It should not have surprised Dick Clark that one of American Bandstand’s most popular dancers would pop up in a magazine aimed at teenagers. Teen magazines were hot in 1959 and no teens were hotter than those Bandstand kids that most of America could watch from the comfort of their own living rooms every weekday afternoon.
It was only natural that the fan magazine trade would latch on to the emerging teen market, given its huge numbers, relative affluence and seemingly insatiable appetite for all things rock and roll.
The radio and movie fan magazines of the 1930s and 1940s had barely begun edging onto the television arena when the rock tsunamii hit. By 1959, it had swept into magazine stands and drugstores with full force.
The teen magazine culture actually has its roots in Philadelphia as Walter Annenberg’s Triangle Publications — owner of WFIL-TV, birthplace of American Bandstand — launched Seventeen magazine in 1944. Seventeen was aimed at young girls ages 11-17 and was a major force in recognition of the then-new term “teenager” and the demographics the term represents.
But Seventeen was too conservative to fully embrace the rock movement of the 1950s. That ground was claimed by the new kids on the block — like ‘Teen, Dig, 16, the myriad song hit magazines published by Charlton or the dozens of other magazines that sprung like the first crocuses of spring and were gone nearly as quickly.
Pat Molittieri had aligned herself with one of the more successful of the upstarts.
Charles Laufer, the 30-something founder and editor of ‘Teen saw in the teenage publishing market the same golden promise that motivated Dick Clark in the popular music field. A high school basketball star from New Jersey, Laufer was lured to California by a high school classmate. There he graduated from the University of Southern California before becoming a high school journalism and English teacher in Norwalk, Calif.
Dismayed that his students weren’t reading enough, Laufer launched a teen-oriented magazine called Coaster in 1955. He changed the name to ‘Teen in 1957 and by the time he got around to hiring Pat Molittieri two years later to be a star columnist, he was locking horns with Clark.
Excerpted from Bandstandland © 2015 Larry Lehmer