Most little girls seemingly have a crush that sticks with them throughout their lives. So when 65-year-old former teen idols want to make a few quick bucks they can go out on tour and have a ready-made fan base. For instance, I follow Peter Noone, of Herman’s Hermits fame, on Facebook because his posts are cute – he takes “selfies” from stage at his performances of himself and his audience but he often only gets the top of his head in the frame. He’s always posing backstage with his “contest-winning” fans although it’s unclear what contest has been won – perhaps on an Oldies radio station, if such things still exist. He was one of my first favorites when I was a kid. My beloved Aunt Linda, who was only 16 when I was born, often shared her music with me as I got old enough to appreciate it, which for me was around the age of 4, when my dad bought me my first Beatles album. We had both been mesmerized by them on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February of 1964, and we sang those early classics for days (years! A lifetime!) afterward. We fell in love with the Dave Clark Five on “Ed Sullivan”, too, and Eric Burdon and the Animals, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Freddie and the Dreamers. (“Do the ‘Freddie’, Nan!”, my dad would always say. In later years, he would tell me to “Do ‘Janis’, Nan!” at random places like gas stations and the supermarket, and I’d have to wail like Janis Joplin. My father was a huge musical influence on me, needless to say, but that’s a blog post for another day.) But my absolute favorite from the “Ed Sullivan” show was “Herman” (Peter Noone’s alter ego), especially when he sang “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “Henry the Eighth” (“Hen-er-y!” we sang along). And he would bite his lower lip with his adorably crooked buck teeth and roll his clearly blue (even though the TV was black-and-white) eyes and the little girls (including four-year-old Nan) would squeal without quite understanding why he made us feel that way.
[An aside: I happened upon Peter Noone doing a free concert in the World Trade Center courtyard at the end of Dey Street one summer afternoon in 2001. I was finishing up my assignment as a summer associate at my current law firm, which was located on Broadway a block from the Twin Towers, and just happened to be wandering west during my lunch break. It was a gorgeous day, and he was in surprisingly good voice, and the crowd that had gathered was singing along. It turned out to be one of the last times I’d ever see the Twin Towers in person.]
The recent throwback tours by New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys are further evidence of that never-ending (largely female) audience devotion. I was frankly too old for both, although when I first met my ex-sister in law, who was ten years old at the time, she had a serious thing for one of the New Kids – maybe Joey? Or was it Jordan? — and I do confess that I had an unapologetic crush on Nick Carter (and kind of still do) when I was in my 30s.
My boy-crazy youth was so full of crushes – on real kids and teen idols alike – that it’s difficult to pin down any one favorite. I liked Barry Cowsill a lot, and a cutie whose name is lost to the sands of time who used to be the only American kid on a British Saturday morning kids’ show called “The Double-Deckers”. Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees (pre-afro) was definitely beloved, and Peter was my chosen Brady. Later, blond-maned, sleepy-eyed Leif Garrett was a deep crush, even though I was way too old for him at that stage (says the unabashed lifelong “cradle-robber”). My neighbor Lisa loved (and still loves!) Donny Osmond, but I never saw the appeal. (Too much teeth, I think.) In the Osmonds vs. Jacksons family battle, I always preferred Michael and his brothers to Donny and his, although I do like the Osmond’s cheesy classic, “Sweet and Innocent”, which frankly sounds a lot like a popped-up Jackson 5 song.
This past Saturday, I went to a free “concert under the stars” in a local park featuring David Cassidy of “The Partridge Family” with my good buddy Beanie Marini Martini, who was actually in the David Cassidy Fan Club back in the day and once (as an adult, with her husband holding a spot for her on line!) accosted him as he came out of the frozen food storage room at a Costco for a CD-signing event with an outstretched hand and a nervous “Hi David!” Mr. Cassidy has seen better days – he is 65, after all, although he has clearly had some work done because his eyes are in a permanent smile squint – and he complained that his guitar playing was hampered by a sprained hand (if you’ll recall, Keith Partridge did actually play the guitar, for real, on the show). I think it might have had more to do with his storied problems with the adult beverages, but no matter – it was a beautiful summer night, with pleasant company and All-American burgers, and we all sang along with his more familiar songs. Some of the ladies in the audience – I might even guess half – had clearly been fan girls back in the day. There’s no denying that he WAS a pretty young man!
I’d love to do some research on the psychology of girlhood celebrity crushes, which probably started in earnest in the 1940s with Frank Sinatra (the bobby-soxers swooning “Frankie!”) but has probably existed in some form or another since the dawn of recorded time. Does it set girls up for a lifetime of disappointment? No real boy will ever live up to that first crush, because of course the crush is not a “real boy” at all. Not only do teen idols promote unrealistic expectations of love and how the males of our species ought to behave, but the publicity machines gloss over their human edges and foibles. As much as I think Justin Beiber is an entitled little brat, his run-ins with the law and attempts at being a “bad boy” at least have made him a little more REAL. (He’s even managed to get a cover and a large photo spread in the latest issue of my favorite magazine, Interview.) I think of my daughter’s little sister, who at 10 has loved the band One Direction for years (as well as a bunch of the boys on the Disney and Nickelodeon shows — they just churn them out, don’t they?). The “fixer” industry forcibly shoves rumors of gayness and drug abuse among One Direction members far under the rug so as to not alienate the little girls or, god forbid, require parents to explain things like homosexuality to their children – horrors! – although a recent slew of videos on the interwebs and Jimmy Kimmel’s show have demonstrated that kids show a surprising capacity for understanding gay marriage at a deeper level, without judgment: Hey, it’s just two people who love each other! So what if Harry or Louie or whoever from 1D is gay? Lance Bass of ‘N Sync came out, as did Jonathan Knight from NKOTB. Girls will still love boys, even if they’re gay. (Most of the prettiest ones often are.) It’s certainly no less unrealistic that such a boy could be her boyfriend than that he could be her gay friend!
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Two post-scripts this week: We have a new family member – Mimi. I’ve loved Mimi for about a year now, ever since she first came into Posh Pets Long Beach Shelter as an elderly (13 years old) owner surrender (I prefer not to think about the people who abandon their pets at shelters – as far as I’m concerned, the only legitimate reason for the abandonment of a pet is DEATH). Mimi is a gorgeous tuxedo girl who sounds, when she meows, a little like the cat version of Marge Simpson’s sister Patty. I’m pretty sure she was vocal and affectionate with everyone, but I always felt like she saved special joy just for me. Or was it pleading? “Please, nice lady who always pays attention to me, please take me home with you!” Well, I finally got the message. I’m just sorry that it took so long and I wasted a valuable year of her later life when she could have been getting daily chin rubs rather than weekly ones, and having the freedom to rove about on her gnarly old-lady legs to find patches of sunshine and comfy places to curl up in, which she never got at the shelter. Mimi is home now.
And finally, I thought this was so funny I really had to share: I follow a blog on WordPress called “Storytime with John” posted by an adorable, Craig Ferguson-esque comic blogger named, well, John. In one of his recent posts [http://storytimewithjohn.com/2015/08/10/a-smelly-trump/?c=15719#comment-15719], he likened Donald Trump to a fart: entirely unwanted and stinks up the room when introduced. Now that I think about it, doesn’t “Trump” even SOUND like a deep little unbidden toot?