MY FIRST CRUSH – Geek Speak’s Crack Staff on Their Formative Genre Loves
The strong women, tortured men, alien kids and cartoon mutants that have since defined our lives.
by The Geek Speak Staff
Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us, and while it is only sensible to decry this so-called holiday for the gratuitous, cynical exercise in greeting-card, flower and chocolate sales it is, there is no denying that at this time of year even the hardiest geek’s thoughts often turn to love (or as Pepe Le Pew always had it: l’amour).
Nor can we ignore the fact that for many – probably most – of us, the first spark of interest that we felt for things fantastical was probably engendered by a nascent attraction to one of the telegenic, brilliantly-written, sympathetic or otherwise gifted characters we encountered in our impressionable youths.
Here, then, a tribute to those early obsessions, most of which endure to this very day. (Yes. Even the Ninja Turle.)
While I’ll not deny that Star Trek: The Next Generation’s precocious Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) and The Princess Bride’s delightful Westley (Cary Elwes) both staked early claims to my affection – and my book-based loves were legion, from Garion to Aragorn to several princes of Amber – I must confess that I am fairly certain my first serious crush on any fictional character would have to be, and no I’m not kidding, Raphael. Yes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
I like to think this proves me to be just about as unsuperficial as a girl can get, because not only is he a different species but he is also both a mutant AND a cartoon. True, he’s a ninja, and there’s not much that’s cooler than a ninja, but it wasn’t his superhero-dom or skill with a set of sai that so attracted me. No, I loved Raphael for his wry humor, his sarcastic quips and his knowing, self-referential commentary on the unbelievable events being enacted onscreen each episode. His movie incarnation (more faithful to the comic original, I later learned) proved to be a snider, angrier individual, and with him I had no truck, but my afterschool viewings of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were to me sacrosanct, because man, I really loved that red-masked, fork-wielding, wisecracking animated anthropomorphic terrapin with all my eager young heart.
The year is 1975. I am (ahem) years old. There is a new movie out in theaters, and it is the most incredibly awesome, heart-poundingly thrilling spectacle that has ever been committed to the screen, like EVER. It is called Escape to Witch Mountain, and it’s about two kids who everybody thinks are witches but actually they’re space aliens who have been separated from the rest of their kind, and they have all sorts of amazing adventures and use their freaky superpowers to do incredible things like make cars fly and then a really nice man helps them and in the end a big spaceship comes and takes them home and NO MOM I AM NOT CRYING RIGHT NOW I AM NOT.
One of the space aliens is called Tony Malone (Ike Eisenmann). Tony is resourceful, smart, and brave. He is also one adorable little scamp. I am just about as smitten with Tony as a [cough]-year-old can possibly be expected to be. In my most cherished daydreams, Tony and I run around and have hair-raising adventures, usually involving other space aliens and amorphous Bad Guys. (Oh, and also boarding school.) Usually tagging along with us on these adventures is Tony’s little sister Tia (Kim Richards), who is more fragile than Tony but still brave, and what’s more she has the most beautiful, straight, shiny blonde hair in the entire universe. Plus, she has a little suitcase with a map to her home planet on it, right there, like it’s hiding in plain sight! How cool is that? Really cool, that’s how cool.
Eventually, Ike Eisenmann will go on to a prolific career as (among other things) an accomplished voice artist and sound technician, and Kim Richards will attain notoriety as a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills (Tia, why?). Escape to Witch Mountain will be reinterpreted as Race to Witch Mountain; The Rock and The Hunger Games’ Cato will star. I, too, will move on…to an edgier sort of bad boy (Jackie Earle Haley will appear on my radar — for the first time — about a year after Escape hits the theaters). However, I will always remember Tony with affection and nostalgic pleasure. You never forget your first.
I have spent much time in deep contemplation attempting to ascertain the identity of my first geek crush. This determination has proved more difficult than one would have imagined, but after long last, I do believe that a suitable candidate has been pinpointed. I speak of none other than the Princess of Power, She-Ra. For a kid who collected a multitude of He-Man toys and watched the cartoon religiously, having a female version of He-Man was mind-blowing. She’s strong, she’s smart, she has a sword that could magically turn into whatever it was that she needed for the plot – what’s not to like?! And this is even before I was old enough to realize the sheer awesome-ness of her outfit being held up by nothing but the Honor of Grayskull. So, yes, as I gaze upon the She-ra DVDs that exist on my shelf (yes, really – you can’t beat The Secret of the Sword!), I can feel confident that there was a bit of a crush going on there.
But the reason for my trepidation and uncertainty in realizing my first crush is due to the fact that the memory of all past crushes were wiped clean when someone new stepped into my life whilst in college: Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar). I have waxed eloquently about Buffy many times in this here ‘zine, but suffice it to say, with Buffy, it’s not just some small boy-crush, but a full-grown man-crush. (err…wait, I might not be using that term correctly). I think it’s obvious that no one will supplant Buffy. Except for Faith (Eliza Dushku), but that’s a given.
Honorable First Crush Mentions: The thief from Dungeons & Dragons; Most elves (Leetah, Nightfall, Moonshade, etc.) in ElfQuest.
Sometime in 1997 or 1998, when I was in high school (I will not say which year), my dad had told us that he was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer because it was a really good time, and he thought it was hilarious. My sister, who is not into genre shows and did not exhibit any signs of my geekiness, began to watch it out of what I imagined was a great desire to suck up to my dad. I of course, disregarded him because I thought clearly he was joking about the whole thing and never paid it any mind.
Until one night, when my sister was watching the episode “Surprise”, and I just happened to be crossing the TV room at the same time David Boreanaz was strutting around his apartment shirtless and taunting a confused Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was love at first sight. I remember saying “Hello!” and plopping down to watch the entire show, and that was it. I was hooked on the show, certainly, but I was also hooked on Angel, who became my first real genre crush. And this crush was as real as the one I had on that very cute but numbingly dumb guy I lurved in my Spanish class and called and hung up on until he got caller ID. I mean, I wanted to know everything about Angel, where he came from, what his history was, everything. I revised my outlook on dating older men only to David Boreanaz’s birthday (May 16, 1969). I had it bad.
It didn’t take me too long to get over my celebrity crush, but it did lead me to one of my favorite shows of all time, and so I can put up with a lot of the embarrassment of being an awkward teenager mooning over a celebrity crush. That is, unless someone finds that awful poetry I wrote about Angel. I’m sure I destroyed it though…
My initiation to the world of genre fiction started with Star Trek, and specifically with Voyager. I was probably a little young for the show when it was on, but that didn’t stop me. Nothing could keep me away from my weekly dose of Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), Voyager’s dashing helmsman. There was just something about his rebellious attitude and wry smile that set my pre-teen heart aflutter. It’s a little embarrassing now, but at the time he was my ideal man. I wasn’t thrilled when he got married to a certain Chief Engineer, but would still manage to find excuses to bring Tom up in conversation.
As an adult, watching old episodes of Voyager, my tastes have definitely shifted and I would now pick Chakotay (Robert Beltran) to be my one, true, Trekkie love. I’ve even brought myself to forgive B’Elanna (Roxanne Biggs-Dawson) for her betrayal, and now think she’s a pretty kick-ass character. Still, Thomas Eugene (it’s a little sad that I know what his middle name is) Paris will always have a special place in my heart.
Yes, I watched The Next Generation and I had a budding young man’s appreciation for Counselor Troi’s (Marina Sirtis) uniform—or lack thereof. I even appreciated Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and her blue lab jacket. But I was a BOY, and I wanted things to BLOW UP. I wanted action and explosions, and the women were all too often forced to deal with talky, emotional issues. Things slowed down when women were around, and this boy wasn’t amused. But then Amanda Tapping’s Samantha Carter entered my life.
Richard Dean Anderson was literally the only reason I tuned in to Stargate SG-1 (MacGyver was appointment television in this house), but I stayed because of his second-in-command. For the first time, the beautiful female character got to play with guns and blow shit up. She was brilliant, badass, and beautiful. Captain Sam Carter showed me that you definitely could have the best of all worlds in one package. And, unlike Counselor Troi, she got the same uniform as the boys. Olive-drab BDUs have never looked so sexy.
Really, I started out in in the genre watching reruns of Star Trek at my mother’s knee. While she swooned over an ever logical Vulcan, I spent those years far too young to understand the sighs and ‘Isn’t his ears lovely?’ murmurs while my Dad rolled his eyes and grumbled under his breath on the other side of the sofa. Equally, my cartoon heroes all had girlfriends and boyfriends who I wanted them to be with rather than wanting to be with them myself. He-Man needed to be with Teela; Ice Man needed to be with Fire Star (yes, I started shipping young). So I didn’t really understand my Mum’s fascination at all until the age of ten when I was introduced by my Dad to Airwolf. “Watch it,” he said, “it’s like the car one you like but with a helicopter.”
And so my first love began. I joke that I fell in love with the helicopter first and Stringfellow Hawke second, but really it was a close run thing. Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) was a brooding, handsome pilot with a tortured past (a dead fiancée and parents, a missing brother) who you just wanted to hug to pieces and tell him it was all going to be OK. But he was also a hero who did The Right Thing; who fought the bad guys but understood some of their motivation; and who would do anything for the people he loved and called family. Unfortunately, my crush on Hawke pretty much died a death somewhere in my teens when I realized Vincent was the same age as my Dad. Still, I look back fondly and the sad truth is that I loved Stringfellow Hawke so completely that pretty much all my genre crushes since have been brooding leading men with tortured pasts…
Egads, this is just the sort of thing that once on the internet, I can never take back. Ever. So let me think. Okay, I’ll be honest that I’ve had me some weird crushes in my day, but my first ever crush in the spec-fic genre was undoubtedly Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) of The X-Files fame. His sarcasm, his dry wit, his good looks and the fact that I was a hormone-mad teenager all coalesced into one pretty long-standing crush. How many pictures of him did I keep in my locker in high school? Let’s not go there. And I – yes, I, who claim to have the romantic sentiments of a sea cucumber – once shrieked (yea verily, there is no other term which I may truthfully apply) when a friend brought to school a signed picture of the studly hero. I truly was an awkward teenager.
But if I was open about my affection (or wild, late-pubescent hormonal desires) for Mulder, there was one man for whom I quietly desired: John F. Byers (Bruce Harwood). Yes, the suit-bedecked conspiracy theorist of the The X-Files’ Lone Gunmen held a special fascination for me. The sarcastic Mulder I could openly desire with the boisterous casualness that is many a teenage crush, but Byers I treated with more dignity. Oh, I had his picture in my locker, too, but I could not bring myself to speak so openly of my feelings. A crush on Mulder might be weird, but one on Byers was, for some reason that could not be articulated, weird. But it was Byers who I admired deeply for his idealism, his sense of ethics, his well-trimmed beard. Byers was a man of quiet determination and astute comments. Where Mulder won my hormones, Byers won my heart. Even today, many years later, I still cannot watch Season 9, Episode 15 of the The X-Files. [The one where Byers dies. – Ed.] I probably never will.
The date was March 10th, 1997, my younger brother was off in bed, my mother was upstairs taking a shower and I, a young nine-year old impressionable kid was flipping through the channels when I came across her. I immediately stopped, taken back by how gorgeous she was, I had no idea who she was or what I would be getting myself into. Ladies and gentlemen, the girl in question was Sarah Michelle Gellar, and she was Buffy. My life was never the same again.
A crush that I still hold dear to my heart to this day. I will watch anything this gal is in simply because of the nostalgic factor of how much influence she had on my life. She was a huge part of my life because of how integral she was to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I went as far as creating my own collage dedicated to her. Obsessive? Maybe, but I was a young boy in love with a beautiful girl, what else was I going to do? I had such an emotional connection to her that I HATED Angel (David Boreanaz) with a passion because he got to be with her and I couldn’t. Don’t even get me started on Freddie Prinze, Jr. What does she see in him?!?!?!?
Today, there are dozens of women that I find attractive, but none of them will ever match the feeling I had when I watched Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy on my television for seven years. I would not stalk her if given the chance… I swear.
There is no shortage of attractive women in Fantasy/Sci-Fi for a nerd like myself to fall in love with. I mean, all by himself, my favorite hero, Spider-Man, had four beautiful intellectuals: Betty Brant, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, and later, Felicia “The Black Cat” Hardy. And you can’t have a nebbish sci-fi hero without the doting heroine there, to make the viewer fantasize that nerd romance – or nerdmance – could happen to them (for me, I’m still waiting for the “Elizabeth Shue as Jennifer” to my Marty McFly). Even Sam Beckett, in the midst of all his random Quantum Leap-ing, still managed to convince his wife (played by Teri Hatcher, no less) not to leave him at the altar. But if you want a gateway drug into all of this rampant crushing of mine, look no further than Dorothy Gale.
Keep in mind I was around seven when I first saw The Wizard of Oz (1939), so I didn’t actually think, ”Wow, Judy Garland is pretty”, but it was still true. And more importantly, Dorothy wasn’t any of those things that go along with the Garland mythos, not to me. She could sing beautifully, but she was also an adventurer who was terrified of all the strange things around her, but always found the courage to get over them. That’s the kind of science fictional woman I’m drawn to: the superior kind. So now, whether it’s Ellen Ripley, Tru Davies, or maybe even Dr. Anne Glass, I like the kind of characters who overcome the male-centric (or maybe just villain-centric, if need be) world around them, and prove themselves better.
I had some trouble trying to remember who my first fictitious crush was as most of my childhood memories seem to be of Transformers smashing each other to pieces, so I scoured YouTube for my childhood shows in the hope that something would jog my memory. Twenty minutes of nostalgia later I came across the old X-Men cartoon and the Southern diva herself, Rogue!
There was (and still is) just something about Rogue’s voice that caught my ear; as soon as I heard the words “Hey, sugar” in that glorious southern accent, I was smitten. I always found her a bit of an oddball, even for the X-Men. She was also the most tragic of the X-Men as she could never touch anyone, which defiantly made me sympathize with her. Unlike the other X-Men women, Rogue would be the one to always get into a fist fight, and she’s also the only hero (cartoon or otherwise) I’ve seen to rock a semi-white hair-do. She was a bit of a rock chick with that brown leather jacket and big eighties hair, also she could fly for some reason, which I thought was awesome. All in all Rogue is an all round bad-ass, in both comic and cartoon form, and was definitely a worthy subject of my earliest adoration.
Airing for 4 seasons in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, WKRP in Cincinnati stands as one of the more underrated sitcoms of my lifetime. Sharp and witty, with an ensemble cast that pretty much disappeared after the show had run its course, it featured my personal role model and spiritual mentor, Dr. Johnny Fever, along with my first crush, Bailey Quarters.
Portrayed by Jan Smithers, Bailey was young, nervous and inexperienced, with a serious girl-next-door vibe. Her character was right out of college, trying to find her place among the diverse and not entirely stable staff at a flailing radio station in Ohio. The show had sex appeal cast in elsewhere, with receptionist Jennifer Marlowe (portrayed by Loni Anderson) who was beautiful, intelligent, funny, and build like a…..
Well, we all remember how Loni was built. And yet, it was Bailey who garnered my attention and stole Jennifer’s considerable thunder. As the years have passed, I have found that a surprising number of men share my perspective, and remember Bailey as the hot one. It is the Ginger vs. Mary Ann conundrum for my generation.
And just for the record, I prefer Mary Ann, Robin, Jaclyn, Donna, Dr. Crusher, Peggy, Veronica, Carla, Gemma, Phoebe and Catherine Bach over Ginger, Lilly, Kate or Farrah, Jackie, Troi, Kelly, Betty, Elliot, Tara, Rachel or Monica and Jessica Simpson. However, Bailey Quarters surpasses them all.
In the summer between fourth and fifth grade, my older sister took the original Deryni series by Katherine Kurtz with us on a drive across the USA. Sometime around South Dakota, when my Rawls and George books started getting old, she thrust the end of Deryni Rising at me. With all the fervor of the newly converted, she insisted that I read the final fight scene in the cathedral. And so I lost my heart that summer to a raven-haired, fourteen-year-old boy gifted with magic, sarcasm, and wit beyond his years.
Kelson Cinhil Rhys Anthony Haldane. It was a dark, cool, magical name from a misty magical world far removed from a common, two-named kid stuck in a minivan on an endless summer vacation. I read that cathedral fight scene over and over again, inching backwards through the book until I had finally read it from beginning to end. Picking up momentum, I made the leap into Deryni Checkmate and then blew into High Deryni only to find another amazing culminating fight scene – this time with horses! Oh, my little eleven-year-old heart was ready to burst. I wanted to leap onto my pony and gallop off to help King Kelson stop the madness and save the kingdom. Long live King Kelson! … at least, in my memory.
I’m not entirely sure what I was so enraptured with: his fantastic 80s mullet, his intelligence, his incredible badass ability to save the day with a Swiss army knife, duct tape, and a penny. Whatever it was, I loved it. I have a distinct memory of telling my mother that I was going to marry him one day. Of course I didn’t, but somewhere in the multiverse I am Mrs. MacGyver and that still makes me smile to this day.
– The Geek Speak Staff
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