One of my great college joys was being part of the founding staff of a U of O student magazine called Oregon Voice.
A couple of weeks ago, the current Voice editor asked me and other ex-staffers to contribute a short remembrance to their 20th-anniversary issue. (Good Lord.)
You can read all our memories on pages 4-7 of this PDF. I've also pasted my contribution below.
Mainly, I remember the all-nighters.
I joined the Oregon Voice staff during its founding year, 1989. Founder/Editor Cliff Pfenning had no doubt surveyed U of O's student-magazine scene and noticed that it mostly involved Oregon Commentator and The Student Insurgent blasting away at each other with 32-pound cannons. That's a vital (and frequently hilarious) part of the student experience, but there wasn't anything dealing in long-form general-interest arts and feature writing. Cliff filled the void with the Voice, and I owe big chunks of my later career to his Big Idea.
At the time, I was drawing comic strips about my dorm-mates and posting them on the fourth floor of Tingle Hall (the strip was rather unfortunately titled "Tingle Force") -- so I was first conscripted to illustrate a very funny Voice humor column written by Jeff Young and Steve Jakobsen. Steve and Jeff were a pair of far-cooler-than-me wild men who had a nasty habit of rousing me from my hangover by busting into my dorm room while filming me with a camcorder the size of a school bus. I was tasked with drawing Steve and Jeff looking magnificent, usually in kilts, and then somehow tying it into the topic of the column at hand. I have a vague recollection of drawing them in their kilts staring dramatically at a sky filled with Lucky Charms marbits. It was that kind of column.
Jeff and yours truly, back in the day.
We all bonded over the all-nighters. In 1989, the Macintosh Plus (1MB of RAM! An 8MHz processor! A 20MB hard drive! Nine staggering inches of screen space!) was about as good as student computers got; you could go fetch a cup of coffee while PageMaker re-rendered if you moved a text box. So in those early days, we were laying out the magazine old-school -- pasting printed-out type, Xeroxed cartoons and dot-screened photos on signature sheets of blue-line paper with hot-wax rollers. If you found a typo and time was a factor, you typeset the correction and tacked it over the error with rubber cement. There was a tactile quality to making the magazine then, and I suspect that's something today's generation is missing, unless Adobe InDesign has a plug-in that dumps hot wax on your arm when you forget to put the cap on.
But as I'm sure everyone who's pulled an all-nighter on a student magazine can attest, there's a special kind of surreal giddiness that sets in around 3:30 a.m., and if good people surround you, special things can happen. And that first-year staff was a splendid, passionate crew full of people who loved to crack each other up and fill each issue with stupid little Easter eggs while getting bombed on chocolate-covered espresso beans. We even had a fellow named Stephen Moore who had no interest in contributing to the magazine whatsoever; he just loved to soak up the good production-night vibes and declared himself "Staff Masseuse," which is how I believe he was listed on the masthead.
Once, we were pasting together an issue at 4 a.m. and found ourselves with a big empty space on one page. In five minutes, Jeff Young and I filled that space with a comic strip about a crudely drawn hairless cat who -- in that and future issues -- would be killed repeatedly in various esoteric ways (by being turned into a piñata, by Franz Kafka, by being transformed into Tarzan's loincloth, by being bitten by MacGruff the Crime Dog, by having his budget repeatedly slashed by $500 by the Incidental Funding Committee). I drew it left-handed in five minutes right on the blue-line paper, and Jeff signed it "Vernon C. Wallingford III." And thus was the magazine's crudely drawn mascot born.
(Note to current staffers: I will draw you new Hairless Kats whenever you need them, forever.)
The twin addictions of production-night buzz and getting a stapled paper reward for all that hard work sort of ruined me -- but in a nice way. For the next two-and-a-half years, I wrote, co-wrote, illustrated and laid out silly, silly articles for OV (usually at the last minute) on everything from dating to suburban-hippie posers to strange supermarket food to the current cinema. We once created a fake clothing catalog called "O. Voice" in which we all modeled; I turned up in boxer shorts, reading the paper and drinking coffee while a woman took a swing at my head with a tennis racket.
There was a pretty hot student-cartooning scene at U of O at the time, and most of those cartoonists turned up in the Voice -- collaborating on two-page "Mondo Jam" comic strips in which one artist would write and draw a panel of comics and hand it off to the next artist, who took the story wherever he or she saw fit. We did one in 1992 in which we heaped untold amounts of abuse on Billy from "Family Circus." I later wrote a paper for my Mass Media Law class about whether or not we could be successfully sued over this comic. It is the only time Oregon Voice helped my grades rather than hindering them.
But here's the thing, and if I may close this remembrance with two bits of career advice:
1. You can always re-take a class you've failed. But you can put your time as an Oregon Voice staffer on your first resume.
2. Also, feel free to plunder your early Voice work well into your modestly compensated media career. These days, I occasionally draw a comic strip called "Mr. Do & Mr. Don't" for The Oregonian's A&E section; I first invented those characters in 1989 or 1990 to illustrate an extraordinarily naïve article I wrote about the dos and don'ts of college dating. I also draw a non-fiction comic strip called "CulturePulp" for The O in which I appear as the main character; that character wears a t-shirt proudly emblazoned with a Hairless Kat logo.
-- Mike Russell (OV staffer, 1989-92)
Oregon Voice's 20th-Anniversary Issue (PDF, 17.9 MB)