Star Hits staffers Q&A – Part 2!

Welcome to part two of our series of Q&A’s with Star Hits staffers! If you missed part one, featuring editors David Keeps and Suzan Colón, then you’d better click here!

Now that you’re caught up, it’s time to see what these lovely folks had to say: I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to share their memories, and their personal photos!

Crystal Bowers (née Brown), Mark Coleman, Steve Korté, Alicia D. Keshashian, and Sam Moon Rafferty (née Pietropinto) are our victims this time around!

Alicia didn’t fill out the questionnaire, but she shared a few thoughts (and photos) that I’d like to pass along:

ALICIA: I was the art director at Star Hits – as well as many of the other magazines-a-minute published by Felix Dennis. WOW!, Attitude, and many of the special publications. I rose to art director following Phoebe – who I think had to go back to England because of some visa issues?

It was like the perfect storm – a group of young wacked out music enthusiasts all crammed into a little New York City office which almost burst with energy and, of course, attitude. Though music wasn’t really my strength, color and pattern were my language. I couldn’t ask for a job so suited to my liberal love of color, pattern and photography with a dash of fashion and superstars thrown in. The test was to see how busy we could make the page and still read it! We had a few misses but what the f? It usually looked good.

Photo shoots with the musicians were the best – with any luck we got to see past the image and could catch a glimpse of the “true artist” – David and Suzan certainly had front row seats to most of the action.

I’m sending you some of the pics I have…while, for example, I have a shot of me being sandwiched by Crowded House  I can’t share them out of respect for the photographers. But I’ll send you some…and maybe you’ll get a laff…

I was crazy mad stupid for INXS. Those boys were nothing but delightful. At one point they were HUGE and we couldn’t get time with the band, however, they said Suzan and I could come to their gig in Philly (?) – just hang out. So I took my Polaroid and shot images in the tour bus.  Then we had to fabricate some lame story from the pics (Mr Yellow-Tinted Glasses [Publisher Felix Dennis – Who dat? Ed.] was not so happy with it).  AND on top of that we missed the last train back to NYC,. but Tim Ferris was such a doll and we just hung with them til morning (I think). Also loved visiting with Depeche Mode. Martin? Quiet, shy, brilliant, adorable and totally inaccessible. Oh well. the list goes on.

I have all my issues stashed – good for a laff.

And now, read on for the rest of the answers and photos from our friends at Star Hits….

Editors Mark Coleman and Steve Korte join a crowd of ecstatic fans outside Radio City Music Hall after an a-ha concert. That’s Mark in the middle and Steve at upper right.  - Steve

Editors Mark Coleman and Steve Korté join a crowd of ecstatic fans outside Radio City Music Hall after an a-ha concert. That’s Mark in the middle and Steve at upper right.

BIG BUNNY asks: “Could you start by telling us how it all began with STAR HITS? When did YOU start and/or depart?”

STEVE: Our very wealthy, very eccentric publisher, Felix Dennis, came from England and made a ton of money in the United States with his poster magazines featuring kung-fu star Bruce Lee. Felix then licensed the rights to publish an American version of the very popular British magazine SMASH HITS. That name was already taken in the U.S., so he had to call it STAR HITS, which I don’t think anyone liked very much. I joined the company as the advertising director in 1984, just as Neil Tennant was leaving the magazine and moving back to England. Ad sales for STAR HITS had a few ups and many more downs, and I was lucky enough to switch to the editorial side of the magazine after about six months. That was the smartest move I ever made! STAR HITS lasted until 1989, but as it faded away Felix had us all working on three teen magazines WOW, HOT, and WOW WHOPPER (yes, that was really its name), a fashion magazine ATTITUDE, a metal magazine METALLIX, and a hip-hop magazine FULL EFFECT. Working on those six magazines was quite schizophrenic. On one day I could be interviewing Judas Priest and Alyssa Milano (not together, though). I was at the company until the very end in 1992, and in fact one of my final duties was clearing out all the pictures and returning them to the photographers and photo agencies. I remember we had tons of pictures of an aspiring teen actor who was shirtless and sported a really ugly mullet haircut. His name was Brad Pitt. Whatever happened to him?

MARK: In October 1983, David Fricke contacted me about applying for a job at a music magazine start-up he was involved with. I knew his byline from Rolling Stone and elsewhere but we hadn’t met. Later it came out that he recruited David Keeps and me because we’d written for New York Rocker, which covered punk & new wave in the early 80s – rather than going for more “mainstream” writers. In those days I read New Musical Express to keep up with the UK scene, but I wasn’t familiar with Smash Hits. There was a resistance, even hostility, among American journalists toward English groups at that point. I wrote about New Order/Joy Division in The Village Voice earlier that year and other writers were like “how can you stand that shit?” David Keeps was probably the only journalist in NYC who read Smash Hits and he not only read it, he totally “got it.” Somehow I fronted my way through a job interview with David Fricke and Neil Tennant. They gave me a test assignment and a few copies of Smash Hits to take home. Reading the magazine for the first time I freaked out: this really was a teen mag, with screaming girls and everything. However, studying Neil’s cover story on Kajagoogoo was a revelation. The story was brilliant: witty, sharp and observant. Instead of gushing or condescending Smash Hits (and I hope Star Hits) gave readers a sense of what the pop-star subjects were like as people – as well as a peek behind the Wizard of Oz music-biz curtain.

At first I was hired as a freelance writer/editor but Fricke or Neil would call me almost daily. “Are you busy?” “Uh, NO.” I was unemployed and scraping by on assignments. “Why don’t you come up and give us a hand.” The whole situation was a godsend. Neil Tennant and art director Kimberley Leston (who tragically died in the 90s) were super-smart, devastatingly funny, and to me, inspiring. Their excitement about being in NYC was contagious, we’d go out after work and have a blast. It was a magical time, and working on a bold new magazine just added to the buzz.

I came on full-time in January 1984, and got bumped up to the deputy dog position when David Fricke left that summer. Departing happened in early 1986, though I kept writing for a few months after that. By late 1985 the pop landscape was changing; Duran went on hiatus, Boy George flaked out and groups like Tears For Fears, though popular, weren’t charismatic enough to sell magazines. The next wave was Depeche Mode and The Cure, both of whom we loved in the office but seemed a bit edgy to our publishers. This was when Felix Dennis pushed the magazine toward covering pretty-boy TV stars named Corey who I regarded with contempt. Whether I got shoved or jumped hardly matters now; it was a great ride!

CRYSTAL: I had transferred to a college in Manhattan to finish my undergrad degree, and in my senior year I needed to do an internship. The school had a big book of internships for communications majors like myself, and in the very back—literally the last page—was Star Hits magazine. I’ve always been a huge music fan (still am) and when I saw it I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I called and asked for an interview and showed up at their offices on 39th street. I was so nervous! David, Suzan and Steve Korté were there, and they quizzed me about what I listened to, asked me if I could name all of the members of Duran Duran and what I hoped to get out of the internship. By the end we were laughing and I had the job. Little did I know I was headed for photo purgatory! I actually enjoyed that job because I got to see all of the gorgeous photo shoots of my favorite bands. I didn’t start out writing, but there was enough other stuff to do to keep busy. Their photo filing system was a mess!

SAM: I started working there when I was 17 in 1987, and stayed until I was almost 19.  I was brought on by Suzan Colón, who I met while modeling for a sister magazine.  I was no model, it was my first time doing anything like that (a friend of a friend type thing got me there).  We bonded over hating the other professional model in the shoot.  LOL.

MICHELE asks: “What was a typical day in the Star Hits office like?”

MARK: David Keeps lived around the corner, so we’d take the subway uptown together and start talking shop right away. One of my primary duties was transcribing the song lyrics that ran in each issue. Publishers provided “official” lyrics that invariably were wrong, often comically. So I’d check the printed lyrics against the record, with headphones because we played music all day on the office stereo. Depending on what point in the deadline cycle we were at, there would be assigning, interviewing, reviewing and proofreading to do as well as the endless negotiations with publicists.

There was no typical day but most were filled with laughs, we had so many in-jokes, running gags and comic routines. David Fricke has a sardonic dry wit while David Keeps is exuberant and insane in a good way. I’ll never forget the snowy winter day when we got soaked on the way in. Apparently Keeps took off his trousers, setting them on the radiator to dry while slipping his bare legs undetected under the desk. The phone started ringing and hours passed until he leapt up to make a copy or something, waltzing across the tiny shared space in a loudly colorful pair of boxers. Fricke looked up from his desk, cracked a faint smile and then shouted: “YOU’RE IN YOUR UNDERWEAR! PUT YOUR PANTS ON DAVID!” Maybe you had to be there…

The remarkable thing to me now is how small the staff was, maybe a total of ten people doing art, editorial and business, plus a handful of freelance writers. Even with the leased Smash Hits content, it was a lot of work! But we were young, so it never seemed like anything less than a golden opportunity. One night I stayed late to interview somebody by phone on the west coast and everybody else was gone except Felix Dennis. As I got ready to leave Felix asked me to take out the garbage. He actually apologized, “I know it’s not in your job description” and I was like “what are you kidding?” I felt so lucky to be there, I would’ve watered the plants too.

In retrospect the important, innovative and influential aspect of Star Hits was the look of the magazine. Not just the photographs but the graphic design too, laboriously done by hand in those pre-digital days. Beginning with Kimberley Leston and continuing with Ronnie “Wippo” Meckler’s brief but crucial tenure and peaking with Alicia Keshishian: the art directors gave the magazine a look that matched the music. Of course David Keeps contributed to this by corralling ambitious photo sessions and conceiving articles not only in terms of words but images too. Learning to visualize stories was the best thing I learned at Star Hits, something I took with me to future editor jobs.

SAM: SO much fun!  I worked with the most awesome people you can imagine. Music played all the time.  There was dancing.  And water guns.  And toys. Creativity and individuality was encouraged.

STEVE: I remember that eating breakfast from the nearby deli and deciding where we were going to have lunch were major components of a typical day.

CRYSTAL: Suzan summed that up pretty well. Come in, call Continental coffee shop and put in the breakfast order, and play whatever music we were grooving on at the time. I remember when the Beastie Boys “Licensed to Ill” came out. We played that record to death! There we were, dancing and singing in the bull pen, reciting every lyric and giggling like crazy people. Pretty soon everyone who had an office would retreat to start work, and we’d settle in. Of course there were lots of breaks for silliness; I remember a “gunfight” with bananas (imagine grown people peeking out of hallways and doorways aiming bananas at each other, making gun noises and dying dramatically), or running from me because I’m holding up a box of something called “Instant Ocean” and a glass of water yelling “stay back or I’ll drown us all!” I still giggle when I see a box of that stuff. Or poor Steve getting calls repeatedly from an angry Mr. Buzzby, a very large bumble bee that he pissed off when he chased it out of the office window. And of course David and his “kitten on the keys” when he would wait until you were typing something and come up behind you and start pounding on the keyboard. We laughed a lot!

Weird Al reviewsIt was fun when musicians would come by the office. Debbie Gibson was a hyper little thing bouncing around and talking a mile a minute. Weird Al Yankovic was quiet and reserved, but funny as hell on paper. He was our guest record reviewer for an issue and his reviews were hysterical. And when Suzan and I turned 26 (our birthdays are just a few weeks apart), I believe Bronski Beat showed up at our birthday party. I think they ended up raiding her closet for stuff to wear out to a club later than night.

 

 

MICHELE asks: “What are your proudest moments when you think back on Star Hits — and what makes you cringe?”

RSVP Dressed to Kill

STEVE: Proudest? I think it just might be Quackra, the 60-foot mutant duck from Japan that Suzan and I fostered. It started when I found a photo of a cute baby duck, and somehow that photo found its way onto a RSVP page in STAR HITS where he mutated into Quackra. After that, he managed to insert himself into photos all over the office, often hob-nobbing with celebrities. And although he had a tendency to trample the panic-stricken masses of Tokyo, you had to cut him some slack because he was just a baby! Most cringe-worthy? I’m going to go with Suzan that it was my own appearance in a “Dressed to Kill” costume contest ad. I didn’t even much like Sigue Sigue Sputnik, but somehow I got talked into transforming from Hansel the nerd into a Sputniker. Our lovely art director Ariane Root was luckier; she got to transform into Siouxsie.

25 - Janet Jackson p2

CRYSTAL: My proudest moment was when I actually saw my name and writing actually in print. I think I started off doing record reviews, and eventually David started trusting with writing more. Some of my favorite memories were the late nights he and I spent at the office while I was learning the style of the magazine and getting invaluable advice on how to do an interview. He was always patient and encouraging. Eventually, I started writing so much that they offered to pay me. I wasn’t supposed to get paid (internship rules of my school), but I was thrilled. Eventually David took me along on an actual interview—none other than Ms. Janet Jackson! I was so excited and she was lovely. I eventually got up the nerve to ask her a question and we ended up talking about what a pain brothers could be. I can’t think of anything really cringe-worthy—some of my fashion choices perhaps—but I was having the time of my life.

SAM: I was an assistant in the art department, mostly working the stat camera.  But Richard and Paulette taught me to do layouts and mechanicals (today this is done on a computer) and I remember seeing my work published for the first time.  It was thrilling.

Cringe-moments?  I was an punk rock street rat with a bit of teenage obnoxiousness thrown in to the mix. There are MANY cringe worthy moments, but I guess being told I can’t make out with my boyfriend on my desk is one that sticks with me. lol.

NRartattack3

MARK: Proudest moment is the Nick Rhodes art gallery cover story. We were starved for a fresh Duran angle and I knew Nick was a budding art collector and Andy Warhol devotee. In 1985, there was an art gallery scene booming in the East Village/Lower East Side when it was still quite a sketchy neighborhood. So my bright idea – probably the only one I had – was taking Nick to one of these storefront galleries, posing him in front of these cartoon-y neo-expressionist paintings and letting him wax pretentious on tape. He seemed to enjoy himself and it looked GREAT in the magazine.

Cringing moments are too many to mention. Emulating Don “Loretta” Johnson in my linen jacket/t-shirt/Tenax phase was surely misguided.

BIG BUNNY asks: “What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make as an editor?”

MARK: Not a decision, but the most difficult thing about editing Star Hits was explaining the writing style to freelancers. It was intuitive, a gut-level thing.

BIG BUNNY asks: “Was there ever any US hard rock or other content you were ‘encouraged’ to wedge into the mag, despite reservations?”

Wham Cover

Publisher Felix Dennis insisted on these cover lines. I’m not even sure he was referring to their sexual orientation. He just thought these lines were funny. – Steve

STEVE: My memory is that Felix pretty much let us decide what would be inside the magazine, but he had VERY strong feelings about the covers, especially since the cover subject had a huge impact on the number of copies sold. That’s probably how we ended up with that unusual David Lee Roth cover. As Suzan mentioned, Billy Idol was a “banker” in Felix’s eyes since Billy cover issues always sold well. I guess that’s because Billy was (a) so photogenic; (b) so popular (for a while, anyway); and (c) willing to pose shirtless (or wearing even less). Even Felix had to admit that there were only so many times we could put Billy or Duran Duran on the cover. However, when we screwed up by putting someone not very charismatic on the cover (Howard Jones, I’m looking at you), sales plummeted.

MARK: Not that I remember. We covered Van Halen and Quiet Riot because they crossed over into MTV/pop territory during the banner year of 1984.

MICHELE asks: “David Fricke vs David Keeps — what were the stylistic differences as editor? (It seemed to me Fricke was auditioning for RS now that I look back)”

MARK: David Keeps explained this well in his interview. Fricke wasn’t “auditioning”, he already wrote for Rolling Stone. We all freelanced on the side; Keeps wrote for Creem and Esquire while I reviewed music for The Village Voice.

BIG BUNNY asks: “Tell me about managing & editing shared [Smash Hits] UK content and preparing it for your US readership.”

MARK: For the first year or so we “translated” the more esoteric British slang though a lot was left in. At least once we ran a glossary for terms like “wanker” etc. Sometime in 1985 we began stripping in the UK pages unedited because it was cheaper in those days of printing presses.

2 - British slang glossary

MICHELE asks: “Did you all play pranks on each other in the office, and if so, what were they?”

Suzan’s sock monkey was known to journey throughout the office, sometimes at high velocity. - Steve

Suzan’s sock monkey was known to journey throughout the office, sometimes at high velocity. – Steve

STEVE: It was the rare phone interview that wasn’t subject to some sort of distracting interference from one of us, even if the interviewer sequestered himself or herself in an empty office and closed the door. Suzan’s sock monkeys were known to travel about the office—sometimes flying through the air—and turn up in the most unexpected locations.

SAM: In my department we constantly took co-workers heads and painstakingly copied them onto celebrity bodies ( today this would be three seconds of Photoshop).  Because I am from Brooklyn, they liked to tease me that I sounded like Alyssa Milano, so of course my head was put on her body multiple times and put on my desk for me to find.  I still have that picture somewhere.

LAURA asks: “How much “artistic license” did you take when answering reader questions?”

9 - Get Smart

MARK: Now It Can Be Told: I was Jackie of Ask Jackie fame. (Kimberley Leston’s picture ran at the top of the column.) I tried to be accurate as possible. We may have made up some of the questions, though.

MICHELE asks: “Was there one person writing as the BOLD TYPE or did you all take turns?”

CRYSTAL: Sorry, I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement for all eternity.

MARK: You should be able to guess by now! It wasn’t me 😉

MICHELE asks: “Who were the most annoying fans? (My money is on the Duranies.)”

MARK: Hey, the Duranies paid my rent for two years, I’ll hear no ill spoken of them. Certainly individual fans could be annoying, or creepy. And I never understood the kids who wrote us on Garfield stationary and then put “punk” slogans like “Sid (Vicious) Lives” on the pretty pink envelope.

BIG BUNNY asks: “Were there ever any bands featured by another writer whose music you STILL haven’t ever heard to this day?” 🙂

6 - Bros

 

SAM: There was this English band called Bros (Rhymes with “sauce” – Elocution Ed.) that we did a photoshoot with.  They were HUGE in the UK, apparently, but..no one knew who they were here.  They wore sunglasses and disguised themselves, expecting screaming fans at any corner.  It was like watching a scared kitten.  But nobody here knew who they were and they were able to relax. They were super nice guys (One even asked me for my number. lol) and it was a fun day.  Still never heard their music, but I do have a Polaroid of us hanging out behind the scenes somewhere 🙂

MARK: No, but there are some I wish I never heard. J/K

MICHELE asks: “Who was the most difficult interview, and/or rudest pop star?

STEVE: I can’t remember if I interviewed k.d. lang for STAR HITS or one of the teen magazines, but I do remember it was a very awkward phone interview. She was just starting out, and I think she was probably just shy. All her answers were “yes,” “no” or “I don’t know.” No one was ever rude during an interview, I’m happy to report.

CRYSTAL: I remember going to Denver to take a Duran Duran contest winner to meet them when they were on Bowie’s Glass Spider tour. They were kind of on the way down then, but this poor girl was still so excited to meet them. They were pretty dismissive of the whole affair. Luckily she had enough enthusiasm for all of them and didn’t seem to mind their attitude. I remember feeling disappointed though; I had been a HUGE fan myself and I thought they could have been a bit more gracious.

BIG BUNNY asks: “In terms of being a gracious & enjoyable normal person, who was the greatest surprise?”

CRYSTAL: Danny Elfman was very charming and funny. MC Hammer was very cool. We were all sitting around a big conference table at the record company and I thought “I’ll never get a question in, look at all these people!” When Hammer came in he said hello, smiled at everyone and sat down, and to my surprise he kept looking at me for questions! Turns out I was the only other black person in the room. He was trying to help a sista’ out! I also enjoyed having tea while overlooking Central Park with Ian Astbury of the Cult. He was sort of wistful, quiet and very thoughtful—not what I was expecting at all. I also loved going on photo shoots. There was something so cool about getting to see these folks do their thing for the camera. My favorite was probably the Beastie Boy cover shoot. You can’t see me, but it’s my hand pulling down MCA’s pants! It was the photographer’s idea, I swear! They were a riot.

Beastie Boys Studio Portrait

ROBERT asks: “Who was the most difficult artist to get an interview with?”

Charlie Sexton

STEVE: As Suzan mentioned, stalking Charlie Sexton–he of the high cheekbones and 15 minutes of fame–was one of our more memorable failures. At least Suzan and I got a fun trip to Atlantic City out of it.

HILARY asks: “Who was the most boring person you ever interviewed?”

CRYSTAL: T’Pau (snore).

LESLIE asks: “What’s your worst foot-in-mouth slip during an interview?”

STEVE: I don’t remember who I was interviewing, but at the end of the interview I looked down and noticed that the tape recorder was not running. I had forgotten to turn it on! At the end of the interview, I smiled, said thank you, and rushed back to the office to try to remember the whole interview.

LESLIE asks: “What was the most extreme/exotic/strange place you interviewed a celeb?”

MARK: Robert Smith of The Cure in a laundromat. Inspiring a lead sentence along the lines of “while the clothes dryers spin the wheels turn in Robert Smith’s mind.” Uh well…

Steve’s favorite STAR HITS interview: duking it out with former boxer and dreamy musician Chris Isaak and hanging out together in Chris’s kitchen. - Steve

Steve’s favorite STAR HITS interview: duking it out with former boxer and dreamy musician Chris Isaak and hanging out together in Chris’s kitchen. – Steve

Chris and Steve2

STEVE: Ooooh! I have an answer for this one! All of us (well, maybe not Mark) had a huge crush on Chris Isaak, who we labeled the handsomest man in rock, and when his debut album came out we played it over and over on our office record player. I got the assignment to fly out to San Francisco and interview Chris Isaak in his home! Chris was just as funny as he was handsome, and I was in seventh heaven following him around the house with my tape recorder. We were also doing several different photo shoots, so every now and then he would have to go back into his bedroom to change outfits, and because he kept talking I just naturally followed him to continue our interview. In his room, we both sat down on his bed and kept talking while he stripped down to his underwear. (I know this sounds like it’s about to turn into an erotic story, but please bear with me.) At one point I looked down and noticed that the cassette on my recorder was almost at the end, so I excused myself to go grab another tape. When I came back in the bedroom, I saw Chris quickly put the microphone from my recorder back on the bed. It was clear that he had just said something into the recorder, but when I asked Chris about it, he denied it. I didn’t think anything more of it, and we finished the interview and photo sessions. It wasn’t until I got back to New York and transcribed my tape that I heard what Chris had said into my recorder: “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a man as much as I want Steve. And he doesn’t care. He doesn’t even act like I’m alive!”

Quackra the Mutant Duck kept very good company! - Steve

Quackra the Mutant Duck kept very good company! – Steve

LESLIE asks: Everyone has to have one thing that really sticks with you from your life. What is your story? (coked out celeb, crazy events getting to an interview, or maybe it’s something random and personal)”

CRYSTAL: I was a huge Dan Reed Network fan (still am). I really enjoyed interviewing him (twice!) and that evening when Suzan and I went to their concert at a local club, Dan spotted me in the audience and came down off the stage, mic in hand and sang to me. I thought my heart was going to explode. It was a really great moment.

LESLIE asks: “Who did you NOT get to interview and wish you could?”

CRYSTAL: Crowded House. I love love love Crowded House! Why didn’t I get to interview Crowded House?

BIG BUNNY asks: “What’s your favourite piece of STAR HITS memorabilia?”

CRYSTAL: I’m going to go with Barky the autograph dog. He was awesome. I hope whoever has him is showing him some love. I have some fun stuff from the record companies that were promotional items. I have my Billy Idol charm bracelet, a Zodiac Mindwarp cross pin, some Duran Duran pins, an Escape Club Wild Wild West sheriff’s badge and a few other things. I know, I should learn to throw stuff away

LESLIE asks: “What item(s) have you saved from your Star Hits days?”

CRYSTAL: I have a few issues of all the magazines we put together. I think I still have a few interviews on cassette, but no way to play them! My biggest take away from that time will always be the music. I still listen to music every day, and it’s a mix of music from the 80’s and whatever catches my ear from new artists. And I have David, Suzan, Steve, Richard, Connie (our lovely receptionist), Sam Moon Rafferty and a whole host of lovely people still in my life. Honestly, they were all the best part of the adventure.

SAM: I have some magazines saved, and some promo LP’s.  My favorite thing, though, is the Xray Spex press kit in the florescent green folder that David Keeps gave me.  At that time in my life, I wanted to BE Poly Styrene, so it was special to me then, and a great piece of nostalgia now.

STEVE: Inspired by this project, I dug through my files at home and found dozens of photos and ephemera from those days. My favorite memento is the original photo of Quackra!

BIG BUNNY asks: “How & when did STAR HITS finally fold/end/go under? I seem to remember a bizarre series of fold-out poster editions and [by late ’89?] some issues that didn’t remotely resemble anything from any of the years before. There was a name change to SMASH HITS and then WOW, I think…but it’s all very murky in my mind!

We just couldn’t get enough of New Kids on the Block in our magazines. Amazingly, we even interviewed them on a few occasions. Here’s pictorial proof of Mark Wahlberg and editor Steve. - Steve

We just couldn’t get enough of New Kids on the Block in our magazines. Amazingly, we even interviewed them on a few occasions. Here’s pictorial proof of Mark Wahlberg and editor Steve. – Steve

STEVE: It was a murky experience to live through, believe me. Duran and Billy and the gang were fading a bit in the music charts, and New Kids on the Block were gathering steam. We were under pressure to increase the circulation of STAR HITS, but the quirky pop bands from England that we specialized in weren’t generating magazine sales. So we started covering more and more teen bands. From there it was a short step to our first teen magazine WOW, which then spawned its lower-rent sibling HOT and the oversized WOW WHOPPER. It was all New Kids, all the time! Plus a kazillion TV and movie child actors that have mercifully faded from my memory.

STAR HITS was waning, but there was an army of movie and TV teen stars waiting to be interviewed for WOW. Here is editor Steve Korte enacting a strange pantomime phone call with soap opera actor Brian Bloom. Brian’s later claim to fame was showering naked on the HBO prison show OZ. - Steve

STAR HITS was waning, but there was an army of movie and TV teen stars waiting to be interviewed for WOW. Here is editor Steve Korte enacting a strange pantomime phone call with soap opera actor Brian Bloom. Brian’s later claim to fame was showering naked on the HBO prison show OZ. – Steve

BIG BUNNY asks: “What is your greatest & most enduring STAR HITS era personal mistake? Does anyone have a SCARLETT & BLACK tattoo or the like?”

17 - Talking Heads lyrics

 

STEVE: You would think that the record companies would have been thrilled to have us include their songs lyrics in the magazine, wouldn’t you? And that they would do everything possible to make it easy for us to include those lyrics? Well, that was definitely not the case. Our poor office manager had to make dozens of calls every month to get permission to print song lyrics, and sometimes it was even harder to get the actual printed lyrics. Many times, Suzan or Mark or I would have our ears glued to the speaker of our very low-fi stereo (combination turntable, radio and cassette player) trying to decipher what the singer was growling or yapping or mumbling. My own worst mistake was when I was trying to figure out the lyrics to the Talking Heads song “Wild, Wild Life,” because, of course, the record company had failed to provide us with the lyrics, and the issue had to go to the printer soon. In the song, David Byrne sings, “I’m wearing silk pajamas,” but I didn’t know that at the time. Instead, I listened to that part of the song DOZENS of times, and I finally decided that David Byrne was singing, “I’m wearing filthy ‘jamas.” So that’s what we printed in the magazine. You can probably imagine the howls of protest we got from the record company when that issue came out.

SAM: I was offered to be sent to school to learn how to do graphics on the computer.  I was like “Nah, I like doing it this way”.  Of course, computer graphics took over the industry and the old way went obsolete pretty quickly. By the time I realized that, I no longer worked at SH and would have had to pay thousands to go to school to learn it. Oops.

LESLIE asks: ”What fad/style from the 80s do you miss or regret? ( I miss “big hair” and I regret never owning Capezio Jazz Shoes or a pair of parachute pants)”

CRYSTAL: Well since most of them are back in fashion again, I’m free to make the same mistakes! I got away with a lot back then because youth was on my side. Now I would look at some of the buckle bountiful shoes I used to wear and think “who has that kinda time?” I still like a big shirt that falls off one shoulder—I have a lot of those. And I still have my motorcycle jacket, but that actually came after SH during the Metallix years.

SAM: When having colored hair or clothes that were different from the norm actually said something about who you were.  When you can buy your rebellion in a mall, and “normal” people get their hair dyed pink in a fancy salon, it’s sad and lacks any originality.  I miss a world before the internet and Hot Topic. Glad I lived my teenage years in the 80’s!

LESLIE asks: “Do you still listen to 80s music, or are you just totally over the decade? What bands/music are you listening to now?”

CRYSTAL: Artists like Dan Reed, The Blow Monkeys, Eurythmics and Crowded House still play regularly in my car. I tend to play an 80’s themed station on Rhapsody or Pandora when I cook. I’m a monster at 80’s music trivia contests. I listen to everything now. I’ve developed a real love for the blues (old school and great new artists like Jamie N. Commons), and really like classic rock and anyone out there trying to push the envelope and do something different. Pharrell is great (I must play “Happy” at least a few times a week). I also listen to a lot of jazz and world beat music. I’m a ceramic sculptural artist so there is always something playing in my studio. I’m always stopping my wheel to check my Kindle when something cool comes on and I have to know who it is.

STEVE: Oh, of course. As Suzan mentioned, some albums seemed to be on permanent repeat in the STAR HITS office, and I still love some of those. The debut albums of the Blow Monkeys, Propaganda, Erasure, and Chris Isaak, to name four.

SAM: I mostly listen to whatever my kids like at the moment.  I do enjoy an 80’s pop music flashback now & then, especially the Cure or the Smiths

BIG BUNNY asks: “Did any of you become & remain friends with your pop star interviewees?”

CRYSTAL: I wouldn’t say we’re buds, but I’ve been in contact with Dan Reed a few times over the years. He’s still a lovely person. We actually kinda look alike now.

MARK: Two for one answer: maybe the first interview I did for Star Hits was with Madness. I met with “Suggs” and another band member in a conference room at Sire Records on 54th Street. We chatted for an hour and I thought it went well. “Hey I’m really hitting it off with these guys.” (Up to this point I’d only interviewed local NYC groups like Bush Tetras and Sonic Youth in humble surroundings.) When I finished with Madness, their publicist came in and I turned off my tape recorder and got ready to go. They asked her where to find some authentic New York pizza and I piped up: “John’s on Bleecker St is fantastic!” My suggestion wasn’t acknowledged nor was my presence in the room. As though I no longer existed! I tiptoed out, humiliated. After that I had a tattoo on my brain – CELEBRITIES ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS.

HILARY asks: “Ask them what all the pop stars smelled like! I bet Neil Tennant smelled like some classy 80s shit like Drakkar Noir”

STEVE: Even back then, Neil smelled like a pop star!

 

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4 thoughts on “Star Hits staffers Q&A – Part 2!

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