Sunday, August 7, 2022

crush with eyeliner

After two years of dating and thirty-eight years of marriage, Mrs. Pincus and I have had some pretty weird conversations. Because we share so many interests (we do part ways on some subjects), we have been known to have lengthy and deep discussions about all aspects of certain television shows from our youth. These conversations are frequent — more frequent that you would imagine — and they are great for making the time pass on long car rides (and we take a lot of those, too.)

Subtopics of conversations have ranged from the total implausibility of Gilligan's Island to the subtle and heretofore unnoticed similarities between The Andy Griffith Show and Little House on the Prairie to why Darrin Stephens should have been thanking his lucky stars to have nabbed a hot witch like Samantha who was clearly out of his league. We have revealed our favorite episodes of Twilight Zone, as well as our least favorites. We have marveled at the casting of a handful of character actors who have appeared in multiple roles on numerous TV series throughout the 50s, 60s and even into the 80s. (John Anderson and the unrelated Richard Anderson come to mind.) We have talked about obscure game shows that we watched on days we were kept home from school with the sniffles. We lamented over that fact that none of the current crop of "retro TV" networks show the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, like Yogi Bear, Pixie & Dixie and Top Cat. This, my friends, is the secret to a long and loving marriage.

A few days ago, while out walking (not driving this time), I asked my wife about TV crushes she had as a kid. In reality, I knew of two of them  Bobby Sherman and Randolph Mantooth. Early on in our relationship, the subject must have come up. In addition, Mrs. P has held on to a couple of well-played 45 singles of Bobby Sherman recordings, as well as a big plastic button emblazoned with his toothy smile under that trademark helmet of hair. She purchased this beloved keepsake at a 1971 live concert by Bobby Sherman  one she begged her father to take her to at the long-gone Philadelphia Civic Center. I'm pretty sure my father-in-law wore a suit and tie to that one, after all, he wore a tie to the beach. Despite television throwing David Cassidy, Leif Garrett and Davy Jones in the direction of every pre-teen girl, the future Mrs. Pincus remained loyal to Bobby Sherman... until Randy Mantooth came along. 

Just a year after breathing the same air as Bobby Sherman at that West Philadelphia venue, producer Jack Webb, capitalizing on the "procedural drama" concept he made popular with Dragnet and Adam-12, introduced Emergency on NBC. The show followed the daily doings of the firefighter-cum-paramedics at LA County's Station 51. There was action, adventure, drama and, above all, there was dreamy Randolph Mantooth as hunky but benevolent and brave John Gage. Because Randy Mantooth didn't muster a singing career, Mrs. Pincus had to look elsewhere for mementos to reinforce her affection for the dark, handsome actor. She purchased a metal lunchbox shaped like a fire engine, as well as a plastic fire helmet featuring the Station 51 badge and Viewmaster reels highlighting scenes from the show. Those items and others still occupy a place of prominence and honor on a shelf in our third-floor office.

And that's it. Just those two. Even when pressed, my wife confessed to having only two TV crushes as a child. She hedged at including Henry Winkler in the group, but, after a little thought, she determined that her feelings for The Fonz were not on the same level as those for Mr. Sherman and Mr. Mantooth. Contrary to the sentiment expressed in that Joe Jackson song, I contend that it's different for boys... because I had more TV crushes that I can remember.

I seems I was smitten by every pretty female face that flashed across my television screen. In my house, the playing field was evened because we only had black & white television sets until I was in high school. So, Tina Louise's flaming red hair offered no special consideration over Dawn Wells' dark allure. Susan Dey's psychedelic stage costumes were a meaningless enhancement and Marlo Thomas' rouged cheeks and pastel eyeshadow were wasted on my potential devotion. Arlene Golonka's colorful wardrobe was monotone in my eyes. It didn't matter that Judy Carne's bikini-clad body was mistaken for a coloring book. I had a crush on all of them anyway! But, if we are really confessing, my main TV crushes were double the amount of my spouses. And, later in my life as an adult, I got to meet two of them. I coulda died!

Karen Valentine
- How adorable was Karen Valentine?!? The pretty costar of the comedy-drama (years before the portmanteau "dramedy" was coined) Room 222 was an early crush of mine. Room 222, depicting the academic adventures of the students and faculty of Walt Whitman High School, premiered in 1969 in a prime spot in ABC's coveted Friday night line-up  smack dab between lead-ins The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family and followed by The Odd Couple and Love American Style. Karen Valentine's portrayal of na├»ve student teacher "Miss Johnson" was positively charming. I can still remember, in the opening credits, when the school bus door slammed in her face... ugh! she was precious! Many years later, I met Karen Valentine at an autograph show. I sheepishly approached her table for an inscribed photo. I also confessed my feelings for her. She smiled sweetly, if a bit leery of this 50+ year-old guy opening up to her. I qualified my admission by saying it was as big a crush that an eight-year old could have. She laughed.

Yvonne Craig - How adorable was Yvonne Craig?!? I was a huge fan of the original campy classic Batman series starring Adam West. After two seasons of extraordinary popularity, the TV viewing public began to stray. Creator/producer William Dozier was looking for a way to inject new energy into the floundering series. Taking inspiration from Julie Newmar's slinky portrayal of the villainous "Catwoman" (the reason my dad and every other dad across the country subjected themselves to Batman on a weekly basis), Dozier recruited actress/ballet dancer Yvonne Craig to don a skintight purple suit as the sexy and mysterious "Batgirl." Fresh off appearances in two Elvis movies and a slew of TV Westerns, Yvonne's "Batgirl" was the exciting shot-in-the-arm that Batman needed. Unfortunately, the show only lasted 26 more episodes before its Bat-plug was pulled. But — boy, oh, boy — was I captivated by Yvonne Craig's high kicks, snappy banter, confident personality and faux long hair that cascaded from under her identity-concealing cowl. For bat's sake, it even baffled her father, the perennially befuddled Commissioner Gordon. Sure, I was just seven years-old when Batman left the airwaves, but, upon more recent viewings, I know now that little Josh was on to something.

Tina Cole
- How adorable was Tina Cole?!? Nobody, but nobody, wore a bubble-cut like beautiful Tina Cole. Best known as - sigh! - "Mrs. Robbie Douglas" on the final five seasons of the popular family sitcom My Three Sons, Tina was, as Chip or Ernie might have put it, "real keen and junk!" She appeared in a single early episode of the show, but was brought back as "Katie," future wife of Don Grady's "Robbie." Her character was introduced on the first episode of Season Eight, when the Douglas family moves to California. After the family faces a succession of rude neighbors, store clerks and other assorted and rude Angelenos, Katie is a radiant beacon of friendliness when Robbie bumps into her on his first day of college. By Episode 2, Robbie asks Katie to marry him. Can you blame him? Tina Cole was absolutely delightful. She was pretty, she dressed in 60s mini skirts and enough paisley-patterned blouses to make Prince jealous, and she sported "the Rachel" two years before Jennifer Aniston was born. I met Tina at an autograph show in 2015 and, against my better judgement, I spilled my heart to her. Again, I reminded her that I was speaking about the innocent libido of a six-year old. She laughed and shyly batted her eyelashes. She was still adorable Katie.

Maureen McCormick - How adorable was Maureen McCormick?!? When The Brady Bunch was first broadcast in September 1969, who ever dreamed that it would continue in syndication pretty much forever? One of the main reasons for its ongoing, generation-spanning popularity is — without a doubt — Maureen McCormick. "Marcia Brady," as brought to life by the lovely Maureen, was every pre-teenage boys' dream. She was pretty with a gorgeous smile and she was built like a brick.... well, certainty not one of the buildings that Mike Brady designed. Most of all, she seemed approachable, like someone you'd see at school and could be your friend. Plus, we watched her grow up right before our eyes. From a cute thirteen year old at the series premiere, Maureen blossomed into a knockout by the fifth and final season. Recent accounts of her wild, drug-fueled, off-camera antics made Maureen all the more appealing. But, while The Brady Bunch was in network first run, she was every boy's fantasy prom date. Everyone from Davy Jones to Big Man on Campus "Doug Simpson" wanted Maureen McCormick... and "Oscy" from the Summer of '42 ended up with her! Go figure!

Well, there you have it. I confessed. Anything you'd like to get off your chest?

We're all adults here.

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