams. No wonder everyone seemed to be in a bitchy mood!
Doree: Yeah. i was actually thinking, again, because I think about this a lot, how different my high school experience would've been with the internet. And Sassy was the perfect pre-internet magazine. And maybe that is what Atoosa is trying to do—recreate Sassy online. But it's not going to work! Heh.
Emily: It's not. But why isn't it?
Doree:There's something off about her sensibility
Emily: Exactly. And it's sad, because recreating a Sassylike thing online is actually a GREAT idea. (An idea that every woman in that room last night has probably spent some time seriously contemplating, I'd wager.)
Doree:Oh totally. Can we discuss Jane Pratt more fully?
Doree: I felt like she was this specter.
Emily: She's a symbol of so many things. And the biggest revelation of the book, for me, was the confirmation what I'd heard for years—that her knack was for being a figurehead, and for putting wheels in motion—not so much for day-to-day running a magazine.
Emily: She's also a symbol of being very successful very young, and what a double-edged sword that can be. I think maybe that is one of the reasons why there's so much schadenfreude directed her way.
Doree: Right. 24! I still can't get over that.
Emily: All these women (totally projecting, BTW!) grew up thinking, "I want to be the editor in chief of a national magazine when I'm 24!"
Doree:YES, exactly. And that it was something possible.
Emily: It's comforting to know that early success is sometimes less desirable than, you know... success when you're ready for it, I guess?
Doree: Yes. That. Also Karen Catchpole was TWENTY?
Emily: College = WAY overrated.
Doree: Did we forget anything? Oh the 90s music was a nice touch.
Emily: I loved the DJ! Pixies, Breeders. It made me want to have a 90s theme party. Ew, gross.
Doree: Oh, the only thing I wish the book had was PHOTOS. Why no photos? Or cover scans?
Emily: Faber & Faber. I mean, it's a book with a tight budget, it's for a niche audience.
Doree: Yeah yeah. Still! I would've loved some photos of the office.
Emily: I'm just glad it got published! I remember the editorial meeting when it was out on submission. Someone said, "Who would buy this book?" And I was like, "UM ME I WOULD BUY TWENTY."
Doree: Haha, seriously. But I think it will do OK.
Emily: Especially after I buy twenty! I'm a woman of my word.
Earlier: How Christina Kelly Changed Jane Pratt's Life