celebrity you ever
had a serious crush on?
Everyone who’s been exposed to popular culture during their childhood has at some point seen someone in a movie, TV show, book or magazine and heard the sound of their heart beating just that little bit faster. It’s not necessarily sexual (I expect a lot of men who would NEVER admit to finding another man attractive would admit to their early love of the athlete who they latched onto in the earliest days of their sports fandom), but it’s not entirely innocent either. It’s more than just liking someone–it’s the warmth that comes over you when you see them. It’s something you never forget.
For me, it all started the first time I saw this:
That’s the opening of a 1980 movie called Little Darlings. I would have been seven or eight the first time I saw it on a Betamax tape, several years after it had come out. I was too young to appreciate the nuances of its plot (the contest between a tough girl and a rich girl over which one will first lose their virginity at summer camp), but I wasn’t too young to be instantly smitten by the lean pretty girl in the denim jacket, who wasn’t afraid to kick a bully in the balls if she had to (which is how I read that scene at that age).
But Kristy McNichol didn’t completely capture my heart until this:
As a child I was OBSESSED with The Pirate Movie, an admittedly bizarre movie that took the plot of the The Pirates of Penzance and removed most of the masterful Gilbert & Sullivan music and lyrics for bland pop originals and innuendo-laden dialogue and Inspector Clouseau/Star Wars parodies. It’s one of those movies where I can see the seams today, but the nostalgic thrill it provides allows me to power through it with nothing but a smile on my face. (It helps that it served as the backbone for my great and enduring love of the most-misconceived musicals of the 70s and 80s.)
McNichol took on the Mabel role in the film, and even at that age I could appreciate it as a departure in a career that had largely kept her playing tomboys (all the way up to the cop she played on the NBC sitcom “Empty Nest”–her last on-camera role before she retired). Even as a blonde in a frilly white dress the tough girl I first adored was still very much evident–she wasn’t some waifish ingenue in need of a rescue, she was a bad-ass stifled by her society’s (and dad’s) silly rules.
After that one-two punch, I never missed one of her movies when it played on TV and I taped late-night reruns of “Family”, the TV show that made her an Emmy-winner before she could drive a car or vote. Unfortunately, her career fizzled (due to a combo of bad box office and personal turmoil) before I ever got the chance to see her anywhere else than a TV screen–to this day, I’ve never seen her in while sitting in a movie theatre.
Before “Empty Nest” ended, she left the show and quit show business–citing a bipolar disorder as the chief reason for her retirement. Her biggest box office success–Little Darlings–largely stopped appearing on TV (although it has recently appeared as a late night selection on TCM) and has never been released to DVD in North America. (Even though films about young men losing their virginity remain popular, today’s climate apparently isn’t equipped to deal with a funny, but frank depiction of teenage girl sexuality.) The result is that she’s largely been forgotten, except by folks like me who were exposed to her at the right time and smitten forever.
Kristy McNichol will always be my first celebrity love–a fact that isn’t even the slightest bit swayed by her recently revealing she’s been in a relationship with a woman for the past two decades. In my mind we’re frozen in time–I’ll always be the tiny little boy in front of my TV set looking up with adoration and she’ll always be the girl with those cheekbones, kicking that asshole in the nuts.