In March 1988, Cheeky Magazine – founded by then 24-year-old Jane Pratt for teenage girls “who felt like outsiders, but who could still pass as normal in the high school cafeteria” and “didn’t want to completely reject mainstream culture, but didn’t want to completely embrace it either” – debuted on newsstands. In the 35 years since, the not-so-glamorous magazine has laid the groundwork for Millennial/Gen Z feminist publications such as Teen Vogue, Beginner, female dog, bust, bustle, Jezebel, Hello gigglesand Pratt’s subsequent publications, jane And XO Janeand it has inspired the lovingly curated Tumblr account “Sassy Magazine is ALIVE‘ and the book How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine Ever.
The groundbreaking magazine has actually changed many The lives of Gen X girls including that of future Eagles of Death Metal/Palaye Royale bassist and fashion designer Jennie Vee who to this day boasts of having won Cheeky‘s “Biggest Cure Fan” contest, thanks to their figuratively bloodthirsty disposition – and a literally blood oath.
Vee grew up on a farm 30 minutes outside of the 80,000-strong “bleak and desolate” mining town of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada,” Vee recalled: “Cheeky was a magazine that appealed to me because Seventeen not. It stood on the cusp of the alternative wave that was coming our way and I felt like it was written by your cool older friends. It definitely wasn’t condescending. Apparently it was a bit “controversial” at times. It was cool. It was different. It certainly wasn’t your typical teen magazine.”
During its eight year existence Cheeky introduced cover stars like Grunge power couple Courtney Love and (a magenta-haired) Kurt Cobain and it girls of the 90s Juliana Hatfield to Central America; coined the term Cute Band Alert, with this monthly unisex tribute going to college rock heroes like Sloan, Luscious Jackson, Guided by Voices, the Lemonheads, Ween, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Bikini Kill and Bratmobile; inspires a recurring Phil Hartman continues sketching Saturday night live; ran a “Dear Boy” advice column with guest writers including Iggy Pop, Billy Corgan, Mike D. of the Beastie Boys and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth; and even spawned a homegrown indie band Cheeky Contributor, Chia Pet, best known for the feminist anthem “hey baby” and a blank cover of “Don’t You Want Me” by the Human League for a Planned Parenthood benefit album.
Back then in the mid to late 80’s, Vee’s only connection to alternative youth culture, before that Cheeky came, MTV was thanks to her parents, who equipped their house with a satellite dish. At just 10 years old, the self-described “awkward little girl” who “felt out of place everywhere I went” was drawn to her own cute band alert, The Cure, for the “Close to Me” music video . Vee says: “I’m not the ambassador for Sudbury. … I think it’s just a murky, gray place that most people don’t leave, and I might feel The. From a young age I had this feeling of wanting to get out and fleeing. So The Cure became my escape. … They gave me hope in this city where I felt isolated. Somehow, as a young girl, I could identify with it [frontman] Texts by Robert Smith.
“Music was everything like a fantasy world to me. I decorated my room with all Cure posters. I painted it purple. I hung a chandelier. That’s how I could express myself, that’s how I found my own sense of creativity and expression. It gave me something to do. It was more than just listening to music. It became my world,” Vee continues. “And then I found a Cure fan club called Other Voices in Norman, Okla. I had pen pals, and that was my social network. We traded ribbons and sent each other these amazing packages, decorated. We photocopied pictures from magazines and painted with watercolors “It really was an epic kind of social network before the internet. It saved me 100% when I felt like I had nothing and nowhere. Plus the music of The Cure inspired me to make music myself If I didn’t have that, I can’t even imagine who I would be now.”
It was a few years after her awakening “Close to Me” that a now 14-year-old Vee brooded over it Cheeky found a fantastic way to impress her Other Voices castmates in her gothic-purple bedroom in the fall of 1990. “I was an early fan of the magazine and I was flipping through it and there was a full page ad Cheeky who said: “Pouch yourself with the remedy! Prove you’re the biggest Cure fan alive!’” recalls Vee, whose favorite band was just before the release of the Mixed remix compilation. “Well, right there I knew it wasn’t a random draw. It said: “Send us something to this address prove You’re the biggest Cure fan.” Well, I play to win… and I do knew that was something I could win. And I was certainly to win it.
“I was like, ‘I got this,’ and my teenage brain is going crazy; it’s taking over my life completely,” Vee continues with a chuckle. “I had some time here to work on it because there was a six-week deadline, so I took every moment. I found out from FedEx how long it would take to ship to their offices in New York and I worked up to that date.”
Vee says that she “thought of herself as some kind of poet,” so she “decided to write 365 poems dedicated to healing. I was probably at about a hundred, so angry – in school and after school, anytime – I wrote poetry, usually in response to a song. I listened to a song and then, sort of a stream of consciousness, I wrote the poem and put it in a black duo-tang folder, which I decorated with red nail polish. It was a whole thing.”
Vee then adds, somewhat embarrassed, “And I didn’t want to mention that – I was saving it for what, I’m not sure – but I signed for that too Cheeky competition, each poem with my own blood.”
As if The wasn’t enough to prove to Pratt’s co-workers that she was, in fact, the biggest Cure fan among them CheekyThe readership of , Vee “decided I needed to build a dollhouse. Yes, a Cure dollhouse. I painted each room differently. It was three floors. I tiled the floor with small black and white tiles. I made dolls. I made a Robert Smith doll with a buttoned shirt like his. I remembered reading that Robert Smith liked Christmas and Christmas lights and decorations, so the whole thing was Christmassy; Since December was the deadline, I made it Christmassy. I even had little miniature Christmas trees with little black spider decorations and Robert Smith ornaments.
“And so, The was my entry. I put the book of poetry in the dollhouse, put the thing in a box about three feet high, and FedEx it. I spent about $200 to send this thing; I had two jobs at the time. I sent it to New York. And I won.”
It was a few months later that an official letter “with the Cheeky Return address and the small logo on the envelope’ arrived by post from Sudbury; Vee “ripped it open right away” and saw that some of her Cure pen pals’ names were listed in the magazine’s Top 10 Cure Fans ranking. “They were in second place, third place… but My name above. I freaked out,” says Vee.
In addition to boasting about being the holder of the title “Biggest Cure Fan” (“because I did arguing with other fans about it!” says Vee, “the most exciting part of the Cheeky The award was an autographed print by Robert Smith — a self-portrait Robert painted of himself.” Vee recently posted a faded photo of her proudly holding the award to her Instagram account, but sadly she says, that “no photographic evidence” of the actual dollhouse from that pre-iPhone and pre-social media age exists. Cheeky didn’t even take pictures of the dollhouse — and never returned it to Vee. Even now, she still has no idea where that dollhouse is or what happened to it. “You just have to believe me,” she laughs.
Vee admits to being “a little bit disappointed” that the Cheeky The competition’s “mystery prize” was just the portrait plus “the entire Cure discography that I’ve had several times before – and it was in CD long boxes in case anyone remembers”. The small-town girl had dreamed of winning “a trip to London” to “go to Fiction Records and hang out for the day.” … I thought I was going on an amazing world tour!” But Vee, who now lives in Los Angeles with her husband Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats, wouldn’t stay in Sudbury for long.
Just a few years after Cheeky Competition — the year Vee’s father, who had been “mostly repelled” by their damn Cure fandom but “in many ways accepted” died — Vee dropped out of high school and “took my bass off” to the Cures Home country, England, where she would live for the next five years. She even played bass for the aforementioned upon her return to the States Cheeky Darling Courtney Love solo band cover. And Vee can partially credit her for that Cheeky Triumph for motivating her to start her own business.
“You have to create your own opportunities in the world,” says Vee, “and make the best of everything.”
This interview is from Jennie Vee’s appearances on the Absolute 80s podcast and the SiriusXM show “Volume West”. The full audio of the latter conversation is available on the SiriusXM app.
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