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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Evil Teen Idols 

I’ve enjoyed the resurgence of the 70’s, over the past 10 years, as much as anybody. In a lot of ways, I’ve never let go. So it comes as no surprise that, deep in the wee hours of television watching anything that would come in (before digital cable and we only had 30-odd stations to stare at) that I purchased “The Greatest Hits of the 70’s! Three separate cassettes with the music you loved!” Filled with excitement hearing the 10-second clips of songs that still speak to my child’s heart when everybody WAS Kung-Foo Fighting. Brandy WAS a fine girl! Well Mandy you came and you gave without taking and he DID send you away! One tin soldier, why’d you ride away?

Dancing in my studio apartment, I was lost in wonder over what ever happened to these music geniuses who got my knocked-knees rockin’. What I thought would be only a musical remnant soon to be forgotten, was now available for the purchase price of $19.99, thank you Time-Life! I couldn’t dial fast enough. (yes, dial. Oh, there were push-button phones, but I was poor.) And then I waited. And waited. Who could I tell of my excitement? I’m sure, early 90’s as it was, no one would share the same memories, the love, my full-bodied appreciation of these songs, now coming back in my life. Like good friends, scattered through the universe, they were on their way back to me.

The day these tapes arrived was the happiest day of my young adult life. (And I live in New York City, so that ought to tell you something about me.) The pure joy and rapture of finding all these former playmates, these mentors, these provocateurs, these minstrels of emotions waiting in my mail box: life had never seemed more perfect than it did that day. You just have to be open to what life is offering you. (And what Time-Life is able to profit from.)

As I rushed up the three flights of stairs, I was exploding with excitement, as if someone had sent me my very own time machine. And I planned on making a night of it. Me, my old friends, some new wine and a slice of garlic-spinach pizza would be my company.
Read, read, read – what one to play first? Shaun Cassidy?! I didn’t know I’d be getting him too! I’m sure I got the deal of the Century now, this was ecstasy for me. Before it was available in a tablet, I had it on tape!

My devotion to Shaun Cassidy had been so true my father made me a framed lighted poster, which hung in my bedroom. I’d play his album and return his stare while he sang exclusively to me. That’s where I must start – a reunion with Shaun Cassidy is what my soul was craving. And so I fast-forwarded, leaned back on my uncomfortable couch, known as a futon, and began reviewing through the pages of my childhood while he serenaded me. “I met her on a Sunday and my heart stood still. Da-do-run-run, Da-do-run-run.” He sang, I smiled and listened, this time with the ears of an adult. Realizing that the refrain, “da-do-run-run,” was pretty silly while at the time, I’m sure I thought he was running to me. As if he’s thinking, “that’s what I must do – run, run, run, to her!” Oh the fantasies of a young child, willing to imprint a message that just isn’t there to begin with. But I swear, if you were me, staring at the 8x10 lighted poster of this sweet, perfect man, you’d have been swayed into believing the same thing.

These minutes spent in reunion with Shaun were making my heart race and there was no time to savor the memories. Who’s next? Who’s next? Who will I reunite with next?! Donny Osmond? What are YOU doing here? How have you beeeeen? Never mind Shaun Cassidy, Donny’s here! Oh how I loved your TV show. Did you know that I would put ribbons in my hair, gloss on my lips before planting myself in front of the TV to watch you for a full hour, past bed-time even, every Friday night? Oh, it’s good to see you again. Let’s have a listen, for old time’s sake. How I’ve missed you. And as the song begins, “Won't you go away (little girl), Wish you wouldn't stay (little girl), Won't you go away (little girl), Wooo ooo go away,” I’m feeling a chill run up my spine that I don’t like very much. I’ve confessed my love of him, spent hours in devotion to him, at risk of ruining my eyesight, just to take him in, in excruciating detail. Surely this isn’t the song he was singing to me all along? “Go away?” Why that’s not how lovers talk! Well, enough of you then. My ears are older now, more mature, not willing. While once alluring to me as an impressionable love-starved child, as a confident adult, I won’t play your childish games anymore. A proclamation of self-esteem, a long time in the coming.

Mac Davis? You’re here too? Oh, I loved your TV show the best. You were so suave, although, in my childlike parlance, “cool,” was probably the better word. You were so funny on your program, making up lyrics based on an idea some audience member threw at you. You were so good at it, you’d always laugh at yourself for comprising logic in favor of rhyme. I missed you too. Let’s have a listen. “Baby, baby, don’t get hooked on me.”

Oh, well, right there it is. You’re telling me from the very beginning not to get hooked on you. “I’ll only run away,” you said to me. And then, this would only deepen my desire for you. Darn you Mac Davis, man, I will have you! Yes I will!
And then the slow realization hits me full force: have I been in the habit of idolizing men who blatantly proclaim they want no part of me? Whoa, Freud. Let me slip into adulthood.

How can these teen idols have been allowed such cruelty? Am I alone in this? Was I the only one listening with loving ears, taking what I wanted from their music, realizing only later, the damaging messages that I’d willfully embedded in my soul? And is this why my home away from home is the self-help section at Barnes and Noble?

Am beginning to feel that parental guidance should be required for lyrical content after all. I mean, for all the sappy love songs the 70’s are known for, they weren’t all that sappy and they sure weren’t about love. Time-Life was the mirror into my past, revealing the erroneous patterns established early on. And from this point on, it’s nothing but Sting for me.

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