November 23, 2013

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Flashback: Kurt, Courtney and Sassy Magazine

Sassy was arguably the best teen magazine that ever lived. From 1988 to 1996, its pages informed, entertained and inspired teens with the best in culture. From bands to actors to fashion and beauty — Sassy is where cool girls got sassified (read the book about it).

So, it was no surprise that the magazine scored a cover that even Rolling Stone couldn’t get. Sassy’s April ’92 issue featured Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love — the poster couple for grunge love. Nirvana’s Nevermind had just come out seven months earlier, turning the previously unknown Seattle band into iconic rock gods of Alternative Nation. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” consistently topped the singles chart, counter-culture became pop culture and plaid was the new black. It was a sweet moment in time, albeit with a sad ending.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. It was April of 1994 when his body was found in his home in Seattle. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed, partly because Kurt and Nirvana’s music is still alive and well, and just as influential on the ears of new generations.

What better way to commemorate these great bastions of pop history than to interview Christina Kelly, the former Sassy editor who talked to Kurt and Courtney 17 years ago for the cover story. She gave us the back story of that interview, and we give it to you.

Were you excited when you met Kurt and Courtney?
Christina Kelly: I was really nervous. Nirvana was huge then, plus it was when punk rock bands were crossing over into being commercial and successful. It was a really huge coup for Sassy to get them for the cover.

How did you get them to do the interview?
CK:
I was actually friends with a woman, Janet, who worked at Caroline Records, which was Hole’s record label, and she set it up. She said they both liked Sassy and she said Kurt had gotten a subscription for his sister, who was six at the time, so she could read them later. His little half-sister.

What do you remember from this cover shoot?
CK: The photographer, Michael Levine, had to give Kurt a razor at the interview so he could shave before the shoot. At one point Kurt was sleeping in Micheal’s loft bed which was also in the photo studio. Kurt and Courtney were both totally on heroin for that shoot.Did Kurt and Courtney seem really in love?
CK: He definitely seemed under her spell at that point.

Did you talk to them again after this interview?

CK: I don’t know if I ever did anything more with them. I probably met them again, but I don’t think I ever did another interview. We did these Nirvana stickers in Sassy after, but I think I arranged all of that through the record people. I just went to their shows and went backstage because I knew people.

How did you feel when Kurt died?

CK: I remember being really sad, watching the MTV coverage of it and crying a lot.
Brighter note: On the day you interviewed them, what did you think of Kurt? Was he the strong silent type?

CK: I would say more like he was the weak silent type. I’m trying to remember. The thing that really sticks out about that interview was how he was wearing these little black Keds, like the kind that girls wear, and they had a hole in them. Courtney was like, “He has the number one record and he only has one pair of shoes.” And that just sort of sums him up. He seemed happy, but he seemed overwhelmed.Sigh. We highly recommend reading the entire story from Sassy. Where would you find that, you ask? Well, we have conveniently made it available for you to read in a pdf format. Just click here!As a little treat, here are some outtakes from our interview. Find out what Courtney bought at Urban Outfitters and how Christina drinks her bottled water. (Also: please excuse the ridiculous quality of this video! Our tape recorder broke, but Melissa luckily had her Flip video camera with her. Obviously our skills need work.)