Let’s Read Sassy, December 1988!

Sassy, commonly known by generation X girls as The Greatest Teen Girl Magazine of All Time, ran from 1988 to 1994. Founded by unstoppable force Jane Pratt and staffed by a handful of indie music enthusiasts, Sassy reached out to the crowd who didn’t fit in with Seventeen’s overly marketed demographic of shiny pop and airheaded teen spirit. Sassy girls liked shopping at vintage stores, sensitive intellectual boys, reading books outside of English class, and generally marched to the beat of their own drums. After the magazine was sold to a much larger media company in 1994 and folded into the far more generic TEEN magazine, Jane Pratt continued to venture her editorial style into the women’s magazine Jane from 1997-2007, followed by the massively popular online magazine xoJane, which ran from 2011 to 2016.

Sassy followed the same school of Playboy and Mad branding – making the writers of the magazine familiar and cool, getting the readers familiar with them on a first-name basis so that they felt more like your cool, distant, older sisters who were having the time of their lives in college and less like 40 year old mothers in cubicles attempting to sound hip (avoiding that YM Syndrome at all costs). This is a concept massively ahead of its time when applied to young people, as we see it nowadays becoming the default with YouTube celebrities who appeal to young people. For more words on what Sassy meant to a whole generation of women, check out this fun article from Daily Break on what made the magazine stand out. There’s also an excellent Tumblr called Sassy Magazine LIVES.

I’m gonna break it to you now – the totally original and free R.E.M. poster was not included with this issue when I bought it. I am sorry. I hope it hung on the wall of the magazine’s original owner in a place of pride for many years.

I’ve never been much of a soaps person, so I thought at first that this was an actual person named Max Holden – the most deliberately 80s name ever. No, Max Holden is a character with an impeccable mullet who was played by James DePaiva for fifteen years. Of notable things to happen to his character on One Life to Live, his brother was killed by an exploding wedding cake.

Duffey Strode IS Dudley Dursely!

I ran out of time to talk about Duffey and the other child preachers in this review, so I apologize if you were looking forward to that horror story. There’s plenty of primary source coverage of it elsewhere on the Internet.

You don’t want to be dateless and daggy, do you?

Catherine being the Serious Investigator writer on the editorial team will pay off later, when she’s forced to hang out with Jason Bateman for the day.

Greatest reader mail ever.

  • YOUR MODELS ARE SO UGLY – “That was our editorial staff”.
  • Brian Bloom was primarily a daytime soap star in the 80s, then moved on with his career to become some kind of pet toy mogul, and then he was a cop for a while, and then he literally became the Call of Duty guy. Evidently he really offended a teenage girl in New Jersey in 1988 with last month’s interview. Decidedly not a spunk (whatever that means).
  • Of course I looked at the spine of this issue as soon as I read the letter from Rosie from San Jose. It says “Happy New Year”.

Ryan and Katie “I can’t get a job unless my famous father is also in the picture with me” Wagner, modeling…hair spray? Denim? Scary mime makeup? The discrepancy between their skin tones makes it look like he has a geisha in a headlock. Ok, some Googling later, Gagoon Sasson is a brand of jeans.

You need to see this masterpiece of a commercial from Kut Rate Fashions in North Carolina.


I will spare you the broken neck and relay to you that Robert Downey Jr. has not one, not two, but three movies in the pipeline for 1988-89! None of them particularly memorable! Notably they skip over something called That’s Adequate, which was a really terrible Hollywood studio satire.

I know this sounds crazy, but I think RDJ had a cocaine problem back in the day.

Brian Bloom would like a cure for cancer for Christmas. That sounds like a good guy thing to wish for, right? Maybe he is a spunk after all.

I should get this out of the way now for you Jason Bateman fans, because it’s going to come up again later: teenage Jason Bateman is a dork. Like, a MASSIVE dork.

Groady is now grotty, so unless you want to be grotty like Keanu Reeves (what did he do to deserve this?) you have to say grotty instead of groady.

Johnny Depp wants to play the cockroach in an adaptation of The Metamorphosis. I don’t think Tim Burton has any interest in that, sorry.

As distracting as those pained model ducklips are, what is happening below the waist here? Is it giant poofy white pants? A French maid apron? A Victorian bustle pad? Has she just escaped from the hospital after major surgery? What ARE those?

“I want the least flattering haircut ever that takes all 68 of your products here to get perfect.”

“I can give you an over-gelled mini-bouffant with some spiky pieces that give your head the shape of a shattered light bulb, and how about we overpluck your eyebrows to further emphasize how wide apart your eyes are?”

“Great. And my man-friend?”

“Oh, whatever, just have him stand next to you and get a contact high off your hairspray.”


If your prom dress can’t be wadded up into a sequined ball the size of your fist, move along. We don’t want you here.

Lil’ ditty

’bout Jack and Diane

two American kids smellin’ like Coty Musk for Men.

Jack he’s gonna be a football star

But Diane’s gotta pull him out from the trunk of his car.

I think Jane and her crush on Michael Stipe need a room. She is thirsty for some of his orange crush. “Oh my god, what if this band wrote a song with the words orange crush, but, like, they took themselves super seriously, and they called the song ‘Orange Crush’? Wouldn’t that be, like, SO RADICAL? Who the hell cares about lyrics!” Jane, you’re embarrassing yourself here.

I later learned that Jane and Michael Stipe are still besties to this day and at least one side of their camps have confirmed that they used to date. Hopefully at some point she learned to take a breath and maybe listen to the lyrics.

It takes a little suspension of belief to picture teens in the late 80s being interested in Keith Richards, but maybe it was something you’d give a listen to in order to look like you had sophisticated taste? A teenager’s parents could very plausibly have enjoyed the Rolling Stones in their heyday, which I can’t imagine would be cool for that teenager to associate with at. all.

Andrea goes full “gag me with a spoon” on the Anthrax album review. It’s not THAT bad!

And now, Google Translate presents: Georges Marciano for Guess? Jeans!

Uh, potresti toglierti il culo grasso dalla mia moto? Grazie…

I miei lombi ben vestiti implorano una donna di rapire in una balla di fieno!

Sono qui! E questo sta diventando prurito!

I’m glad they scheduled this photoshoot between Debi’s shower routine and her ultrasound appointment.


Ok, so I don’t know if this is the right place to say this, but the Iconic Marilyn Monroe Look has always unsettled me. Something about the teeth and the open mouth and the white skin and red lips and the mostly closed black-lashed eyes just looks so predatory. Madonna’s video for “Material Girl” a few years before had inspired a new wave of Marilyn tributes, so here we are with a Marilyn-inspired fashion shoot. Enjoy the nightmares!

Let’s summarize:

  • I love the swooning teenage girl voice that this article is written in. Admittedly, this is glorious angelic hair-era Michael Stipe so he was dreamy art-rock catnip for the art-rock cool girls.
  • Michael Stipe: like, oh my god, he’s so cool and just so intellectual and he’s like a total gentleman, he told me to put my seatbelt on and did I mention that there’s a cool braid in his hair? It’s so cool. He’s so cool. He’s so sensitive, like did I tell you already that he said he feels sorry for plants in the city? Oh my god. He wouldn’t bathe for three months if it meant that he could raise $10,000 to save a child. He totally loves plants, too.
  • What did George Michael do to these people to make them hate him so much?
  • I listened to Green while writing this to see what the fuss was about, and it is a damn good album, so thanks Sassy!
  • Did reading this article count as a rickroll?

I have one real nitpick here, and it’s that the clothes in this magazine are CRAZY expensive, and not even relative to their readership. Just one layer of this outfit is going for $180 – in 1988 money! If I can’t afford a $92 ruffled gothic poet shirt with my 2018 grown-ass woman job, what kind of teenager in 1988 can afford it for the equivalent of almost $200? A complete outfit from one of these styled looks would cost about a grand. Wake up and smell the coffee Sassy!

I haven’t made much note of layout and design here, but this is all the work of one Neil McCutcheon and for the most part he does a really nice job of making the magazine look good. I say “mostly”, because this overlay graphic nearly obliterates the first portion of text and if I was a Jason Bateman fangirl in 1988 I’d be more than annoyed by this, but Sassy was only a few issues old at the time so maybe it got better (it probably got so much worse). Anyway, what have we learned about 19 year old Jason Bateman from this? Better yet, what did we learn about staff writer Catherine Gysin here?

  • Catherine is clearly out of her element here and is probably foaming at the mouth over having to hang out with some c-lister from The Hogan Family, who isn’t even the COOL Bateman sibling, when meanwhile her co-workers are driving around with Michael Stipe.
  • Jason’s a little…grotty in real life. Catherine seems to like a grotty boy.
  • Philly Boy appears to have hit the TV screen as Crossing the Mob. The plot synopsis goes something like Bateman’s character impregnates his high school girlfriend (Maura Tierney!) and somehow this leads to him being in the mafia. The mob boss? You guessed it: Frank Stallone. No, really!
  • Catherine is really wishing that he’d stop talking about cars.
  • Catherine also regrets asking him about his taste in music.
  • Jason ditches Catherine to get burgers with his boys, gets a little too grotty with a Pepsi can and Catherine bails. This was a terrible date.
  • Catherine seems to get mistaken for Justine Bateman a lot, because of course she does.

The headline should really be enough for you, but it gets better with headings like “Smoking Makes You Ugly”. Counterpoint: not smoking makes you fat. Looking a little daggy there, Sassy.

Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club inspiration. You would have had to be nuclear-grade cute to pull this look off and not look like the crazy woman who goes through your trash in the middle of the night.

But I do adore the sailor dress. Again, to repeat an earlier point, these clothes are ridiculously expensive. A lot of these clothes are sourced from Screaming Mimi’s, which looks to be an East Village vintage fashion mecca. I wonder if the point of this is really to inspire girls to go raid vintage stores and try to find their own interpretations of these looks, because I can’t imagine the average kid actually being able to afford what would have been a $300 vintage sailor dress. Even daddy’s credit cards are stretching it here.

This tells the story of how one girl started with a silly enough outfit and then rummaged around in her closet and continued to add more and more socks, sweaters, jackets, and scarves until she stiffly emerged from her closet as a gasping sentient pile of clothing. She then collapsed and died from suffocation.

Look at their beastly hideous models aka the Sassy editorial staff! One of which is in the process of being eaten alive by everything in her closet! SAVE MARY KAYE AND BUY A SCARF!

The Walkman fanny pack belt has to be one of the dorkiest things I’ve ever seen.

One can never go wrong with a foot of bubblegum. I would also probably wear both of those sweaters.

The Sassy paint-flecked sweatshirt and red leggings are a super cute look. I’m amazed at how timeless that is.

The PWP 40 is “surprisingly affordable”, but they don’t mention the price in the ad. Because, honey, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. And that price, according to some light research, was about $1250 in today’s money. That would buy so many ruffled blouses and pairs of leg warmers!

I couldn’t NOT defend the honor of George Michael, so of course I had to take this quiz. I got an 18. I am a champion at nodding and smiling ambiguously in awkward potentially friendship-ending situations.

Ok, Michael age 20, that is some Patrick Bateman serial killer talk. Run away from these boys as fast as you can, girls, yes, even Ken Ober from MTV, who seems to be of the “women are only looking for ways to ruin your life” school of thought. I really hope that none of these guys grew up to be politicians or anything. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m afraid to look.

And how dare you dis Elvira!

Buying your asshole brother a subscription to a feminist women’s health magazine is quite a sassy suggestion, Sassy. Snaps to you.

My bullshit detector is screaming over the whole “my football playing boyfriend already has full-blown AIDS and only found out because of a routine physical”, but I hope that all worked out for you, Desperate For An Answer.

And now, shower thoughts from stoned teenage girls.

There was probably a lot of back and forth in the Sassy office about how the two separate headers smash together to say, dismissively, STUFF YOU WROTE – BIG DEAL. Big DEAL? We’re talking about APARTHEID OREOS here! We need to know if Catherine dreams the same dreams as us! We need to know if River Phoenix has TEETH!

Way to go and spoil the plot of Heathers, Christian. Eh, it’s cool, not like anyone ever saw it when they were all in line to see Gleaming the Cube for the seventh time instead right?

I strongly associate Christian Slater at the height of his teen heartthrob rule with having that one little hoop in his ear, which made him all kinds of sexy and dangerous, and it seems that he first got pierced while shooting Gleaming the Cube. Fascinating Christian Slater trivia!

I took a sniff to see if the Sassy Parfum still lingered in the paper. It didn’t, unless Sassy Parfum originally smelled pleasantly of 30 year old magazines.

The one mention of weight loss in this whole magazine is an ad for weight-loss pen-pals, which is pretty amazing when considering that female-targeted magazines of the time were virtually kept in print by the diet pill industry.

I would kill for those pointy-toed double-buckle flats from Blackout Footwear.

Not much to say here, but I love her style.

Yes, but what matches my outfit when I’m crying myself to sleep over my boyfriend breaking up with me because he said he had AIDS? Does this go with my REM album? My dorkass Walkman fanny pack? If I’m wearing eight schoolbus yellow scarves at once, do I need to match my watch to them, or do I match my watch to my three turquoise berets? Do I need to wear a watch for every pair of legwarmers?


Thanks for reading another week with me! Next week we’re going into the ugly ugly early 90s with our first review of Rolling Stone, to see what this gross old piece of shit had to say in 1994 and if it’s still shocking to our weary souls in 2018.