Down Memory Alley | Newberry

Down Memory Alley

I have been tripping down nostalgia lane with a boxful of eBay fodder that’s been sitting around for a while. I knew these would take several photographs and a couple of read-throughs to make them look tasty online, and … Well, it wasn’t just the work that was holding me off. There are dark alleys off nostalgia lane, and I felt these were sure to take me there.

What I have here is a box of what I used to refer to as Teen Tiger Mag, a box of teen magazines of an era just a TOUCH after my own, but close enough to my era that I still remember a lot of the names and faces. (Especially THAT one: used to send her a birthday card every year. No, I’m not saying, so forget about it.) They’ve been well kept: the ones the original owner drooled over were kept in another box. These are basically her also-rans.

If you are somehow unfamiliar with the genre often magazine, these are magazines like Teen Beat or Tiger (not really Teen or Seventeen) which feature articles about recent young actors and singers with titles filled with exclamation points. How to Be HIS Valentine! What HE wants From Life! How to Dress Like Him/Her/It/Them and Be the Envy of Your Pathetic Friends! These titles, like those on any kind of pop culture fan magazine, promise much more than the reader will get, or even expect. HIS Deep Dark Passion seems to run to things like chocolate marshmallow ice cream and HER Heart’s Desire is a natural person with a good sense of humor.

Perhaps some readers took the articles seriously, but many, many more bought them for the latest pix of their faves (photographs of their favorite star). Here are those faces from the late 1970s: dewy and fresh, smiling into the camera. These pictures are a huge part of their appeal now, reminding us that once upon a time, John Travolta, say, actually looked this young.

Of course, it doesn’t take long for the joy of seeing these celebrities again gives way to the realization that I wasn’t really that interested in seeing them the first time, and at that point the value of looking as these young faces, unlined by years of divorce and DUI comes from the ghoulish pleasure of knowing what became of some of them. This sexy bachelor got married and stayed married to the same woman for (so far) forty years, that sexy bachelor got involved in a LOT of lawsuits with unpleasant undertones, and that sexy bachelor is now a middle-aged woman. Ain’t it funny how time slips away.

Some of these smiling faces were just at the beginning of a long career, and some were trembling on the brink of hasbeendom. You catch the story at an early episode, with stars whose shows have been cancelled and are going it alone, stars who dropped out of their hit shows to go it alone, and, of course, this young man: known primarily as the cute youngest brother in a singing group, he thinks he can go it alone and is starting with a role in a movie a LOT of people hated. (What DID become of Michael Jackson?)

I spent a certain amount of time just looking up the ones whose names I don’t recall, singer, athlete, sitcom star music, and finding out who they are now: music producer, prominent attorney, agent selling timeshares in Florida, voiceover artist, cable show host. At least one, so far, who had a moment in the spotlight in Us magazine, apparently dropped from the face of the Earth. (If a Google search doesn’t turn you up, there’s a good chance you never existed at all.)

And what does all this matter to us today? I, personally, take it as a sign of hope for us all in our current contagion, that though, of course there were casualties, the world did eventually recover from Disco Fever (to say nothing of the dreaded Saturday Night version).