5 years after leaving her magazine, Jane, the eternal kid now has her own kid. Where has she been, and what is she plotting? I had lunch with my ‘ol mentor recently and poked around to discover she’s building a new world of her own.
But first, a little Jane 101 history walk. I write this because a few of my 20-something friends probably remember her as the older mature editor of Jane magazine. Women of my generation will completely know what I’m speaking of when I say that Jane was the original gangstah.
At 24 years old, Jane became the Editor-in-Chief of her first magazine. How can I describe Sassy? Well, it raised a legion of women… but it was a certain type of woman that gravitated to it. If I had to pin down the spirit, it spoke more to the “Riot Grrrl movement” — a growing fever born of the underground music scenes in the state of Washington (Olympia to be exact). These were the seeds of grunge. Although Sassy was based out of New York, it was about strong women everywhere with a DIY ethic, a defined political consciousness, mostly saturated within music culture. It was about feeling good about yourself… shattering the beauty myths. You would never see a diet article inside Sassy or Jane, or anything that made you feel remotely “not good enough”. It was designed to flip the middle finger at those fluffy Teen Beat mags. The hard-hitting stories were blunt and bold, and for the first time, captured a misunderstood and alienated group of girls looking for real talk. Let’s not forget, lots of men picked up Sassy to read up on the cool chick.
(The young whippersnapper Jane Pratt)
In terms of this Riot Grrrl movement around the country, a young new crop of female musicians took center stage — Kathleen Hannah, Kim Gordon, Bikini Kill, and Sleater Kinney. The new school was nodding to their punk mothers — The Slits, Chrissie Hynde, and Patti Smith etc. Remember this was pre-internet, so Sassy and a few other ‘zines were the only headquarters to read up on this subculture in the late 80′s, early 90′s. I even remember a column called “Cute Band Alert” introducing guy bands coming up the pipe. If you copped an issue, you could also get that flexi disk inside releasing a special track of Sonic Youth. In the days before MP3 mobility, these were “crack-fixes” to underground culture junkies. It is duly noted that Sassy was the only magazine that the royal couple posed for — Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.
Sassy was also hooked up with the cute skater boys — as evidenced by the short lived boy ‘zine which was inserted inside the magazine. The Editor of Dirt was voracious trouble-maker, Spike Jonze, who was cookin’ up his own collective by launching his skateboard company Girl Skateboards. Dirt was created with skater Andy Jenkins and was the predecessor to all the Big Brother and Jackass subculutre that came one decade later. The tagline for Dirt was short and to the point — “fuel for young men”.
There was also the unknown teen girl at the skate park called Chloe Sevigny who interned one summer… months later, The New Yorker magazine would publish a feature on the alluring street girl which catapulted her to “it girl” status overnight… and eventually a starring role in her boyfriends indie flick, KIDS.
Have I made my point? Jane was ahead of the game. She talked about politics, sex, the right music, the right boys, and hot button topics which other teen mags would never touch. The dream lasted a few years. It hit a national nerve. Then mothers began to discover the magazine, leading to the usual advertiser freak outs. After Sassy got purchased in 1994 by another publishing firm, Jane Pratt jumped ship and plotted her next idea…. a TV show. It was the era of Ricki Lake. Jane did it with her own flavor. She brought indie bands like Ween to perform on national television, and other young adults to share saucy stories. It’s anyone guess what really happened, but the show was short-lived. Back to the drawing board.
Then in 1997, Jane reunited her Sassy cohorts Gigi Guerra and Christina Kelly and launched a new magazine, Jane, which was essentially the Sassy girl who had grown up, removed her braces, and was ready for adulthood. The premiere issue had Drew Barrymore on the cover. This was around the era that I entered the fold. I had met and partied with Jane in the mid 90′s. I knew her as a friend. We both gravitated to eachother in the scene. I was working at Details and before that at Paper Magazine — as their Events Director… but with a secret love of editorial. Then one day, she called me into her office and said, “do you want to be my Entertainment Editor?”. I said “I’ve never done that before, I throw parties”, to which she replied, “I don’t care. I like your world, just bring it all over here. You get it. Just come and book my talent for me”. And that was it. No resume. Just a handshake. That’s what I liked about her. She worked on a hunch.
And so I began working for Jane… casting all the characters from her A-list covers, to the inside obscure graffiti kids, painters, musicians, and culturally relevant people of that time. Can you say “dream job”? I was now part of her army. I was donned in. Going to Jane’s home during her Xmas parties meant tripping into Patti Smith on the way to the bathroom in her bedroom. It was all a wonderfully surreal era in my minds eye — a time where people let their hair down… before cell phone cameras and tweet pics ruined the intimacy of shy creative giants opening up around us.
Jane was cooking up her own factory. It was (if you will) the first in “reality magazines”… if there was ever such a genre. Jane’s Editor letter was a transparent view into her office. All the editors were characters in her JANE movie which played through the pages every month. I was joining the pantheon on Sassy legends Gigi Guerra and Christina Kelley among the new breed of writers like Stephanie Trong and music connoisseur Jeff Johnson. Jane would publish my polaroids at our house parties and DJ gigs. She’d share inside thoughts about our vacations, our weekends, our crushes. Years later, I still bump into people on the street who know one too many details about me… all due to being part of Jane’s Diary. Her ability to flip her office inside out for public consumption is a technique that is currently used now for websites and blogs… it was a “first-hand-girlfriend-straight-shooting” type voice… but in the world of print, this was uncommon. You would never feel invited into the Vogue office via Anna Wintour’s letters. But reading Jane’s Diary felt like a free pass into her circle of girlfriends.
(Ex-Sassy & Jane Editor, Gigi Guerra. Currently Marketing Director for Madewell)
Jane’s voice was non judgemental. It wasn’t straight, it wasn’t gay. It wasn’t white or black or latina. It was all of it. That’s what lent to the open clubhouse feeling at the magazine. My first week at work, I strolled by Jane’s office and I was minding my own business trying to be professional. As I walked past her door, Jane called to me, so I peeped my head into her doorway only to get asked about a female toy for the sex column, to which another girl on her couch cracked a lurid joke which made us three laugh. It was that day I knew this was not a normal job. The guys upstairs at Details would occasionally visit our floor to bounce female questions off us. This was not the prim and proper socialite female publishing circle. The Jane camp was a little less PC… ok, we were alot less PC… and we wore it proudly. She used to joke that her staff would work 9-5 and then 5-9 creating the magazine. Boy, she wasn’t kidding. The art shows, the concerts, the film festivals, the bar life of a single girl. It was all research and brainstorming material which translated back into the pages every month.
(ex-Jane Editors, Stephanie Trong and Joshua Lyon)
Jane didn’t know boundaries. What most people don’t realize about her is that she was raised by hippy parents in North Carolina. Most mom and dads screamed at their kids for drawing on the walls, but Jane’s parents gave her magic markers, pointed towards the walls, and said “go for it”. Her creativity seems to directly stem from this ability to freestyle without the guilt.
I remember working for her, sitting in those edit meetings, you’d see her face think a million thoughts a second when that “new idea” got her excited. Her mind shooting in various directions… almost like playing jazz, scrambling ideas quickly under pressure, taking a moment to pause, then eventually spitting out marching orders for us to execute yet another concept that was fun, controversial, and never before done. She did this on a daily basis. One day Katy McColl moved to Utah to apply for being an 8th wife in a Mormon family. Another day Gigi Guerra would join a nudist camp to cover it from the inside. Another day Kenya Hunt would go undercover as a “video ho” on a rap video to really see what these girls (and mothers) were hustling on set. It was a treat to witness the shaping of this vision… month after month… all while wrestling the agendas of advertisers, more angry mothers, and the pressure of corporate bosses to create a homogenized product. No more Liv Tyler covers. Jennifer Aniston sold better in the midwest.. and who could compete with the flurry of tabloids such as US Weekly and InTouch? The opposing forces would eventually implode. Jane stopped having fun. The business had changed. Back to the drawing board.
Flash forward to today. Instead of collecting readers, Jane is currently in love with the immediacy of listeners… an estimated 2 million listeners to be precise, tuning in to Jane Radio on Sirius Satellite. For the last 5 years, Jane sits in her dimly lit sealed up cave once a week, and cathartically expresses her unedited thoughts. Then there’s the phonecalls. It’s probably the most interactive exchange between Jane and her audience since her career began.
This time however, Jane radio (channel 102) is located next to Howard Stern show (channel 101) which means if she’s discussing blowjobs one afternoon, you can imagine a spike in numbers from new listeners bumping into her by accident. Keep in mind, Jane is now a mother. Others may see this as “un-pc” — but Jane sees it as an excuse for more “girlfriend talk”. There is even a section on the show called “Worst Moms” where Jane will ruminate on activities not found in conventional parenting magazines, such as taking her 7 year old daughter Charlotte to her godfather Michael Stipe’s birthday party at 1 am at a dive bar in Manhattan. The forum then opens up, the phone lines ring off the hook, some mothers are pisssssed, others call to defend. Jane lives for stirring the pot… taking a stab at convention with a pitchfork. Jane still throws a middle finger at the silly neurosis of aging. Instead of discussing plastic surgery, Jane recommends her listeners photograph those wrinkles beneath your eyes (extreme close-ups), and blow them up really big as post-modern art.
(Jane in her recording booth during her Sirius Satellite Radio Show)
So there you have it. Jane the magazine, Jane the TV show… and now Jane Radio. Where does all this lead to?
Enter JanePratt.com — the ultimate mash-up. There is no hard pitch she tells me. It’s just a little bit of everything — blogs, video, music, editorial, and then some. Jane has always been about “the message”. She doesn’t care how she gets it out. Somehow, while her business incarnations grow and evolve, so does she as a woman. It seems her audience and her always grow up together. There have been no formal press releases for her new website… just a cryptic web page with a statement reading “coming this fall”. Whoever signs up, gets the scoop. Pure and simple.
All Jane tells me is that she loves the internet. In the new media game, her chains are unshackled, there is no need to answer to the top of a corporate mountain. No need to create a safe diluted product for mass consumption while maintaining the hard edge. New Media is in the business of niche markets… a long tail where you can be yourself again.
This creation, she explains, is more reminiscient of when she started Sassy… hardly making any money but doing exaclty what she loves. That is more the model now, she says… the “purity of the message”. If you can imagine, the Sassy girl is now 47 years old with a 7 year old daughter of her own. Does she tell her little girl to draw on the walls of her Manhattan home?
One thing is constant. Jane is youthful. I don’t mean the type of youth with tight ass and perky chest, but I mean “youthful” in the most intrinsic way… the Harold & Maude type with those devious eyes and loud chuckles defying establishment… the type that lives with an immediate sense of urgency. I can say without hesitation that Jane will probably be 80 years old and still be the youngest person in the room…
… and who wouldn’t want to be around that?
If you want to follow the lady, enter your email at JanePratt.com