Teen Set was a teenybopper pinup-style magazine that thrived for a period of time in the '80s.
I'm not sure if it is connected to an earlier magazine of the same title, but the September 1985 copy I own was published by Howard A. Weiss and edited by Sheila M. Cantillon.
It's ... something else!
Flipping through the pages is a trip — things have changed a lot in 32 years.
Following are the 11 most surprising things inside the issue:
(11) Madonna Getting "Groped"
Didn't Al Franken just resign over this?!
This pinup of Madonna (b. 1958) with Huey Lewis (b. 1950) at the AMAs (which occured January 28, 1985, making this shot nearly a year old when it was published) shows Huey's paw resting comfortably on Madonna's upper rump, decades before she learned how to twerk. (P.S. This is a joke, I'm not accusing Huey Lewis of groping Madonna.)
Fun Fact: This image was shot the night many AMAs attendees went into a studio to record "We Are the World," the #1 smash that was meant to raise money for Africa. Notable exceptions included Prince (1958-2016) and ... Madonna, who were secretly dating. P.S. Madonna's "Crazy for You" later displaced "We Are the World" on top of the charts.
(10) A Profile of Danny Nucci — Who Knew the Titanic Actor Had Been a Kid Star?
Danny Nucci (b. 1968) is best known as Fabrizio in Titanic (1996) — in which he appeared with buddy Leo DiCaprio (b. 1974) — but had a successful career as a child and teen actor long before that.
In a one-page profile, Nucci, described as being 16 but "who can still pass for thirteen or fourteen years old!" as if it's an Imitation of Life situation, talks about his "slow" start in the industry, detailing a "deferred pay deal, which really means no pay" that he endured in order to work on the movie Explorers (1985) in the role of "Nasty Kid at School."
Not exactly the kind of dish little girls bought teen mags for!
More disturbingly, his images are credited to Bob Villard, a manager and photographer who was about to be arrested on child porn charges, and who would be arrested again in 2001 for possessing "thousands of photographs of boys in skimpy bathing suits posed in sexually suggestive positions." In 2005, Villard pleaded no contest to a felony charge of committing a lewd act on a child, a 13-year-old boy.
Another image in this same issue credited to Villard of NeverEnding Story (1984) cutie Noah Hathaway (b. 1971) is so revealing I wouldn't even upload it.
Fun Fact: Nucci is married to Paula Marshall (b. 1964), who in 1993 played the enterprising NYU reporter who thought she had discovered the Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza characters on Seinfeld (1989-1998) were gay — not that there's anything wrong with it. She is also the sister of "Bigot Bob Marshall," an anti-LGBTQ Virginia politician who lost his seat to trans activist Danica Roem (b. 1984) in 2017; Paula made headlines when she tweeted that her bro losing his job was "karma brother."
(9) A Pic of Billy Zabka That Would've Been More at Home in a Chippendales Calendar... or on My Wall Now in 2017
This pinup of Billy Zabka (b. 1965) was shot by Roger Elwood (1943-2007), who I presume to be the same Elwood who was a well-known sci-fi writer. I made this connection because Zabka's history was in wrestling, as was Elwood's.
The pic is pretty startlingly fetishy for a teen mag, with the torn tank. But the cross around his neck makes it all good — the Lord won't mind!
Fun Fact: Zabka was a huge deal in 1984's The Karate Kid.
(8) George Michael's Shaggy Stems
This by-then-already-outdated image of George Michael (1963-2016) and Andrew Ridgeley (b. 1963) was a pinup, but while it is adorable to me now, I can't believe girls 11-16 (the mag's demo) were wowed by those hairy gams.
Also, we must remove points for incorrectly calling them Wham instead of Wham!
(7) A Shirtless Kid in Full Makeup
Teen Set was bold to offer screamingly gay Frankie Goes to Hollywood as a pinup option, and bolder still to go with this avant-garde image.
How often do you find a shirtless kid with a full face of makeup being used as a prop in a teen mag these days? Do teen mags still exist?
Fun Fact: Some of the lyrics of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax," a big hit at this time, were:
Relax, don't do it
When you want to go to it
Relax, don't do it
When you want to come
Relax, don't do it
When you want to suck it, chew it
Relax, don't do it
When you want to come
When you want to come
(6) A Fatally Flawed Missing Children Hotline Ad
It's very kind that the mag's publisher and Assemblyman Gray Davis (b. 1942) — yes, the guy who later became California's governor before being recalled — regularly ran missing children pics, but ... is a teen mag the right place? Won't little girls be terrified they could be next, and would they be very reliable witnesses if they thought they recognized anyone?
The points are moot anyway — check out how off the descriptions vs. the pictures are in this ad.
Fun Fact: Here's another go-figure: Teresa LaNotte McDonald, whose name appears in the ad, was reunited with her dad in May 1985, several months before this ad would have gone to press.
(5) Pinup of a 32-Year-Old Man with a Stache
Do you really wanna encourage your tween to fall for a 32-year-old soap star in the form of Kin Shriner (b. 1953)? This pinup really jumps out at me as something that wouldn't happen today, but that was considered fairly normal in the '70s (especially) and '80s.
(4) Phyllis Diller
Legendary comic Phyllis Diller (1917-2012) was 68 years old when she appeared in Teen Set, but it was only in a pic alongside a young singer. Still, shocking to see her at all.
Fun Fact: The young singer was Mr. Joey Perrone (b. 1968), who was a teen heartthrob in Australia thanks to appearances on a series called Young Talent Time (1981-1984). He never made it in the U.S., but don't miss the above clip, which shows him doing a lame sketch as a child with a tiny li'l Tina Arena (b. 1967), and also performing "This One's for You" and "All Night Long" — it's really a must-see.
(3) A Tribute to Broadway
Handsome Glenn Scarpelli (b. 1966) was a veteran of One Day at a Time (1980-1983) and Jennifer Slept Here (1983-1984).
Here, he rocks pastels so hard they almost break.
Fun Fact: Glenn came out as gay in 2006. Very Unfun Fact: Glenn detailed falling in love with a man who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, just two years after this picture was taken. The radical difference between teen fantasy and hard, cold, '80s reality could not be better illustrated.
(2) Take My Kid, Please!
Things were different in the '80s, kids. Case in point: We used to think it was okay to commit children's names, ages, addresses and turn-ons to print.
Okay, they weren't turn-ons, exactly, but some of the hobbies listed on this pen pals page (which has last names and addresses redacted by moi) include "guys" and "romance," not to mention all the young girls into Rob Lowe (b. 1964), who would go on to have a sex scandal in 1988 with an underage girl, and the boy whose fave star was Michael Jackson (1958-2009), who ... y'know.
I'm not suggesting that Teen Set did anything wrong. In fact, it was not the only mag that ran full names and addresses — it was the norm! It was a different time — a very different time.
(1) Brutal Takedown of ... Jason Bateman?!
As a former editor of a teen mag myself, I can tell you that you really do develop a resentment of any stars who are difficult to work with or who exude contempt for the medium.
However, as much as you'd like to call them out for it, you really can't. For starters, they're kids. Then there is the fact that writing bad stuff about any star just means you will literally never get them or anyone connected with them again.
These pearls of wisdom were lost on the powers that be at Teen Set in 1985 — and God bless them for it, because it produced the most hilarious thing I've ever seen in a teen magazine: A column called Teen Set's Rotten Egg Award!
In this hit piece, Jason Bateman (b. 1969) — who was just 16 at the time — is identified as a "brat" and mocked for the low ratings of his canceled series It's Your Move (1984-1985), which I loved BTW.
Jason is best remembered for his role on Silver Spoons as Derek, Ricky's friend. We have heard stories about Jason's behavior on the Silver Spoons set that would drive you crazy.
Of It's Your Move, the mag wrote:
Jason played an obnoxious teenager ... The show was terrible and Jason's off-screen attitude didn't help things. It came as no surprise that the show as cancelled (sic) ater one poor season. I was at one of the tapings and I got to see first hand (sic) what a brat Jason could be.
The writer (there's no byline) goes on to say he was "snotty" at a party and "impressed with himself," and that "the TV networks aren't very fond of him."
When Teen Set put Jason on their cover, they report that it was his first-ever cover appearance, and that his family promised a dedicated shoot to keep him on its pages, but:
... they stalled us and never came through with what they promised. His father is a tyrant and certainly very difficult to deal with.
Gee, sorry Jason didn't shoot with your resident sex offender (Villard, see above), guys!
Teen Set may have been in the process of inventing shade, but an oracle it was not; his career surpassed that of most of the people who've ever been in a teen magazine, including countless hit movies and a non-consecutive 15-year run on Arrested Development (2003-2018).
So what's the real story? Is he really that untalented and obnoxious?
It's your move, Jason.
(All images in this post are tear sheets of entire pages or, in the case of the pen pals page, a partial page with personal info redacted. The individual images are copyright their original creators and have not been isolated.)