The 80's and early 90's were all about IMAGE (no not the comic book company, but them too). Whether it was the type of gel in your hair, the crazy prints on your clothes or the color of your BK sneakers, you had to make your mark. Not that things have changed much 20 years later, but people had some pretty wild ideas when it came it standing out from the crowd back then.
But why does this have to do with the topic of this article? Well back in the day you could be just as defined by your favorite celebrity. And in those days we had plenty of Awesome Dudes and Bodacious Babes to choose from. Here's a look back at the Manly Men I wanted to be like and the girls I thought I'd get if I was.
The first wielder of the mystic powers of feminine charm to catch my eye was from another world. Adorned in legwarmers, roller skates and a neon pink aura she rolled onto the screen and stole my heart. I'm talking about Kira, from the movie musical Xanadu as played by Olivia Newton-John.
In every scene she was radiant, so kind and beautiful. In later analysis, she wasn't really the sharpest tool in the shed or the most engaging personality, but to a 4 year old she was the ideal, unattainable woman and definitely influenced my unexplainable attraction to any girl named Kara (care-uh), Kara (car-uh) or Kira. She visited me in my dreams sometimes and I even used to serenade my real-life pre-school girlfriend, Samantha, with the song "Whenever Your Away From Me" from the Xanadu soundtrack as we skipped around the playground holding hands, but Sam knew she was second to Kira.
But how could Kira see anything in me, a mere boy? I'd have to be someone bigger, someone stronger, someone HAIRIER? I'd found my ideal woman at the video store, so why not a mentor in the art of being a man? And so, my first idea of what was COOL came from the strange mix of Horror movie icon and Teen Comedy known as Teen Wolf.
Kind of an odd choice, I'll admit, but Michael J. Fox was familiar from Family Ties and his everyman quality shown through in his performance and I mean, he was a WOLFMAN! What is cooler than being a Wolf, man? (heh-heh) He got all the ladies, he got all the accolades from his peers, he could even make adults pee their pants in fear. Just awesome.
Now I know I missed the point of the story, that you should be yourself-blah, blah, blah-but I wasn't looking for life lessons, I was looking for love (yes, in all the wrong places).
How did I emulate The Wolf, you ask? I didn't grow body hair, I didn't have any basketball skills to speak of, so I had to settle for the lesser of his charms. Howling! OWOOOOOOOO! Oh, I was great at howling.
Also, I had the animated Teen wolf to study from as well, but all I ever copied from him was his transformation catchphrase, "Oh, no! Not again!" Which only got a response from one lady and that was my Mom asking me if I needed a fresh pair of Superman Underoos.
Alas, Kira never heard my howl of love, so for my next crush I decided to be a little more realistic and definitely more in my age group. The girl I set my sights on was none other than TV's favorite, fashion-impaired orphan, Punky Brewster.
I think it was her sassy, but sensitive nature that drew my eye to her or maybe it was the way she wore her heart on her sleeve (actually it was sewn onto her purple denim vest). Actually it was most likely the crystal ball I stole from that Gypsy Lady I met in the forest that showed me how hot she would be 20 years later: YOWSA!
So infatuated was I with sweet Punky, that I actually made up my five year old mind to call her and ask her out. As my Mom remembers it, I gathered all the kids from her in-house daycare into the den and announced that I was going to call Punky Brewster.
I spoke to the operator and demanded that I be connected to Punky. Well, I never got a hold of her, but maybe I just wasn't the right guy...yet.
Punky was no easy catch, I could tell she needed a more sophisticated man and Werewolves were probably not her style. Who could I look to this time, where on the television dial would I find the secret to being a manly man? AH-HA!
Yes, sir-it's the car, chicks dig the car! Michael Knight of Knight Rider fame was the coolest dude of the day. He knew how to wear his leathers, his hair was a poof of perfection and his car talked to him. This was the man to be! Michael Knight that is, not Hasselhoff-please, not The Hoff!
My parents had a Pontiac at the time, not a Trans-Am and it was grey, but it was close enough. I would ask my Dad daily, "Is our car like KITT?" He never confirmed or denied, but occasionally I would see him driving without hands!
Maybe, he was driving with his knees-but I preferred to believe he couldn't tell me the truth about our car because the "Bad Guys" would want to steal it. I had the car, but no leather jacket and my hair wasn't curly enough to get the "Hoff-fro" look. And so the dream died.
Things were not working out, the older woman didn't have the time and the girl my age apparently didn't have her own phone number yet, so where to turn? High school girls! They were always nice to me as babysitters and they were always on the phone: Jackpot!
The hottest High School of the day was Bayside High and their resident beauty none other than Tiffani Amber-Thiessen aka Kelly Kapowski of Saved By the Bell. Of course we all had a crush on Kelly, didn't we? I think she won me over in the episode where she pretended to have some kind of kind of psychosis to teach Zack a lesson and started smashing a table with a baseball bat. Gotta love the crazy ones!
It may also have been the fact that she was just plain HOT. on a side note I had a Junior High crush on a mean girl named Caragh (care-uh) who used to tell me that she was Tiffani Amber-Thiessen's step-sister and that for $20.00 she would get me an autographed picture. I almost fell for it, too-but then I saw that evil, but enticing glare in her eyes and decided to spend my twenty elsewhere.
To get the attention of a beauty of Miss Thiessen's caliber I would need a pretty flashy look, but not too out there, since she seemed like an All-American girl. A guy who oozed machismo, but also had the softer side, cue: JOHN STAMOS!
Yes, Uncle Jesse from Full House would be my new role model. So I started writing songs worthy of Jesse and the Rippers (The first one was titled "I Hate Tea"), began wearing button down shirts and vests (oh, dear) and tried my best to grow my hair out, but the closest I got was a little "Rat Tail".
I finally wrote a letter to Tiffani but by that point she had already moved on to be the bad girl on Beverly Hills 90210 and I realized I had been watching re-runs of Saved By the Bell and Full House. She was no longer the teenage dream queen I had sought, although she did send me this classy picture with a form letter and fake autograph:
It was at this point that I realized the flaw in my plan, I was trying to attract Kira, Punky and Kelly with the style of guys with whom they never showed any attraction or even met as far as I know.
Unless the sequel to Kira's adventures was titled Xanadu II: OWOOOOOOOO!
Or Jesse and The Rippers once played at the Bayside Prom, if they did it was probably during the "Tori" years anyway-BAH!
The solution was this, try to emulate the big screen love interest of my newest crush, perhaps then she would mistake me for her former co-star and the romance could begin.
Well in 1995 as far as I was concerned Bridgette Wilson was THE girl. With appearances kicking butt in Mortal Kombat and also kicking butt in Billy Madison. She had even kicked butt 2 years earlier in Last Action Hero.
Man, Bridgette Kicked a lot of Butt! I actually talked my buddies into seeing Billy Madison 3 times just to bask in her loveliness twice more.
Since I hadn't really been brushing up on my Shadow Kicks or Fatalities, I decided the more likely option was to take on an Adam Sandler-like persona. Soon I was dressed in a Hockey jersey and singing silly songs in gibberish. But Adam Sandler was also the king of comedy at that point, with his CD's and movies, etc. so I probably would have ended up imitating him anyway.
Well we all know how Bridgette's story ends, she wend for Tennis pro Steve Sampress and left me in the dust.
There were others along the way and they do deserve honorable mention:
Yes, Amy Jo Johnson aka The Pink Ranger was always a welcome sighton the TV screen. Then Andrea Barber aka Kimmy Gibbler from Full House, I guess it was a personality thing with her.
While I never dated a beautiful actress or became much of a "Cool Guy" I can't help but see little bits of these passing fancies in my life today. Ah well...