Goodbye Midtown Monthly

On Saturday, a group of past editors and freelance contributors to monthly free magazine Midtown Monthly gathered in the Hollywood Park, home of blogger and contributing writer Sarah Singleton. Midtown Monthly abruptly closed shop in March when Capitol Weekly, the publication with which it shared support staff, became an online-only publication.

We had come to mourn the death of MidMo, as it was affectionately known. This nickname was coined by Chris Woodhouse, a local musician once featured on the cover with his long hair completely covering his face, Cousin Itt-style. Who else but MidMo would have a cover like that, or for that matter, a cover with performance artist Mom on it, or long-dead, sozzled be-bopper Bobby Burns?

Singleton prepared a retro spread for the group: canapés topped with egg salad and smoked salmon, deviled eggs, herbed shrimp. There was also some powerful punch, prompting editor Tim Foster to quip, “There’s a bowl of alcohol with a little bit of punch in it.” His wife (and former MidMo editor) Liv Moe, sporting a vintage cocktail dress and suede boots, reminisced that when she first took over as editor, she was so inexperienced that she panicked about a blank page and filled it with scanned punk-show flyers and a picture of “a dog dressed as a leprechaun.”

Indeed, most of MidMo’s staff comprised amateur writers (our day jobs include social worker, cartographer, neuroscientist and a handful of historians) brought together by a love and passion for Sacramento as it exists, not as a future fever dream of abundant parking and luxury lounges conjured by developers and suburbanites—kind of like the anti-Sactown Magazine.

The “Keep Midtown Janky” issue, published in 2010, perhaps best embodied this ethos, to some controversy. Singleton’s profile of Melanie Dinos, the woman behind the slogan and the brilliant bumper stickers, garnered more than 40 comments on MidMo’s usually moribund website. The magazine’s writers were accused of being “hippie-minded slackers” who made Sacramento look like a “cow town” and might as well have said “Keep Midtown Gross.”

On the contrary, these critics misunderstood a tongue-in-cheek attempt to repurpose this word to encompass the Midtown’s scruffy charms, both past and present. For frequent contributor William Burg, Java City of the late ’80s and early ’90s was the ne plus ultra of such jank.

“It was my image of Midtown when I was a teenager; superhuman people in cat-eye glasses and leopard jackets,” Burg said. “[I thought:] ‘That’s what I want to be when I grow up.’”

Burg said his 2011 article on that bygone scene as his favorite and, accordingly, we started picking out our favorite covers and stories, leafing through the piles of back issues that Foster brought with him. Remember that photo of John Waters (high priest of jank) posing with MidMo? Remember that Ganglians interview before they hit it big? Mayor Heather Fargo posing in front of a mural by Skinner? And the William T. Vollmann profile? We chuckled over the typos, which one contributor noted that we were “known for.”

As the punch flowed and the hours sped by, the get-together resembled a celebration much more than a wake. I barely knew some of these folks five years ago when I started writing for MidMo; now they’re my friends. The night was such a success, that we’re already planning the next one. MidMo is dead; long live MidMo.