I love creating theme issues. And my hands-down favorite theme issue is the Valentine’s Day issue, because it’s a great jumping off point for all kinds of fun weirdness: trashy Mad Libs, BDSM vampires, a taste-test of erotic “edibles” from sex shops, and other love-dovey stuff.
For a long time, I’d wanted to do a bad-romance-novel-cover spread above as an homage to something I’d seen in Lemon magazine — and with an assist from Uncle Walter and the Phoenix design team, my wildest dreams came true in 2011. My other V-Day bucket list article was to get a bunch of chefs to make gourmet food out of Necco hearts (partly inspired by Mario Batali’s infamous Starburst-and-Red-Bull sauce), but I was convinced that was too outlandish to pull off … until our superstar food editor Cassandra Landry took the idea and ran with it. And suddenly, Boston chefs were making high-falutin grub out of Red Hots and Nerds. I could have wept with joy. (Or maybe that was sugar rush.)
And let’s not forget the clip & send Valentine cards.
In 2011, we also started collaborating with art collective Paint Pens in Purses to make these totes-adorbs Valentines.
The art for the first batch was pretty much anything goes; but for the second installment, we went for a “Love Hurts” theme, to go with the music section’s blowout “Top 100 Emo Songs of All Time” (read more about the Emo 100 web component here).
Somewhere along the way, I got a wild hair to combine the Valentine’s Day cards with our marketing campaign for the Phoenix‘s annual Boston’s Best reader poll … and it all came together in 2013.