We gave it a B+
Hey! Look! Over there, stumbling blindly between the Barbie dolls and the blush-on. It’s the preteen. Junior Miss, they used to call her. Few have a chance in hell, uh, high school, of evading her completely. Pensive, awkward, she now fidgets her way through sarcastically titled fare like My So-Called Life, Welcome to the Dollhouse, and Party of Five, provoking sad little gulps of recognition. She breaks out; she nurses terrible crushes; most of all, she just wants — deeply, desperately, hopelessly — to be cool, whatever that means. Junior Misfit, more like it.
This was the specimen for which 16 — a still extant ”cheesy-paper teen fanzine,” as it’s described here — was expressly created. Unlike Seventeen, 16 didn’t discuss the care and feeding of one’s complexion, the whole eye-shadow-versus-eye-color dilemma, or how to densely stuff a wild bikini. It addressed a far more pressing matter: boys. Cute boys. Pin-uppable boys. Rock stars, mostly. An eclectic grab bag of which appears to mark the mag’s 40-year anniversary in the sloppily compiled (by former editors Randy Reisfeld and Danny Fields) but endlessly engrossing Who’s Your Fave Rave?.
Who, indeed? With everyone from Jim Morrison to David Cassidy to a young John Travolta splayed out for the taking, one hardly knows where to start whacking the pinata. Some of these former teen idols have contributed fresh reminiscences on the whole sordid experience of being, well, a former teen idol. Contrary to 16‘s ”cutesy,” sanitized, Keith Partridge-ish presentation of him, sez Cassidy, ”I was a wild, f—ing maniac, banging every girl I could.” Whew! Confesses The Donna Reed Show‘s Paul Petersen: ”I couldn’t stand the smell of excited 14-year-old girls…it is an odor. And I didn’t care for it.” After this, it’s really a relief to have dear old Dick Clark weigh in: ”There was a formula of what young girls were interested in…whether or not it was true didn’t matter.”
Here’s what mattered: hairstyles. No — the guys’ hairstyles. There were the pompadours you could get lost in (Elvis, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell — who deserves a 16 high five for Name Most Emblematic of the Early ’60s.) There were the puddin’-basin cuts (when the Beatles started growing their hair — and messing about with drugs — readers shifted affections to the Monkees). There was the ill-fated Rick Springfield shag.
Springfield, in fact, seems to have been one of the few teen idols — Kurt Russell was another — that the magazine’s main editrix, Gloria Stavers, didn’t manage to catapult immediately to stardom. The much-admired Stavers, who died at 56 in 1983 (pssst — there’s dirt on her affair with Morrison), yanked the publication up to its peak circulation of a million in the late ’60s. Perhaps most admirably, she made sure each subject filled out a Playboy centerfoldesque ”fact sheet.” (Thus, Steven Tyler’s favorite recipe: brook trout meuniere.) Sometimes, though, she miscalculated her sex symbols. (Um, Leonard Nimoy?)
Sure, every once in a while, Susan Dey or Maureen McCormick might sneak into 16‘s pages and dispense some fey wisdom about losing weight or staying true to oneself. But for the most part, it’s been moptops, meaningful looks, and smooth, hairless chests all the way. For the preteen girl, this amounts to some form of escape. Groundbreaking social reform, perhaps not. But still, a swoon of her own. B+