Doree Shafrir was the Editor–in–Chief from January 1997 to December 1998.
This piece is part of a series of personal narratives written by Street alumni in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 34th Street.
Here’s pretty much the only thing you need to know about what Street was like in the late ‘90s: we had a definitely–not–fact–checked gossip column about drunken escapades and sexual exploits that used people’s REAL NAMES—that is, until we were threatened with a lawsuit by a family who was pretty unhappy about an item we ran about a freshman’s naked little sister (with the hindsight of over 20 years, this is very understandable. Actually, even at the time, it felt like we had crossed a line, and yet!). After that dust–up, “On the Street Scene” became “Style on the Street,” and our intrepid correspondent, the pseudonymous Fletcher Towell, turned his column into one that gently mocked Penn students’ fashion faux pas, with just a dash of now–anonymous, much more benign gossip thrown in, like the tale of the “riotously funny karaoke orgy at 4028 Spruce’s Saturday late night, featuring a drunken Theta senior we’ll call Lauren belting out a memorable ‘Sister Christian.’”
It was fun but wow, it was a different time.
In all seriousness though, the nights I stayed at the Pink Palace until 2 or 3 a.m.—usually trying to figure out why QuarkExpress (the worst desktop publishing program that ever existed) wasn’t cooperating and scavenging stale pizza—are some of my favorite memories of my time at Penn. The staff were all brilliant, wonderful weirdos who have gone on to be nominated for Pulitzer Prizes, write blockbuster movies, become respected TV critics, design video games, and even become doctors. (Didn’t really see that one coming, to be honest.) It was fun to be the underdogs, always fighting for resources and even our right to exist in the face of the more straitlaced, serious DP staffers, who always seemed slightly embarrassed by us. (And yet, they complained when they didn’t make the Cultural Elite. TYPICAL.)
Now, years later, whenever I meet someone else in media who went to Penn, we always ask each other the same question: Did you write for Street? And more often than not (at least, for the best ones), the answer is yes.
Doree Shafrir is a podcaster and author.