Portland’s Star Turn as Travel Destination in Sassy Magazine
Photograph in the rose garden of Ladd’s Addition, 1991, by JJ Gonson
Portlanders who didn’t grow up here, how did the city first appear on your radar? When did Mount St. Helens explode? The headlines on owls or Little Beirut? Portlandia episodes or films of Gus Van Sant? When Everclear or Elliott Smith or Amin got big?
If you were a teenager in 1991 with a subscription to the stealthily revolutionary young-feminist magazine Insolent, it may have been a travelogue on p. 30 of that year’s October issue, in which three Reed students who had lived here barely three years and their photographer friend from Boston showed the City of Roses.
“I still get people telling me how good this article and Insolent the magazine touched them in adolescence ”, says Tedra Demitriou, who moved here from Atlanta in 1988 to attend Reed College. In the summer of 1991, Demitriou and her then-boyfriend Mike Clark, rising seniors in Reed, had visited the Insolent writing in New York after Clark had won Teen Magazine’s second annual “Sassiest Boy in America” competition because of his musicality, college radio DJ experience, thrift store style, indie-rock overlap with the winner. from SBIA 1990 Ian Svenonius and his resemblance to Christian Slater.. (Star of heather and Turn up the sound, Slater was one of the few men to have honored a Insolent cover, with Jason Priestley, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves from Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure, and Kurt Cobain.)
Back in Portland, Clark received “a panicked call,” he recalls, “that the person who was going to do the ‘On the Road’ had collapsed at the last minute, or maybe she had submitted. something that was just pictures of them at the mall. The Insolent editors needed a new travelogue for the next issue, stat.
“I remember the instructions were, for example, to take pictures of Mike in iconic places,” says JJ Gonson, the photographer they roped with, with fellow Reedie Phil Quitslund. These emblematic places included 24 hour church of Elvis, for which Demitriou produced tiny zines for his coin distributor. “You put in a few quarters, and a lot of things happened when you put in quarters. The computers would talk to you, you would press buttons and things would move, ”she says of the room. oddity, which in 1991 was on the corner of Berbati’s Pan and what is now the downtown Voodoo Donut. “It was truly truly a feat of technology and a work of art. He would spit out these weird little prizes [including Dumpster-dive-sourced photos with Elvis stickers on them]. It was incredibly cool.
They also visited Quality pie, the 24-hour Nob Hill landmark that would close the following year; and the X-ray coffee, a punk club for all ages that Gonson, who now runs a concert hall in Boston, fondly recalls as “really low end” and “really loud.” Clark’s Toyota Tercel also took them by the Baghdad; Grand Central Bowl; Sassy’s strip club, sure; and a few spots that didn’t end up on the page, like Hanging very low and Corno food market. (They also posed next to a stack of TVs in front of a group house called the Ricker – “named after Ricky Schroder, which was a little funnier in 1991 than in 2021,” Clark explains.)
The Southeast was over-represented among the Portland Quadrants in their stops that day. “Reed was pretty insular,” Clarks recalls. “I mostly hung out on campus, except I went to record stores and went to concerts. I learned that Satyricon didn’t have such a strict identity policy, so I could borrow some. one to my roommate, who was also a white male. “
Demitriou admits that not all was true in the travelogue. They had never been inside Sassy’s, and they made up a fake Portland slang like “Jake”, which would have meant “cool”. Clark remembers the slang prank as a “tribute to Megan Jasper at Sub Pop, when she invented the fake grunge lexiconWhich took place in the New York Times. But the Seattle record company employee (now CEO of Sub Pop) didn’t punk the Times until the following year, so maybe his grunge lexicon paid homage to them.
Of the Portland landmarks that appeared 30 years ago in the magazine (which had a creepily illuminated Milla Jovovich on the cover – she was also modeled on a Buf-Puf ad on page 29), some are still here. , others perished. with the dream of the 90s, but all are perpetuated in the memory of readers whose curiosity for this old town in the woods was suddenly piqued. And some are still visited by Portland’s Insolent ambassadors. With the exception of Gonson, they all live in town, albeit in their own homes and not in punk band homes that Clark’s wife Robin, who also went to Reed, remembers paying $ 167 for. month as a share of the rent in the 90s. Demitriou, now a nurse, runs Legacy’s driving COVID testing clinic. Clark is a touring musician with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks as well as a McMenamins accountant, and Quitslund is a software engineer.
“If we were to do it now,” Demitriou reflected on a Zoom group call this summer, “it’s like the park, the grocery store – I’m not doing anything fun anymore! Maybe the aerial tram? “
“Maybe go out for the bluffs, because it’s the only walk we’ve ever taken, ”says Clark of the North Portland lookout, a place he didn’t know when he was in college but is now near his house. In what is not just a nod to his employer, he could also add Edgefield and Kennedy School to the shooting list today.
Demitriou also suggests the Holman Dock by OMSI, which Gonson was surprised to learn had become a popular spot.
“Can you swim in the Willamette?” asks the shocked photographer, who remembers the ’90s water health warnings. Gonson took a photo of the other three on Burnside Bridge in 1991, and his Insolent the legend mentions pollution and the “ugly” seafront.
“Usually I go there at night, and they’re full of young people in their twenties who smoke weed, listen to music and show off their tattoos,” Demitriou explains of her summer nights. “And I’m going out there with my ‘middle aged teenage’ friends, all stocky in our old lady’s swimsuits, and it’s great, super fun.”
“Wow, that sounds awesome,” Gonson marvels. “Very sassy.”