Naked shots of David Cassidy next to quizzes that asked the girl readership “How Far Out Are You?” made this 1970s magazine a “Cosmopolitan for teenagers”.
Star magazine, the Los Angeles-based teen periodical sometimes referred to as a “groupie magazine,” ran for five issues in 1973; the sixth issue was planned but never published. Legend has it that public outcry stopped the presses, but it might have been the beliefs of one powerful Christian that closed the magazine. And because that one Christian was the wife of the publisher, the gig was up sooner rather than later.
Until that untimely ending, however, the magazine showcased teenage models and the girls who hung out with pop bands. Among the articles and stories featured in Star were such classics as “Your Secret Superweapon Against Guys,” “Be The Girl Who Wins Every Time (15 Foxy How-To’s!),” “Chain Gang High School,” and “Love Curse of the Devil’s Pentangle”, each of which combined sex appeal with danger. Other features included a contest for a Raspberry Rollswagen (a VW Rolls Royce); groupie comics; “Foxtrology” for astrology; tantalizing rock star centerfolds; movie, album, and book reviews; beauty tips; money-making ideas; how-to crafts; and quizzes such as “How Far Out Are You?” harmonized the allure of popular culture with the feeling that one’s life can be self-governed, and not only that, exciting and creative.
Star also included interviews with such luminaries as Marc Bolan, Karen Carpenter, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross and Cat Stevens, as well as with non-musicians like the designer Bob Mackie (“Cher’s Super Rags”) and LA Queens Queenie and Sable Starr [“Sunset Strip Groupies! Who, What, When, & How (Wow!)]”.
Leafing through the back pages, you find creamy eye shadow and painted lips, dressing up and getting down, the borrowed romance of thrift-store fashion and gold’s gleam on young skin, the anticipation of the next song on the radio, the next page in the magazine, and where it might be possible to go next.
Star, which sold for fifty cents, was originally geared to girls aged 8 to 12, spotlighting pop stars David Cassidy and Donny Osmond, before it morphed into what Star editorial associate Lori Barth describes as “Cosmopolitan for teen-agers.”
Barth’s connection with Star began when a friend introduced her to Earl Leaf, a regular columnist and photographer for Teen magazine, published by the same magazine group that published Star (Petersen). Leaf, a former war correspondent, hosted numerous parties attended by teen girls.
“The girls went wild,” Barth told me, adding, “But I was more interested in being a journalist. They were more interested in all the guys in the rock groups, hanging out with the guys and being their girlfriends. I just wanted to write about it. I wanted to interview them.”
Barth, who had attended music school, was always full of questions, wondering where the musicians grew up, what got them into music, and what life was like on the road. She was not interested in what astrological signs they were, or their favorite colors. Leaf took 16-year-old Barth with him to press conferences and cocktail parties because he knew she was ambitious. He critiqued her writing and helped her get her first writing job as a monthly columnist for Movie Teen Illustrated. He, in fact, recommended Barth to Don Berrigan, Star‘s editor and publisher.
Star‘s office was located on the famed Sunset Strip in a building with a glass elevator. “I can still picture it,” Barth tells me over the phone. “I was there for everything.” She was at all the photo shoots—staff photographers included the later legendary Henry Diltz and Jean Pagliuso—most memorably for one with a naked David Cassidy taking a shower.
“It was just stuff young girls wanted to read,” she said, pointing out that she was a young girl, too. “It was fun to go to work every day… I loved being there.”
Barth earned weekly paychecks from Star, and fashionable boutiques on Melrose and Sunset lent her free clothes. She could pay her rent and go out every night to clubs such as Troubadour, Whisky a Go Go, and the Cheetah, where she could conduct interviews. Barth, who became Star’s fashion and entertainment editor as well as penning the gossip column, says the job was 25 hours a day, and Berrigan was constantly calling her to “do this, do that,” including nab the interviews and clothing.
But Barth, a songwriter from Sherman Oaks, also managed to perform at venues around LA and eventually earn degrees in history and journalism. “I could work at Star magazine in the day, and at night I’d go home and write songs, and record demos,” she recalled.
When I tell her I’m a fan of the old magazine, she laughs and says, “I can’t believe it!” Star, she said, did feature photographs of young girls in racy clothing. And, though the magazine “sexualized” young girls, she said, “We didn’t think of it in those terms. We weren’t thinking of exploiting young girls.” She emphatically states that it “wasn’t anything lurking in the dark corner,” and that they “never had that intention.”
She’s aware that if Star were published today, the #MeToo movement might “hate it.” Still, she said, the magazine really “set out to have fun…jump in on the rock scene and the pop scene and have fun clothes. It was meant to be fun, that’s really all it was. Entertainment for fun.”
Berrigan said he believes Star never tried to promote underage sex. “Like they need us to promote underage sex,” he said, adding, “My idea was the only guys who deserved the girl was if she liked him… The girl decides.”
Barth says that it was considered a groupie magazine. “A lot of the girls who liked groups followed Star magazine because that’s what we wrote about,” she said, addding that a groupie is “somebody that loves all the guys in the group and chases the group.”
Berrigan recalled that groupies often attended his teen parties, and he thought they were “interesting, rebellious mavericks. A groupie is a fan of a rock band who follows them everywhere, goes to bed with them if they want, and just lives and dies for them.”
He adds, “Groupies were too sophisticated for Star. But there were a lot of girls, like you, who admired the groupies, not knowing exactly what they were, and so we wanted to share what we knew about groupies.”
Barth tells me that the executive managing editor, Nancy Hardwick, and Don Berrigan were the brains behind Star; the two of them would “sit in that room and brainstorm. She always had really good ideas.”
When I told Barth that I thought Star‘s centerfolds were feminist, she says, “I don’t know. I think this feminist thing is crazy. I think that if you believe what you are, and you stand up next to the people you work with, that’s what you are, that’s what they see you for.”
About her own perception of the man/woman office dynamic, Barth said, “I was like one of the guys. When I worked on the magazine with the photographers, whether it’s men or women, we were all equal. It was an equal playing field.” She said she never experienced the “You’re just a chick,” attitude, reasoning that she was a trained musician.
After Star folded, Barth taught guitar to Hollywood stars, wrote songs, and played gigs. She recently retired from her 34-year position as the editor of TheScore, a quarterly journal for The Society of Composers & Lyricists. She feels that Star magazine was another lifetime ago for her. “I have many lives,” she said. “I just keep moving along.”
When I first spoke with Berrigan, he quoted the magazine’s tagline: “The girl who reads Star is you.” Petersen Publishing owned Star, and Don’s mentor, Fred Rice, who worked at Capitol Records with Berrigan, made a deal with Petersen Publishing to hire Berrigan. Star promoted Capitol’s artists. (In the 1990s, Petersen Publishing would invest in Sassy, which promoted punk rock and the riot grrrl movement, with a cover of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Hole’s Courtney Love, kissing.)
Berrigan said, “We couldn’t find models that we wanted at the ad agencies because they were all goody-two shoes, little Baptist girls. And so we had a couple of gals out on the streets of Hollywood and the Valley, looking for 14 and 15 year olds, Star girls…” All the models, including the male models, were recruited by Barth and Hardwick. The models earned a session rate of $50 an hour, even if the photo became the cover. “We’d have a showing of the slides with their parents, down at the magazine’s office, and the little girls couldn’t believe that they could look like that, and they’d cry.”
But not all the Star models were so thrilled. One quit because she thought the other models were “whores.” Another model had to quit working there because her boyfriend disapproved. And yet another model – who once appeared in The Brady Bunch, starred in Hollywood movies, and married an Oscar winner – quit because she thought the magazine had “no class.”
Berrigan, who designed the friendly, bold style of the magazine’s colorful title and came up with its taglines, says, “Any business, you have to have certain knowledge, you have to have certain skills, and you have to have certain contacts, and you have to get lucky. How do you get a good job? You get lucky. But you gotta be ready if the break comes along.”
So be ready to get the story, and the pictures, such as the time when a teen-aged Rodney Bingenheimer surprised Hardwick and his favorite model, Patty Clark, with a David Bowie encounter.
“You gotta go with what’s going,” Berrigan’s mentor would say, “so keep your eyes open for what’s going, and go with it.” For example, Star‘s logo was a fox, designed and drawn by artist Frank Morton. ” ‘Foxy’ was a very important term in those days,” he said.
Where did he find the writers? Berrigan responded that he wrote eighty percent of Star, under various noms de plume—such as Donna Goodbody. He wrote from what he imagined was a girl’s point-of view. The centerfold of a rock star was Berrigan’s idea. “Sometimes they’ll buy the whole magazine just for the centerfold.”
In rhe “Foxy Lady” forum and letters, it seemed like a feminist revolution was happening, but Berrigan admitted, “I wrote all those letters to provoke the reader.” Was that provocation why Star stopped?
Possibly. It came down to Robert and Margie Peterson, who owned the building that housed Star‘s offices. Margie Peterson was a devout Christian who hated the magazine, Berrigan tells me, especially the cartoons, which she thought were “filthy.” But he says, “We tried to deal with reality.”
“It was all bullshit that the old lady put out” to destroy the magazine, he said, explaining its ultimate demise.