INSPIRED by the iconic 1970s girls’ magazine, Jackie The Musical runs at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry from this week. It tells the story of a 50-something divorcée, who revisits her stash of well-thumbed Jackie magazines for the same reason she first read them nearly 40 years’ previous: advice on how best to navigate the opposite sex. Well-known journalist and TV star Nina Myskow, who edited the magazine in the 1970s, talks about those glory days and her involvement with the show to Herald arts correspondent Gill Sutherland, who also worked on teenage girl magazines, including Just 17 and Smash Hits, and is a former Jackie reader!
What was it like working on Jackie back in the day?
Incredible; it was hugely successful and sold a million copies a week at its height. I was at Jackie for 12 years, from 1966 to 1978, and for the last four years I was the editor. It was great fun of course because you are working with creative people and I did some wonderful things. I had my first trip to America courtesy of Elton John on a private plane and went on tour with The Osmonds. I remember I was in the back of a car with David Essex in Glasgow once when we were surrounded by hundreds of screaming girls rocking the car back and forth. Teenage girls are an unstoppable force, terrifying!
What were your favourite bits of the magazine?
It was aimed at 12- to 16-year-old girls and had everything that would be fun for a teenager: pop, beauty, fashion, romance, picture love stories, but it also had a healthy dose of realism. On the Cathy and Claire page — our agony aunt — we tried to do articles which encouraged girls to think for themselves. Although it wasn’t the Dark Ages, girls were expected to put their careers on the back burner and start a family. I wanted them to know they had choices. Being a teenager is a very anxious time for young girls: they don’t know who they are, where they fit in, they’ve got spots, a crush on someone, or their best friend is nasty to them. It’s a lonely time and there wasn’t the kind of help girls can get now. You couldn’t just call your mate on your mobile, or use your laptop to research a problem; there was not that support system. There wasn’t an exciting, stimulated world, people lived life in black and white, and Jackie was a way of seeing the world in colour. It was a place they could have dreams.
What do you think of teenage magazines today?
You could kick the current crop into the dustbin! We were responsible; we were like a caring big sister. Sometimes we were naughty, not sexually, but hopefully fun, but so that girls felt supported. We used to get about 400 letters a week to the C&C page, and I made sure everyone got a personal reply. We had a series of leaflets printed that addressed every kind of problem, so they would get a personal letter with a leaflet enclosed. Jackie was an early kind of social media, it connected them.
What kind of teen were you?
I loved Honey magazine, it was a monthly so you had to wait all those weeks for the next issue. They use to feature the Jay twins, they were blonde, slim, pretty, both went to Oxbridge… I so wanted to be a Jay twin! As a teenager my life was quite difficult because I was brought up in South Africa, but moved to Scotland when I was 15 and that was difficult to adjust to. Honey was a gateway to a different life. There was also a black and white soap on the telly called Compact, which was about a magazine, and I remember looking at it thinking: ‘ooh, that looks like fun’. How pathetic to be influenced by a soap, but I think I might have been!
How did your involvement in Jackie the Musical come about?
When I was on Jackie I met loads of pop stars and one of the first ones I met was Elton when he was only 20, and knew his then manager John Reid. I hadn’t seen John for years and I bumped into him a couple of years ago and he said: ‘you must meet producer Douglas McJannet’, who was putting on Jackie. That was about 15 months ago and Douglas gave me a very grand title of editor-in-chief, all it means is that I’m the mentor/consultant/mascot!
Who do you think will enjoy it, and why?
Well, obviously the first people who spring to mind are the women who read Jackie in the 1970s, it’s perfect for them as it’s a direct line back to their teenage years and all that nostalgia. At the same time it’s a storyline any woman will identify with: women facing divorce, at a crossroads in their life, thinking where do I go from here? It’s set in the present time but she goes back to the 1970s . It was a great soundtrack, so anybody, including men, will enjoy it.
What’s your favourite song?
It’s too difficult to choose! I did embarrass myself trying to dance in front of choreographer Arlene Phillips and a company of professional dancers, so I sat down. But come opening night I’ll be up and dancing!
Tickets from £22.75 are available from the box office on 024 7655 3055. The show runs from Tuesday, 15th, to Saturday, 19th March.