Everybody remembers their first real job out of college – the job that says all the studying and money spent towards that college degree was worth it. The gig I was lucky enough to land still remains to this day, my favorite job of all time.

After graduating from the University of Delaware in 1986 I was able to land a part-time job at a local newspaper called The Bergen News. I hated it there. I didn’t get many hours, which equaled small paychecks. The publisher was an insulting, smug douchebag who required me to take a typing test PLUS and intelligence test before granting me the privilege to paste up pet store and beauty salon ads for his crappy little paper. And the Art Director I had to work under had frizzy hair, bad breath and tried to hit on me all the time.

Within a month I saw an ad in our local paper for a graphic designer and quickly sent in my meager resume. Miraculously, I got an interview. I remember the outfit I wore – a white sailor top that I had bought at an Army/Navy store and a pair of blue clam diggers. My mom was outraged – how could I got to an interview dressed like that? My theory was these were artists…they will appreciate my funkiness.

I was right. Guy Brown, the Art Director who interviewed me, was clad in a Baja pullover, jeans and sandals. I had little to no experience, but my college portfolio was solid, and in the summer of 1986 I was hired at Edrei Communications, publisher of Tiger Beat.

That’s right. The teeny bopper magazine. While David Cassidy and Donny Osmond were faces of the past, the Tiger Beat of the late 80’s was home to the likes of Michael J. Fox, Kirk Cameron, the Coreys Haim & Feldman, and the Brat Pack.

The offices were located in Teaneck, NJ at the time – a mere stone’s throw from my home. The staff was young and friendly, and before long I had mastered both T-square & triangle, and my hands were dry from cleaning wax off my boards with Bestine.

But I wasn’t only learning the art of graphic design and magazine layout. I was learning that I was not the social misfit I thought I was – I was learning that people liked me. Sally Field moment aside, you have to understand that I had just emerged from 4 years of high school followed by 4 years of college – 8 years where I was largely disregarded. I had few friends and never even came close to being popular.

Yet at my Tiger Beat offices, everyone seemed to like me. I was invited to lunch, and parties and drinks after work. People actually wanted to be around me. I can remember I threw a Halloween party one year, and not only did all of my co-workers come, but they brought friends! My house was teeming with people! I could finally look at myself in the mirror, and not see a total zero.

One less egg to frrrrryyyyyyy!

I adored my co-workers as much as they adored me. My two best friends were Rob and Rose – if I wasn’t with one I was usually with the other. We did crazy things in the office – we made darts out of push pins and wire. My neighbor Chris and I gabbed so much over our drafting tables that I constructed a clothes line and strung it up between us so we appeared even more like two gossiping Yentas. Angela, a hipster Marisa Tomei type gal, would drag me to Goodwill and used clothing stores during lunch in search of groovy old clothes. My boss Guy would pop out of his office, stand in the middle of our room and sing “One Less Bell to Answer.” It was a fucking blast.

And I loved my work. I have to admit, staring at photos of Kirk Cameron, Tiffany and New Kids on the Block could be tiresome. But I had a real passion for graphics, it showed in my work. Before long I was promoted to Asst. Art Director, and when Guy left I was offered the position of Art Director. At 23, I was in charge of both Tiger Beat and Right On! magazines, earning $21,000 a year and had my own office. I was in heaven.

Yet as is typical of Tracy it had to end. A year later the magazines were sold to a larger publisher in New York City. I was offered to join the new company, but I turned them down. I was young and stupid – I wasn’t thrilled about the thought of working in the city, and the salary they quoted wouldn’t cover the expense of my commute, so I thought I could do better.

I didn’t. I was waitressing inside of a year and sending out resumes to every design job I came across. I often think about that crossroads moment – I’ve even blogged about it – about how different my life might be had I taken that job.

I’ve worked many a job in the 23 years since I said good-bye to those offices on Teaneck Road, and not one of them can hold a candle to it. I had friends. I had a promising career, I was skinny, and I drove a Karmann Ghia.

I can, without a doubt, mark off those 3 and a half years as the absolute best in my life.

Tiger Beat Company picnic, summer of 1988 – If I could turn back time….

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