Friday, September 22, 2017

Crushes Past and Present by Patty Blount

I think one of the biggest reaons I'm so drawn to young adult fiction is The Crush...which -- not so coincidentally, is the theme this month. I adore stories about first love -- that time in a teen's life when the person you really, really like miraculously really, really likes you back. There's nothing else like it.

Maybe it's also why I find myself, in my fifties, still enjoying crushes on various celebrities. Like Kimberly Sabatini, it started with The Hardy Boys and Shaun Cassidy when I was about twelve. From there, I moved to Tom Selleck as Magnum. Simon LeBon in Duran Duran.

As I aged, I noticed my crushes did, too. For a very long time, I was enamored with Fox Mulder -- not so much David Duchovny, the actor who portrays him, but the character. I admired his unwavering determination to believe something, or in something, that couldn't be proved. I respected how not even almost universal ridicule could deter him from that mission. As someone who's never had many friends, it impressed me how he didn't mind going it alone -- even preferred it.

I like to think my Fox Mulder crush developed because I had grown up. When I was twelve, it was all about a great smile or amazing hair and in Tom Selleck's case, dimples. But now, it's entirely about character. In fact, a good number of my crushes today are on fictional characters like Levi Cooper from Kristan Higgins' The Best Man, Noah Hutchins from Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits, and -- don't judge -- Avery Cates from Jeff Somers' The Electric Church. Hey, he's a hit man with a personal code of honor.

But every once in a while, there's a photo or video that catches my eyes, puts a little gasp in my breathing. These days, it's Gilles Marini and Sam Heughan. Sam has the great honor of portraying a famous character, that of Jamie Fraser (Outlander). No small feat, as Jamie is the King of Men.

And Gilles?


My interest in Gilles was born in fiction. Before I published my debut novel, SEND, I was writing contemporary romance. I have an unpublished manuscript called Borderlines that features a British investigative reporter named Thomas. Developing characters is my favorite part of the writing process. Naming them, uncovering who they are, what they want, what they fear... it's kind of like playing God. Thomas is a very real person to me. I know what kind of cologne he wears, how he takes his coffee, what size shoes he wears and what sends shivers down his spine. I suspect it's like this for all authors. Our imaginations are pretty vivid.

Yet actually seeing your character, alive, in 3D, talking, moving and breathing? That packs a shock. And that's what happened to me. I found Gilles on Dancing With the Stars and couldn't take my eyes off him. He was my Thomas right down to the shape of his mouth. Two big differences? Thomas has light brown eyes, almost gold and a British accent. Gilles' eyes are deep brown and he's French.

(One of the very best things about fiction is nothing's carved in stone. Thomas already happens to speak fluent French. I can easily change those two characteristics....)

Anyway, I followed Gilles for years and then got to meet him in person when he appeared here on Long Island. If you'd like the details, click here. When you're twelve, you dream of getting to meet your favorite celebrity some day but deep down, you know it'll never happen.

But when you're fifty? You know it could but you also know it could change everything. Because yes... most of the fun of a crush is in assigning all of these imaginary traits and characteristics to the object of your affection. If you discover that boy with the perfect smile and glorious hair is allergic to dogs and hates chocolate, you're done. Finished. Nothing to see here...  move along to the next crush. Meeting a crush in person removes all elements of fantasy.

Yet that didn't happen when I met Gilles. He is every bit as amazing and wonderful and yes, swoon-inducing as the character I made up.

My crush on him has not waned.

Not one bit.

*sighs again*

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Okay, so crush is defined as: a brief but intense infatuation for someone, especially someone unattainable or inappropriate.

Man, oh, man, do I love this definition.  

Mostly, I love it because my favorite movie is HAROLD AND MAUDE. I don’t think there’s ever been a better onscreen couple. 

Or, in many ways, a more inappropriate one.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a ‘70s cult classic, so, yeah, it’s completely weird, but it’s also just so dang lovable. Harold’s a young man—in his 20s, and Maude is about to turn 80. 

And, yes, they have a love affair.

(The above is a great scene in which Harold’s priest offers a few thoughts on his wishes to marry Maude.)
I saw the movie for the first time when I was 15 (why I’m counting it as my teen crush), and in so many ways, I really think it shaped what I like to see most in love stories: opposites attract, the kind of relationship in which just being in it changes you for the better (Maude teaches Harold to love life), and a couple who just plain should never work at all…

And yet, they do.

Really, I’m a sucker for a love story in which love persists despite everything. Including the fact that the outside world thinks it’s just plain nuts. I’m infatuated with the idea of a love that’s so strong, there’s just plain no talking the two out of it. It exists, and there’s no, well, crushing it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Crushing it! [laurie boyle crompton]

Last month I hinted at some Good Book News in the works and now my new YA Novel sale has been officially announced! I'm so excited my next book: PRETTY IN PUNXSUTAWNEY will be published next year by the amazing folks at Blink/HarperCollins! To celebrate I had a living room dance party with my #1 girl crush: Ms. Melissa McCarthy!! (We would be besties if we ever met in person, I'm sure of it!) Enjoy! And don't judge my cringey singing and dancing please - happiness makes me act ever-so-slightly-more-awkward-than-usual!!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Michael J. Fox, Flamingos and The Babysitters Club: A Look Inside My Childhood Bedroom (Alissa Grosso)

When I was eleven years old, we moved into a new house. This wasn't an exceptional thing, we had done this a few times before, but what made this move different was that for the first time my sister and I were allowed to pick out new bedroom furniture and the color of the paint on our walls. Before this, we'd just had a mish-mosh of mixed up hand-me-down furniture and whatever paint happened to be on the walls of the house when we moved in. I chose a pale pink color for the walls that would surely help bring out the the mauve colored drawer panels on the sleek modern white furniture I picked out.

Along with these decorating decisions, I decided that my room needed a theme and in keeping with the color scheme I chose pink flamingos. It was the 1980s, and flamingos were pretty in. Though, let's be honest, do flamingos ever really go out of style? I envisioned maybe a few flamingo posters on the wall and some flamingo decorations hanging from the ceiling, but things quickly got out of hand. Soon everyone who had ever met me would supply me with any flamingo themed thing they could find and I found myself with a very large collection of flamingo paraphernalia.

What does all this have to do with this month's theme of teen crushes? Don't worry, I'm getting to him.

In the mid to late 1980s, my favorite television show was a sitcom called Family Ties and it starred an absolute dream boat named, Michael J. Fox. Not too long before this, he had been in the movie Back to the Future. I suppose he was at the top of his celebrity at this point, and he was certainly at the top of my list of eligible bachelors. So, a ginormous poster of Michael J. Fox presided over the sea of flamingos that filled my bedroom. I realize that by this description my bedroom might sound a bit like something out of a horror movie or a weird but creepy nightmare, but I can assure you it was really a comfortable, welcoming place even if it was on the crowded side.

By the way, I got that poster of Michael J. Fox from the Scholastic book order form that used to be distributed to us at school. These simple four-page fliers were a mini catalog of books and related items that could be ordered by handing in the form with a check from mom and dad to the teacher and then waiting what felt like an eternity for books to arrive at the school. Hey, before the internet, this was all pretty high tech. A new Scholastic order form was one of the few things that made school worthwhile.

In fifth grade, the same year I ordered that Michael J. Fox poster, I remember one Scholastic order form, in particular. It was promoting the first book in a new series called The Baby-sitters Club. I'm pretty sure every girl in my class ordered a copy of that book. We were not alone. When weeks later our book order showed up, what it didn't have in it were any Baby-sitters Club books. Scholastic had grossly underestimated the demand for Ann M. Martin's new series and had not printed enough copies. While they waited for the new printing, they sent a note of apology and gave us a free book until they could get us our Baby-sitters Club books in the next shipment. The book we received was The Thanksgiving Treasure by Gail Rock. Of course I read that, because I was a voracious reader who pretty much read everything that was put in front of me.

That said, when we did finally get our Baby-sitters Club books the following month, I was instantly hooked. I ordered each new book as they came out, and when I had outgrown the Scholastic book order forms by sixth grade, I would make sure to get them at the Brentano's at the mall. Some flamingos may have needed to get shifted aside to make room for all my Babysitters Club books. In fact, there were probably as many books in my room as flamingos, which might not sound impressive to you, but there were a LOT of flamingos.

So, this was supposed to be a post about teen crushes, and though I can remember having a teen crush or at least a tween crush on Michael J. Fox, I was probably far more obsessed with books, and, of course, flamingos. I've grown out of my Michael J. Fox crush and my flamingos obsession, but books remain one of my favorite things.

Alissa Grosso is the author of the books Shallow PondFerocity Summer and Popular. You can find out more about her at

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Battlestar Galactica, or How My Crush Led to My Career

I'm not going to write about my first crushes because everyone else has covered them so well. Davy Jones? Shaun Cassidy? Paul McCartney?


No, instead I'm going to talk about one of my childhood friends and how our friendship, and our crushes, helped me along the path to being a published author.

Lynn was... not like anyone else.

Where the popular girls were blonde, Lynn was dark. Where the popular girls were petite, Lynn was all wiry strength. Where the popular girls were sweet on the surface and nasty behind the adults' backs, Lynn was sassy in the face of authority and honest to everyone's faces.

I was astonished by Lynn.

This is the only photo I have of Lynn, and it's from 6th grade graduation. I took it with the family's Brownie camera. (If you don't know what a Brownie is, look it up. They were ancient even then). As bad as this photo is, I love it because it captures so much of Lynn's essence. How many girls then would pose for a photo like this, hands so confidently on her hips, challenging the world, that blaze of unruly, uncool, un-70s hair tumbling around her head. Yeah? You got a problem with me? her posture says. With Lynn as a friend, I could believe in myself. You know what I mean?

Our friendship began when we were paired up as reading buddies in fourth grade. Both accelerated readers, we worked our way through the assigned reading workbook by the end of September. Our teacher wisely set us free in the library after that.

We bonded over everything we had in common, not what we didn't. Star Wars. Music. Books. The Hardy Boys TV show. She took Frank (Parker Stevenson), I took Joe (Shaun Cassidy). Besties.

And then we discovered the wonderfully awful Star Wars wanna-be called Battlestar Galactica.

Dirk Benedict, left, and Richard Hatch, right
in a promotional poster for the show
(No copyright info avail.)

Since we were true best friends, we never fought over a guy, not for a minute. Our Hardy Boys fancy transferred seamlessly to this new duo. Lynn, being Lynn, went for bad boy Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict, and I fell for straight arrow Apollo, played by Richard Hatch.

It was a goofy, stupid show but we loved it. Every Sunday night, we watched the show and every Monday we rehashed the stories together at school.

At some point, we started rewriting the stories with us in them.

Today, there's a name for this:  fan fiction, or fanfic. At the time, we had no idea what we were doing or that other people did it. This was just what we did.

With Star Wars, we had each taken turns being Princess Leia. With BG, we took it to a whole new level:  we invented characters for ourselves and wrote ourselves into the story. We rewrote the entire series, from beginning to tacky end.

I still have the embarrassingly awful text that emerged from the years-long effort we put into it. Even after Lynn moved away to live with her father in Queens, we still wrote, taking turns and mailing the sheets of long-hand back and forth. The best was when we could manage a sleepover weekend. Then it was non-stop writing. And junk food.

This, for the first time in public, is the title page of the horribly bad fan fiction we wrote of Battlestar Galactica. Yes, it was so big, so epic, so REAL that it had a title page. With fancy block letters.

This is so embarrassing, I can't believe I'm sharing it.

And I had the honor of writing the opening sentence. You can see my budding genius in those first words: "Commander Adama stood before the blazing star field."

It's horrible. I can't even look straight at it. I have to avert my eyes.

But you know what? That crush, that passion, that love pushed us to write a massive piece of work -- basically a complete novel(ish) -- without which, who knows where I'd be today.

Don't call it puppy love. It was real.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Love Letter to a Childhood Crush by Jody Casella

I was eight years old, nine, ten.

He was always fourteen. Maybe at some point he turned fifteen.  But that was way later. 

He was an orphan. Red-haired. "Husky," they called him. I didn't know what that meant, but I pictured him as strong, sturdy. His name was Jim Frayne. The first time I met him he was on the run from his evil stepfather. Holed up in a mysterious, abandoned mansion. He slept on an old mattress. 

His mom had died recently. He'd heard that he had an uncle who lived in that mansion. Maybe the uncle would take him in? He wouldn't be any trouble. Sad story: the uncle had died recently too.

Now the mansion was crumbling into the hillside. No matter, Jim could take care of himself. He would never go back to his evil stepfather. 

Good thing he was smart. Brave. Resilient. He knew his way around the woods. He could follow animal tracks. Suck the venom from a Copperhead bite. Set up a camp. Start a fire with two sticks. He was compassionate too. His lifelong dream was to open a summer camp for boys. Boys like him. Boys in trouble. 

Shocking plot twist: that mattress he slept on was stuffed with a million dollar bills! But Jim wouldn't figure that out until the end of the book. 

Trixie Belden and the Secret of Mansion was the first real book I read. Age eight, I curled up with it, a little intimidated. I'd never read a book so long before. And there were no pictures. Unless you counted the ones on the inside cover, the drawings of the main characters.

Trixie, of course. The tomboy. Prickly and stubborn. Determined. Loyal. Her older brothers, Brian and Mart. Her best friend, the poor little rich girl Honey Wheeler. And her other best friend, Di, a sweet girl with violet colored eyes. 

Jim Frayne, the runaway boy Trixie and Honey discovered sleeping in the old mansion on the hill.

Their first mystery.  

I read the Trixie Belden books at a sad, vulnerable time in my life. Age eight, nine, ten. A shy, scared, weird, little girl. My father had died. My mother had remarried. My stepfather, I'd learned quickly, was not the wonderful man everyone said. 

Oh, how I loved these books! I read them-- all sixteen books in the series-- over and over, and I can't quite explain why. The clever (I thought) mysteries. The realistic (I thought) characters. But it was more than that. It was the group of friends banding together. The loving Belden family. "Moms," as Trixie called her mother, and Dad, looking out for the kids. Making a safe, happy place to come home to after the day's adventures.

And Jim, that rough around the edges, but darling boy. 

Honest to a nearly ridiculous degree, Jim knew Trixie's faults.  Her impulsiveness. Her tendency to blurt stuff out and regret it later. But he loved her anyway. Jim was kind. Brotherly. And then, sometimes, not so brotherly... giving Trixie a special bracelet to wear. Squeezing her hand after a particularly scary, climactic moment. 

I think now that Jim Frayne was probably my model for ideal maleness. A little girl without a father, with a not so good stepfather, I needed to know a boy like him existed. 

Or could.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Crushin' It by Jodi Moore

I've been agonizing over this post for the past two months. My young heart was a fickle one. Pick a year, a month, even a day...and I seemed to have a new crush.

It started early. I couldn’t have been more than five when Jerry Lewis captured my heart. I thought he was handsome. Hilarious. Kind and generous. Even at that tender age, I marveled at the fact he hosted a telethon where he raised money for kids. He inspired me to help others. The world lost a beautiful man this year.

I “married” my 5-year-old crush in kindergarten. We traded favorite toys to seal the deal. Everyone called him “Joe” years later, but he’d always be Joseph to me.

But then Paul McCartney stole my six-year old heart after seeing him play “Yesterday” on the Ed Sullivan show. 

I crushed on Davy Jones of the Monkees when I was seven. And Robin (of the TV Batman series) too. Oh! And the prince in Cinderella. (See? I told you I was fickle.) 

As a forever Beatles fan, my heart rushed back to Paul from 4th to 6th grade, filled with remorse for my unfaithful ways. But then Paul broke my heart and married someone else. (The nerve.) Well, I did cheat on him after all. I believe I also entertained a crush "fling" with Peter Brady.

In seventh grade, my best friend Debbie (and Tiger Beat Magazine) introduced me to The Osmond Brothers. She loved Donny. I loved Jay. Jay played the drums. He loved football. And the color green. His smile melted my heart. 

In high school, I drifted to the dark side. I was the proverbial good girl with the perfect grades, president of the National Honors Society…who held a secret crush on the notorious bad boy. Of course no one knew, except my best friend, who patiently lived through all of my angst. One day, he smiled at me and I’d thought I’d dissolve into a pile of mush. Seriously.

When I left for college, I had a huge crush on Barry Manilow. Yes, I’m a huge fan-ilow. The man exudes romance.

Fast-forward to my senior year. I know it might sound corny to say, but when I met my husband, I experienced each one all over again.

Larry’s funny, handsome and kind like Jerry Lewis. And he not only has worked to raise millions of dollars for families dealing with pediatric cancer, he genuinely loves kids. (I should know...we raised two of the best.)

He still likes to play (like building sandcastles and collecting matchbox cars) like Joseph.  

He’s the music in my world, like Paul, both emotionally and for real: we’ve DJed together for 40 years.

He’s adorable like Davy Jones, fights injustice in the world like Robin and oh, how that man can sweep me around the dance floor, just like a real prince.

While he doesn’t play the drums or like football like Jay Osmond, his smile absolutely melts my heart. And our kitchen’s green, so I guess he’s not opposed to it.

Larry’s never settled for status quo, asking questions, demanding answers. Facilitating change. A fine rebel if I ever did see one. He’s even passed this onto our sons…which although it sometimes scares the “good girl”, it also makes her very proud.

And romance? Larry’s got that one down pat. He left a rose on my doorstep after our first date, and he still sends me flowers and leaves me cards for no reason, which is the best reason of all. Our first movie was Lady & The Tramp. We still call each other that.

So I guess you could say I married my true crush. And my heart's never been happier.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The View from the Top of the World

This being September 11, I could not bring myself to write a blog post about teen crushes. I just couldn't.

I grew up on Long Island in the suburbs of New York City, and I was living in northern New Jersey in 2001. The World Trade Center was part of my skyline, part of my growing up, part of my life.

When I was a child, we went to see the massive holes in the ground where, someday, my dad promised, giant towers would rise.

When the towers were finished, we rode the super-fast, queasiness-inducing elevators to the top of Tower 2 and went out onto the observation deck and it was like you owned all of New York City -- not just Manhattan, but Brooklyn and Queens, Staten Island and Ellis Island and the Bronx, and all of the water and the ships and planes too. You could feel the gentle sway of the tower beneath you if it was at all windy -- and when you're up that high, it's often windy. You tell yourself that the engineers planned for this, that the suppleness of the building's spine is necessary, but it's still unnerving. It still sends a shiver of not-quite-fear through you.

In 1986, my friend Julie, right, visited from England and we took her to the top of the world. Literally.
That's the Statue of Liberty in the center of the photo.

You weren't supposed to, but at the inside observatory, I used to step right up next to the windows and look straight down. I can still feel the sickly swoop of my belly as the world dropped out from under my feet. Dark swift cars and bright yellow taxis the size of Matchbox toys flowed silently along the blacktop far below. They might have been in a movie; they were that disconnected from my reality.

Inside Two World Trade Center, as it was properly called, looking toward Brooklyn.
See that bar? I used to sneak under that to press up against the glass and look down. 

My brother worked in Tower 1 for several years, and was there in 1993 when terrorists made their first attempt to destroy it by blowing up a van parked underneath. Still, I don't think any of us ever believed that these monuments to ingenuity and prosperity could fall.

And yet, they did.

Friday, September 8, 2017

If You're Nancy Drew... by Kimberly Sabatini

Growing up, I wasn't really Nancy Drew--but I kind of was. 

I read all the books...

and I faithfully watched the TV show. 

I even use to write my own clues and create my own mysteries for other people to solve. My brother and my cousins were receptive to solving my mysteries. *phew*

But this nerdy addiction led to other things...

Because of my love of all things sleuth, my very first crush was on the Hardy Boys...

Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy were my perfect partners in crime. 

And then when this happened, tipping Joe Hardy just a little bit ahead of Frank on the love-o-meter.

Da Doo Ron Ron sealed the deal. <3

This post isn't dating me is it?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees! (Mary Strand)

This month’s theme is teen crushes.  Being a precocious child, or maybe because I had six older brothers and sisters, I had my first “teen” crush at age six.  Bob Crane, best known as Colonel Hogan on Hogan’s Heroes, stole my heart.  Yes, yes, you’ll tell me that he later died under shocking and sketchy circumstances.  I don’t care.  Hogan.  Swoon.

I moved on.  I’m not sure if I was a teen or merely a tween when I had these crushes, but my trio of crushes for a while consisted of Davy Jones, David Cassidy, and Bobby Sherman.  In that order.  Emphasis on Davy Jones.  Major emphasis on Davy Jones.  I still swoon (mildly) when “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!” blasts out of my car’s speakers, whichlet’s just sayit still does on a regular basis.  I’m still sad that Davy is no longer with us.

Interestingly, all of my young crushes were actors AND singers.  Or, really, singers and actors.  They were much better singers than actors.  I didn’t care.  I cringe a little when I see them now, but I still own DVDs of The Monkees and The Partridge Family TV shows.  (Along with Hogan’s Heroes, of course.)

At the time, I didn’t analyze my great loves (or silly crushes, as the case may be).  As I look back, though, I see that I picked guys who were (seemingly) sweet and nice.  Sense of humor:  optional.  Brains: not particularly necessary.  Hogan was brainy, but if that was true of Davy, David, and Bobby, they hid it well.

As I moved further into my teens, my crushes got older and more complex.  I adored Mike Connors of Mannix, who was smart and tough, but also nice.  When he died recently at age 91, I was stunned at how old he was.  (Yikes!)  I also tended to like the less-obvious choices (and still do), both with celebrities and in real life.  Guys who are really smart, absolutely.  Guys who intrigue me. 
On Bonanza, it was Pernell Roberts, who played the quiet, serious Adam Cartwright, when everyone else loved Michael Landon as Little Joe.  I also loved Sean Connery (also way too old for me!), who was smart and funny and more than a little wicked.

As I got older and started datingand, no, I am NOT publicly naming any real-life crushesI liked guys who were smart and funny and nice.  At some point, though, the nicest guy I’ve ever met broke my heart into a million pieces.  Another nice guy later did the same.  So my crushes now tend toward bad-boy types:  ones I’d EXPECT to break my heart, so I’m safe.  Thus, my biggest celebrity crushes of recent years?  Hugh Jackman (who’s an adorable bad boy in the X-Men movies) and Robert Downey, Jr., who is actually my dream crush:  smart, wickedly funny, and totally a bad boy.  I adore him.

When the Avengers movies first came out, my then-tween daughter quickly picked HER crush:  Chris Evans as Captain America, versus my crush, RDJ as Iron Man.  I laughed.  History repeats itself:  the early crushes are on sweet boys.  As they should be.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dirk Benedict

Lieutenant Starbuck, a Viper pilot on the original Battlestar Galactica television series. Yum yum.

Although my brain wanted to fall in love with stable, honorable Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch), I lost my heart to cigar smoking, womanizing, Pyramid playing, fighter pilot Starbuck. (I didn't know what womanizing was then—what was I thinking? Oh, I wasn't!)

My parents knew not to try to get me to do anything during the show, because I wasn't leaving Starbuck's side. He didn't have the insight or planning ability of Apollo, his best friend, but he was an exciting bad boy. (Thank goodness my crush on Starbuck was the only "real life" crush I ever had on a bad boy!) Yes, Starbuck got into more than his fair share of fighting, trouble, and reprimands on the show. But he was the best pilot on the Battlestar Galactica.

After an episode, I would spend the week imagining scenes from the show interfacing with my life. Finding the daggit, crashing my Viper, fighting Cylons in deadly space, escaping from a malfunctioning launch tube. These flights of imagination could happen anywhere, especially during my more boring classes. (Pardon, Mr. Adams, you want me to conjugate what French verb?)

Starbuck's dress uniform had me imagining my own military-style wedding, complete with uniforms and swords. And back-slapping, cigar-clamped-between-teeth pilots. (Even though my uncle smoked a very stinky cigar.) Yes, Starbuck was mine. To this day, I harbor a soft-spot for a full-dress military uniform, but not cigars.

Starbuck looked good in anything. In those days guys didn't take off their shirts to show off their six- or eight-packs. Nor were there shower scenes with a skimpy towel wrapped around a narrow waist. Lucky for me, or I may have slipped into a less-than-logical frame of mind during math class.

But Starbuck gave me the chance to fall for someone I would have been terrified to meet, let alone date. And, I didn't realize until now, every one of my books has a pilot character with Starbuck-like qualities.

By the time the show was canceled, my crush had run its course, though I must say that when Dirk Benedict returned to the small screen as "Face" in The A Team, I put an A Team bulletin board up in my first-year-teacher classroom. As a nod to relevance—and math. (My principal bought that logic.)

And my favorite rank is still lieutenant.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hayley Mills (Bill Cameron)

A few days ago I got to thinking about how easy it is for us to see almost any television show or movie we want now. Though it gets more complicated with older productions, between OnDemand, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Apple, and whatever happens to be in the current schedule of most cable channels, there's a good chance you can find what you want. At worst, you might have to pay a rental fee or—at worst—buy a digital copy. (I know there's also the option of torrents, but as a guy who wants people to legally acquire my work, I'm not going to go pirate movies or TV.)

Of course, it was not always this way. For those of us who qualify as olds, we remember a time when we were beholden to the programming decisions of network and local TV executives. Or maybe we'd have access to an art house theatre that showed classics, but still it was all about waiting. Once a year, I remember, CBS would show The Wizard of Oz. That was something of an Event for me, though the first few times I saw it we had a black-and-white TV so I didn't quite get what made it special. We also looked forward to annual holiday specials, and would sometimes try to remember to catch summer reruns of shows we missed during the regular season. But it wasn't until I graduated high school that the age of the VCR began and we had a little more control over what we watched—and when.

All this may be why my own teen celebrity crush was particularly piquant and long-lived. Had it been as easy then as it is now to binge and obsess on a single show or film, or actor, I might have burned through my obsession in record time. Instead, my crush on Hayley Mills dragged on forever.

Now, it wasn't just Hayley Mills, but a very specific Hayley Mills—two of her, in fact. I was utterly infatuated with Susan and Sharon in the original The Parent Trap. And damned if I didn't spend months and sometimes years waiting for a chance to watch it again.

To be fair, my Hayley Mills crush started when I was not yet a teen. My first viewing of The Parent Trap happened when I was nine, and I didn't even see it from the beginning. It must have been a Disney Sunday night broadcast, and in all likelihood I ran late doing the dishes. As a result, at first I thought Hayley Mills was two people, and I loved both of them from the get go.

Nowadays, if I start a movie midstream, I just pop into IMDB on my phone and check out the details to get caught up. But in 1972, I wouldn't have known how to find out about an 11-year-old movie or the "twins" who starred in it to save my life.

Fortunately, within a year I got a chance to see the movie from the beginning and then, frankly, I was even more enthralled. One person playing two people? Crazy! (To be fair, I'd seen the "Mirror, Mirror" episode of Star Trek by then, but Goatee Spock and Regular Spock were in two different universes! Not the same thing as the twins pranking each other at camp or doing that goofy dance routine together. Here was clearly an actress of sublime talent! To be sure, prior to The Parent Trap, my idea of the pinnacle of cinematic achievement was Bugs Bunny in The Rabbit of Seville. That's not so say I don't think Hayley Mills was (and is) a talented actor—I do!—just that as a ten-year-old I lacked the knowledge or experience necessary to render an objective assessment of her abilities.

The skill I did have was the ability to read the TV Guide. And that second viewing started a multi-year cycle of poring through each issue checking to see when the next broadcast would be. Fortunately, those turned out to be more frequent than a less accessible film might have been. The Seventh Seal wasn't going to show up on the movie schedule of my local independent TV station nearly as often as the effervescent fun of The Parent Trap.

More than once I skipped other activities, including school, to catch a showing of The Parent Trap. A trip to King's Island? Uh, not if I have to miss, "Let's get together, yeah, yeah, yeah." If it played during an afternoon when I had chores (which, actually, was all afternoons) I'd gladly take the grounding rather than miss the movie just to vacuum or whatever. By the time it would be broadcast again, I'd be off grounding anyway.

As I got older, my view of the movie began to change. With frequent viewings of anything, you see what you missed the first (dozen) times. For example, the splicing of Hayley talking to Hayley started to become more noticeable. That wasn't a ding against Hayley herself, of course. But the similarities between Sharon and Susan, despite their rather overblown city girl/country girl tics, did start to indicate a certain lack of range. Hayley was delightful, but Tatiana Maslany she was not.

By the time I was an actual teen, some of the luster began to wear off. The movie world was changing in dramatic ways by then—we were nearing the arrival of Jaws and the advent of the summer blockbuster. Acting was changing, film was changing. And I was changing. 

I was thirteen when it suddenly struck me just how preposterous the premise of The Parent Trap really was. I mean, think about it. How does a couple decide, no matter how they feel about each other, to split up sisters, move to opposite ends of the continent, and then spend years pretending the other child doesn't exist? What would they have done if they had only one baby? Split it in half in a grim, King Solomonesque bargain. That would have given us a very different, if potentially intriguing, movie.

And in any case, even if such an arrangement might have happened in the weird social milieu of 1961, two people who disliked each other enough to cut off all contact for at least a decade aren't suddenly going to fall in love again via a whacky camping trip and a song-and-dance routine performed by their utterly adorable daughter(s).

That last realization was probably the beginning of the end for me and Hayley. Clearly I conflated her with the roles she performed, and if I didn't believe in the story, I couldn't quite believe in her either, could I? Then little things started to seem troubling or annoying. The amusing old reverend who ogled Maureen O'Hara turned into a skeevy old lech. And that house—that ridiculous impossible house. And what did these people do anyway? Just be rich all day? Gross.

None of that is to say my infatuation with Hayley soured exactly—but it did fade. By my mid-teens I had seen her in some other movies, and it slowly sunk in she was an actor, not the spunky Sharon/Susan who had captured by nine-year-old heart. 

Looking back, it's kind of funny to think about the obsessive way I searched the TV Guide for my next Hayley sighting, but at the time I think I needed that silly movie and my imagined idealization of the girl who starred in it. If nothing else, the crazy antics of Sharon and Susan showed me a way in which kids might take some measure of control over their lives. Sure, The Parent Trap is absurd on almost every level, but at the height of my preoccupation its absurdity didn't matter. The film and the actress gave me joy and maybe even a little hope. What kid doesn't need both?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Teen Crushes – Bobby, David, Donny! All the Fax, Plus Pix!

In the early 70s, when I was 12, on the cusp of teendom, I was the queen of celebrity crushes. I was wild about so many movie, TV, and pop stars, I lost count. Good thing a queen of celebrity crushes like me had the social media of the day—the fan magazines—to help me keep track of them all.
[The “Big 2” fanzines, competing with ever more ludicrous headlines]
Fan magazines had been around for a while, but this post-war, baby boomer iteration targeted teen girls (or those on cusp). Teenyboppers we were called, and 16 and Tiger Beat catered to our teenybopper fantasies by offering up a heavenly host of generically sexy stars, all with magnificent hair, all of them clean-shaven (in the 70s—one of the hairiest eras in US fashion history!), and all of them, with one exception, white.
[Michael Jackson gets a cover pix, but no story teaser]
I’ll confess, I was hooked on those magazines. My sister and I would save our baby-sitting money and ride our bikes to Liggett’s at the nearby shopping center once a month when new issues of 16 and Tiger Beat came out. Sometimes twice a month if they released a special issue with extra pop-out posters and pinups to hang on our bedroom wall. We’d pour over every picture and every word: David Cassidy’s pet peeves! Bobby Sherman’s dream date! Brady Girls’ make-up tips!
I crushed on many of the fan magazines' stars of moment, but the center of my crush universe, my mega-idol, the boy I wanted to know about most was this excessively toothy guy, Donny Osmond.
[Doesn’t he just make your heart go pitter-pat?]
We were soooo compatible, Donny and I. He loved the color purple, I loved the color purple. Donny liked long walks on the beach, I liked long walks on the beach. Donny was a Mormon, I was… not. No matter, our birthdays are on the same day, and if that wasn’t a sign, I didn’t know what was.
I begged for Donny’s albums as Christmas presents. Cajoled, pleaded, and promised to do the dishes and the laundry for one solid year if my mother would buy us tickets to the Osmonds concert at the old Boston Garden (being the best mom in the universe, she did!). I even wrote Donny a fan letter, something I’d never done for any of my other celebrity crushes. Sadly, Donny didn’t write me back. I’m sure he was busy.
Time went on, and my enthusiasm for Donny, and all those other teen crushes, waned. I realized there were real live boys right nearby. Eventually, I tore the posters off my bedroom wall, chucked the magazines, tucked Donny into my memory, and moved on.
Until this year, while in Las Vegas with my husband for a conference, I had the chance to see Donny in person. He and his sister Marie perform nightly at the Flamingo, year round. When I heard that, I thought, first, I’m exhausted just reading about that schedule, and second, I am so going to see that show. I was excited, to say the least, texting teasing taunts to my sister along the lines of, “I’m here and you’re not.” What can I say, I’m mean.
Donny looked surprisingly youthful and fit for a guy pushing… well, what are numbers, really? He opened with his first hit, Go Away Little Girl. I shrieked, actually shrieked. The long-forgotten teenybopper inside me popped out. I was in my childhood bedroom again, singing along with Donny on the 45 playing on my portable record player. Me, and a couple of hundred other former teenyboppers, reliving a sparkling moment, remembering our teenage (or on the cusp) crush.
[ Yes, he really did that! *swoon* ]