Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tiger Beat Stars, Redux

This one's for my girlfriends who were teenagers in the 80s, my big-haired Gen X comrades-in-legwarmers, we Tiger Beat Star subscribers whose bedroom walls were covered with pin-ups of puppy-dog-eyed boys all coiffed and posed for pictures that accompanied important pieces such as, "Be The Girl Who Understands Him Best!" I hope that you all enjoy Lexi's List of 80s Crushes Who Are Aging Gracefully. Quite gracefully. indeed.

Johnny Depp, with the luxurious locks of a young Samson, soulful eyes and the best pout of the decade, entered my teenage radar with his role on 21 Jump Street. He played a cop that looked young enough to pull off being a narc in high school. By the time I got around to see Johnny get swallowed by a demon waterbed in Nightmare on Elm Street (which had actually come out before Jump Street) he'd made the magazine cut-out collage on my bedroom closet door. As we both got older I grew to appreesh Mr. Depp for well-selected scripts. With so many stupid movies starting guys with his looks, it seemed that he was more interested in sinking his perfect teeth into a really good, dramatic role, something of substance where he can flex his fantastic acting chops. You've got to admire that.  Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood were wonderfully strange projects where his portrayals were like comic book characters, but then he'd go understated and quiet for roles such as What's Eating Gilbert Grape. He's a bit odd, sure. Bought an island and lived there for awhile, plus he's cultivated an odd accent somehow. But I think he's still fantastic. Rumor is he's now got a house in Woodbury, CT near where my parents live.

In sixth grade we got one of those assignments that teachers love to torture us with, namely to write about our "favorite person." I wrote about the golden-voiced chanteur who'd introduced me to androgyny, Boy George. I babbled for six pages, front and back, about all of the reasons George O'Dowd (I recall using a haughtily adopted tone for knowing his real name) deserved to be my favorite person.

I'm sure half of my girlish gushfest was merely copied lyrics from Colour by Numbers, and a good deal probably discussed fearless originality. I loved the guy through decades of mediocrity, too, dressing as his 80s persona for Halloween at least once. In the 90s he had run-ins with the law, did community service, he went through a drug phase, a fat phase, Jesus Christ alone only knows what else. But he's back now, in 2015, and Culture Club has just recently played a show in Boston, in fact. Boy George looks and sounds fantastic. Little more manly, but still rocking the sexy androgyny in his inimitable way. I hope Boy George is fixing to resurrect his fabulous former pop & soul elegance. Just the idea makes me and my inner 13-year old deliriously happy.

In Earth Girls Are Easy, when Downtown Julie Brown reveals to Geena Davis the freshly shorn, steamed aliens, and Jeff Goldblum sidles out of that salon contraption door? Good Lord. He's swarthy, lean and angular, like some kind of feral man-beast, and when he fixes Geena Davis with those deep brown eyes and asks, "Good?" we all melted. Damn, bitch, he was a fine ass alien. Throughout his career he delivered performances both awesome and forgettable, sometimes sexy for being sexy (Jurassic Park) and sometimes sexy for being brainy (Independence Day, and oh why not, The Fly) but always with that unmistakably slightly awkward Goldblum-ness that is distinctly Goldblum. His latest is a Microsoft commercial where he coaches disappointed gift-recipients on how to fake-act appreciation. The man is hopelessly charming.

The Brat Pack was a gaggle of gorgeous guys and gals in the 80s, and this clan's careers took all different trajectories. But if any single one of them has managed to maintain the shimmering, youthful flawlessness of his Brat Pack days, it's Rob Lowe. The piercing baby blues and chiseled chin are the same, and as recently uttered by one of his Parks and Recreation colleagues that may or may not have been Nick Offerman, "His face is magic."

The little dude may have spent the better part of the 80s running around in purple velvet and doilies, hair done up in an astonishing busby of slick curls, and a fog machine seemed to follow him around, but Prince Rogers Nelson was the shit back in the day. He ran around stage on high heels, gesticulating and gyrating and staring lustily into the camera. The man was not afraid to use his tongue to get a point across, right? Guitar chops for days, Prince blended the sexy licks and swagger of Jimi Hendrix with dance and funk, coming up with something quite new. I absorbed Purple Rain into my blood. Killer songcraft to share, he penned songs for pop stars like Madonna and Sinead O'Connor. Though he went a little overboard later on, experimenting with concept records and new personas, changing his name to a symbol. Then he went off the rails with the God stuff -- pretty much refusing to perform his former sex-laden discography and giving rise to rumors of inviting women over to pray. But based on recent appearances, he's made something of a return to pop culture and seems to have found the inner peace he was clearly seeking. Hope so. God makes people so weird. Hope the purple one comes back strong.

Be still my 9-year old heart, the crush I had on Bo Duke! And I didn't even have to sneak around or hide it, because the whole family watched The Dukes of Hazzard on Friday nights. My brother and I loved The Incredible Hulk, Different Strokes, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, but we got most excited for The Dukes. The dumbest of all prime time shows, we loved those Duke boys, especially surfer-boy, blue-eyed Bo with the dreamy smile and flippy hair. He always drove the General Lee, making sweet jumps and going up on two wheels.

The show holds up not-at-all from adult perspective, from the ridiculousness of two punk ass cousins constantly baiting the local cops and causing havoc around town, to the specious lifestyles of these Dukes. What did they do for a living? Why did they drink buttermilk, can you even DO that? And why did they weld their car doors shut? Nobody minded. These days, formerly round-chinned, angelic John Schneider is a chiseled, rugged handsome, playing bit parts on TV here and there, including a reprisal of Bo Duke in a TV commercial along with Tom Wopat.

Mr. Roboto was one of the first videos I saw when MTV first launched, and one of the benefits of music video was that it got a person into a band the may not have otherwise discovered. My parents raised me on a steady diet of soul and R&B with some jazz and some classic pop like The Beatles and Donovan. My older cousin, then later high school, brought forth the heavier rock like Ozzy, Van Halen and Led Zep. If not for Casey Kasem and MTV I wouldn't have been introduced to bands like The Cars and Styx. I grew to love Styx, and had a Tommy Shaw poster on my wall. Guitar wizardry, silky blonde brilliance. Tommy Shaw has changed a lot, every lick for the better. He's matured into a dreamy dude, just the right amount of scruffitude, and still wails on that guitar.

Technically a non-qual, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air came out when I was 20, in 1990, so he missed being an 80s/teenage crush by months. But man did I love me some Will Smith. I learned all the lyrics to the long version of the theme song (it's longer than you think) and even though we were both no longer teenagers I somehow still feel like I "grew up" with the Fresh Prince. He keeps in great shape, goes skydiving, plays basketball, and he's raising some very talented, cute kids too. I will watch him in anything. Will Smith has got it going on.

I don't recall if it was Jessie's Girl on the radio or the appearance of Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital, but my friends and I wigged the heck out over Rick Springfield. We listened to Working Class Dog and Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet, on vinyl, over and over, we danced to every song, we knew his dog's name, we called each other squealing on the phone whenever Dr. Noah Drake did something amazing. We heard he lived in Glendale, California so we looked up Glendale. On the map. At the library. We felt a teenage girl's ownership over the guy, and if memory serves we made our parents take us to see him in concert three times. Right now he's in a movie about a band's life on the road, starring Meryl Streep as bandleader. The dude is still a dish.

Another General Hospital heartbreaker, John Stamos joined the show as a mad, bad dude they called Blackie Parrish. That is literally the single, sole fact that I can recall. I couldn't tell you his storyline, where he came from, what other characters he interacted with or why -- although I'm getting a vague recollection of Demi Moore (yes, she started out on GH too) as having something to do with the Blackie Parrish storyline. John Stamos had a rare combination of babyfaced cuteness plus this dark, swarthy thing, and given his character's perpetual seething anger, he was a big hit with the girls. The TV show they just launched stars John Stamos as a grandfather who didn't even know he had a kid, let alone a kid with a kid. I won't be watching it, because...why would I watch that...however, good casting. Dude doesn't look like a granddad. Look at that guy!

Well that's it, Lexi's List of 80s Crushes Who Are Aging Gracefully. Comment if you've got a boy/man then/now you'd like to add.

Before I go, there was one young man that, had he gotten the chance to make it out of the Hollywood drug scene, would be at the top of this list, I'm sure of it. He was my age exactly, and he died when we were 23. His death hit me hard when it happened, it felt like the world had suffered the loss of a real talent, one that had a long way to go yet before even realizing its full greatness. What a shame. Forever young...

River Phoenix, 1970 - 1993