Once upon a time, if you wanted to pester a celebrity, get some catalogs to drool over, or share your opinions with the editors of your favorite periodicals, you had to write a letter (Literally! Pen to paper) and cough up, like a quarter or something for a stamp.
When I was a kid, I wrote a shit-ton of letters, because I read a shit-ton of magazines. I was fortunate—blessed, even, you might say—I spent most weekday afternoons at my grandparents’ house, where I had unlimited access to Entertainment Weekly, People, Rolling Stone, Interview, and Premiere, AND my grandparents, aunt and uncle kept me well stocked in Seventeen, Sassy, YM, and Teen from the time I was eight, until they either ceased publication (ALL OF THE TEARS FOR SASSY, FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER), or I left for college (THANKS, GUYS. YOU’RE THE BEST!!!!) You might think that was enough to satiate my pre-teen lust for the written word, but no. Most weekends, I also managed to talk my parents into buying me one of those newsprinty, poster-filled, tabloidy, teeny-bopper rags—you know, like Tiger Beat, Teen Beat, or Bop. Though I eagerly tore out posters of “No Doubt,” “Boyz II Men,” and “TLC,” to display on my bedroom walls, even as a kid, I mostly thought those kinds of magazines were dumb. This was during the post-Corys, but pre-Leonardo days, when Johnathan Taylor Thomas, or that kid from Boy Meets World (not the main kid, the other kid) was on the cover of every single one (little boys! I mean, really!) Nine year old me occasionally wrote letters, requesting more articles about my favorite crushes—Keanu Reeves, Luke Perry, Dean Cain (REMEMBER HIM? I mean, before he was super-creepy in that Laci Person movie?), Brad Pitt, and Denzel Washington. No, seriously I was legitimately pissed off about the lack of Denzel Washington in Tiger Beat. Also, I wrote a research paper about him in sixth grade, so, you know, if you ever need to know a pre-1996 Denzel Washington fact, I’m your gal.
I didn’t just pen angry letters to to childrens’ publications bemoaning the lack of heartthrobs that were 30 years my senior though (Denzel Washington was born in December of 1954. In Mount Vernon New York. In case you were wondering). I also wrote letters to the grown-up magazines, my favorite being a impassioned defense of Courtney Love that I penned to Premiere in the winter of ’96, which I signed with pseudonym “Courtney B.” (No, seriously, you guys, this one jerk wrote them a letter THAT THEY PUBLISHED, were he was all like, “I don’t want a magazine with HER on the cover on MY coffee table,” and I was like, “LISTEN, YOU, COURTNEY LOVE IS A NATIONAL TREASURE. HAVE YOU NOT SEEN “THE PEOPLE Vs. LARRY FLYNT?!!!” [I hadn’t actually seen it, because, you know, I was 11, and it was a movie about Larry Flynt, but obvs, that was TOTALLY beside the point.] I was devastated when it was not published.
Actually, (not surprisingly), the majority of my letters were never published…except for one. It was ’94 or ’95 (I was nine), and I was determined, DETERMINED to get my name in print. For some reason that I no longer remember, I concluded that Bop would be most likely to publish one of my letters, so I plopped down on the living room floor (my favorite letter writing and magazine reading spot) with a previous issue, and studied the letters that they’d opted to print. OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS. THEY PUBLISHED THE DUMBEST SHIT EVER. Like, seriously, it was all “BOP IS THE COOLEST, AND I LOVE JTT!!!!!11111” (Ok, these were probably handwritten initially, and some copy-editing was involved, I’m sure, so there was no actual “!!!!11111,” but were they written today, as internet comments, there would be lots of “!!!!1111.” Lots. Occasionally though, they did publish, and answer questions about upcoming movies or television shows, so that was my initial strategy. I wrote a few letters with movie questions, and then, finally, I went for it. I bit the bullet, and wrote, what I just knew they would eat up. It literally, pains me to type it out now, even though this was nearly twenty years ago. I said:
Bop has always been my favorite mag [not “magazine, but “mag.” That was crucial], but now I’m not sure. Do you hate me forever?
(LIES. ALL LIES. BOP WAS NEVER EVEN CLOSE TO BEING MY FAVORITE. FORGIVE ME, JANE PRATT, I KNEW NOT WHAT I DID. EXCEPT FOR I DID. I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT I WAS DOING. I WAS BLINDED BY THE GLORY OF BEING PUBLISHED.)
I cringed as I wrote it. I cringed as I sent it. But I knew they would print it…and the DID. They did print it, and they spelled my name “Kathryn Keagberg.” And the editor responded with his own comments; Not forever…several hundred years, perhaps (KILL ME. KILL ME NOW) and then a kindly reassurance that I was free to enjoy whichever magazines that I wished, but that he hoped I would continue to read Bop.
Since this was the days before the obligatory “Good news! We are publishing your letter!” e-mails, I discovered that my letter had been published during a trip to the grocery store. I ran to find my mom so that I could show her.
Me: “Look, mom! Bop published my letter.”
My mom: [nervously— I think she was aware of the type of letters I usually wrote] “They did?”
Me: “Uh-huh; READ IT!”
My mom: [reads it, and gives me this look like,you wrote that? Really?)”…I guess we should buy a copy.”
And buy a copy we did.