I was back in college, after a year of slacking, and I noticed that the same types of people invariably sit in the same spots in every classroom. I wrote this thing, typed it, and pasted it to a piece of poster board during a single caffeine-fueled all-nighter in the mid-'80s. While it's inarguably bad, some still maintain to this day that it's actually horrible. Notice that The View From Down Here and What's Happenin' With Otto were present from day one. Also note the lame store and album recommendations, which were almost certainly inspired by The Offense Newsletter. I obviously didn't get off to a very good start, considering the fact that the first paragraph of the first issue doesn't even make any fucking sense. I have no idea what some of this stuff even means. How humiliating.
This one is a lot better than the first, but it's still nothing to make Michael O'Donoghue burst a blood vessel, or anything like that. Maybe I'm still horribly naive, but I think the piece on determining a baby's sex is mildly amusing. Obviously I was beginning to get a little fed up with college again by this point, as evidenced by the lead piece, and indeed I dropped out (again) shortly after this issue was printed. I then took a job selling meat and seafood door to door, eventually crashing my little meat buggy into the side of a Trans Am on its way to participate in a Fourth of July parade in Parkersburg, WV. This is not a joke.
If my memory serves me, I think this one came right on the heels of the second issue. It's silly to be sure. The Thomas Edison as rock star concept is OK, but I don't think I executed it particularly well. And the Sinda Higgins piece is pretty ridiculous. Interesting(?) factoid: Sinda Higgins really was/is a girl I went to elementary school with, and who disappeared from our lives forever as we entered Junior High. Apparently her family moved away, but nobody really knew for sure. Of course, none of the other stuff I wrote about her is true. I guess I was imagining all kinds of fantastic things that might've happened to cause her disappearance, for a reason I can't now remember. This issue is pretty rancid, but it doesn't trigger the hot blushes and cold sweats like the first one does.
This one's a real landmark: the first issue that doesn't stink like an open grave. Coincidentally, it's also the first appearance of the Short Story Album, a concept that's served me well through the years. I can't remember what prompted the idea, but I took a slightly unhip (but damned good) album, and wrote a short story based on each of the song titles. This was far and away the most popular issue, to that point. I was in Greensboro, NC by now, living with a potbellied redneck and away from my girlfriend. I remember working on this issue behind closed doors in my bedroom, attempting to hide it from my rebel-yellin' roomie. The results aren't earth-shattering, but things were looking up. The WVSR was actually mentioned in an article in Penthouse around this time, which nearly caused me to shit my pants. Luckily I was already in the bathroom when I read it.
In true Jeff Kay fashion, I was able to squander nearly all the momentum and goodwill I’d amassed with #4, by wasting time on this flimsy and unfocused fiasco. If you can figure out the concept, you’re a better man than I - and I wrote the fucker. I don’t remember much about it, but I do know I felt in my bones that it wasn’t very good, and didn’t distribute many copies. In fact, I re-used some of the better material in a later issue. This one’s a rarity, because it didn't make the cut to begin with -- the zine equivalent of a CD bonus track. Note the multiple mentions of Roach Motels. During this period I was living in an apartment in Greensboro, NC that forced me to become intimately acquainted with such high-class products.
I kinda like this one. I was making fun of bad fiction writing in If Hell Had a Bake Sale, which is pretty laughable to begin with (like I'm Kurt Vonnegut), but the piece rises to a level of ridiculousness that I still find enjoyable. And the article on diseases has its moments; the line about attending a church sermon and repeatedly yelling, "Why?" is good stuff indeed. With this issue I was edging out of the PG-Rated territory of previous efforts, into the more sophomoric world of shit and dick jokes that The WVSR would be criticized for inhabiting in the years to come. What can I say? Shit is funny, as are dicks.
Boy, this one hacked some people off. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I came up with the idea of a “Playboy parody” issue that was nothing more than a collection of bad fat-lady jokes. I thought it was brilliant, and was walking around in a good mood for days. As you know, Playboy (as well as most other “men’s magazines”) is constantly under fire for exploiting the beauty of women, so I thought I’d take it to the other extreme. Get it? Funny stuff, huh? Well, a lotta people didn’t see it that way. I received a virtual avalanche (by Surf Report standards) of hate mail over this stupid issue, and my excitement quickly turned to embarrassment. I learned, the hard way, that a lot of zinesters are just as touchy as your average Oprah watcher. Who could've predicted it? On a positive note, this is the last of the really bad issues. From here on out the sailing gets a little smoother. I promise. And I’m sorry.
Since the Short Story Album was the only thing I'd done with The WVSR that actually seemed to work, it was inevitable that I would return to the concept eventually -- and return I did with Issue Eight. This time I used the song titles from Side One of Cheap Trick's Dream Police to "inspire" another collection of ridiculous short stories. Once again the response was surprisingly big. Two of the stories in particular seemed to click with people: the Larry Bird story and the Disney story. This issue appeared in 1988, and I still get the occasional note asking for a replacement copy of the Disney story, I shit you not. As I read this issue now I realize it's not very good, but at least there seems to be an obvious improvement over previous efforts. I wince at a lot of it, but a few things still make me smile; the Larry Bird piece is a personal favorite. My life turned upside-down around the time this appeared, and there were no new issues for four or five years. I wrote the stories for Side Two, but never got around to publishing them. This was very nearly the end of the road for The West Virginia Surf Report.
The Lost Issue. This is Side Two of Cheap Trick's Dream Police, written in 1989 but never published. During this period I quit my safe little familiar job, gave up my safe little familiar apartment, and left Greensboro for Atlanta. My girlfriend and I moved to that scary-ass city with no jobs, or even the prospects of jobs, and into an apartment we'd rented sight-unseen over the telephone. The first night we saw crack whores and winos and various disturbing "urban outdoorsmen" creeping around the streets by our new "home." The apartment turned out to be a glorified walk-in closet that apparently hadn't been painted since the A-bombs fell on Japan, and our new neighbors were a little, um, different. This was all a bit much for an inexperienced West Virginia boy, and I was knocked on my ass for a while. I didn't make a conscious decision to quit publishing my zine, I just never got around to working on it anymore. Everything had changed, just like that. And it didn't help matters either when I eventually got used to the city, and started digging it. So this issue has floundered around in a silver Converse shoebox for the past twelve or so years. It's amazing that it survived, considering how many times I've moved during that time, but survive it did. And now it makes its World Debut. ...I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here...give me a moment... Anyway, I like this issue, I think it's the best one from the early years. I hope you do as well.
the triumphant return...