lessons learned, nostalgia, silliness, TV

Life lessons from The Love Boat…

I love watching cheesy TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I especially enjoy watching them when I’m laid up in bed and in need of comfort. Although I’m mostly over the virus that kicked me in the butt all weekend, I was still a touch under the weather for most of Monday. I did experience sort of a second wind later in the day, but not enough of one to call myself “well”. I managed to find the energy to wash all the bed linens and turn on the robot mower ūüėČ , which I forgot to check on, and later found stuck in the corner of the backyard. I even summoned the energy to walk the dogs in the afternoon, which they both appreciated. But then I came back, hurled, and spent more quality time on the toilet.

Yesterday, I watched The Love Boat, an Aaron Spelling/Douglas Cramer television show that aired on ABC throughout most of my childhood. Someone on YouTube uploaded a bunch of episodes from the 1982-83 season and I found myself glued to them for most of the afternoon. Although most of the plot lines were completely ridiculous and implausible, it was still kind of fun to watch. There are even a few pearls of wisdom within the episodes.

Yes, I did have to suspend belief when I watched the late Eva Gabor (born in 1919) playing the mother of a teenaged boy in the early 80s. It was a bit jarring to see Connie Needham (born in 1959), playing the fiance of her mother’s ex boyfriend Gene Barry (born in 1919), only to have her mom steal him back. I’m sure Alan Hale, Jr. and Bob Denver, both of whom were best known for their roles on Gilligan’s Island, had a great time on the show. It’s a trip to watch the crew members romancing the passengers as they live in huge, sumptuous quarters that I know are not the reality for actual cruise crew members. But still, I remember yesterday afternoon, actually stopping in my tracks to ponder when Dr. Adam Bricker (played by Bernie Kopell) said something unexpectedly profound. Or, at least I thought it was profound when he said it… I wish I could remember what he said at this moment, but alas, the thought has passed. Oh well, next time, I’ll make a note of it.

It’s always a treat to see Charo perform. Seriously– Charo is a very talented entertainer, especially when she plays guitar. She was a staple on The Love Boat, though, and I don’t think I ever need to watch her sing “Physical” again. My respect for Charo came when she was on The Surreal Life around 2004 or so. Even though that was a silly show, Charo showed everyone that she’s a lot smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for in her heyday, and she can REALLY play guitar.

Granted, this is supposed to be tacky and obnoxious, but it kind of goes beyond the pale. Charo later said she “cuchi cuchi-ed” all the way to the bank! I think I see a little Las Vegas era Tina Turner in this performance.
But at around 12:25 on this video of The Surreal Life, you can hear Charo play guitar… she does have some chops. I’d rather hear her play guitar and listen to her sing. Incidentally, this was one of the better seasons of The Surreal Life.

The Love Boat also did a couple of on location two-parters during that time period that were fun to watch, especially since Bill and I have been to some of the places they went. In 2013, we did our last SeaDream cruise from Rome to Athens, which included pre-cruise stops in Venice and Florence. The Love Boat, which usually focused on cruises to Mexico, went to Italy and Greece. They did one two-parter based on an Italian cruise, and one was based on a Greek cruise. I noticed they had some pretty high ranking guests for those episodes, too. Both specials made me want to travel! I have wanderlust anyway, but COVID-19 has made it more intense.

I’m sure all of the footage for the Italy and Greece episodes was filmed at the same time, production costs being what they were. I came to the conclusion they were filmed at the same time because I noticed that Lauren Tewes’ hair was the same “Sun-In” bleached blonde in both of the specials, plus the used the same footage of a TWA plane taking off. Forty years later, I’m amazed that people in the 80s thought that orange hydroxide look was attractive. Lisa Whelchel, who guested on the Greek special, had the same bleached hair with brassy overtones. It was pretty ghastly. As I watched the show, I realized it was work for everyone involved. But it also looked like a lot of fun to film.

I know this is a common phenomenon, but it seems like life was a lot more fun in the 80s… I know it probably wasn’t, for many reasons, but I was a kid back then. Actually, looking back on it, the 80s were hard for me, personally, because that was when I was growing up, and I didn’t have the greatest childhood. But we had all these feel good TV shows that were light entertainment. The Love Boat always had happy endings, with people falling in love, getting married, or discovering a new path in life. The staff on the ship was caring, friendly, and always invested in seeing that everyone had a good time. The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were great shows to watch on Saturday nights when I was growing up– at least until we had The Golden Girls, which was a much better show on all levels.

Granted, The Love Boat definitely jumped the shark around the time they kicked Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie McCoy) off the show because of her cocaine addiction and other issues, but it always featured old movie stars alongside up and coming stars of the 80s. It was great fun to watch when I was a kid, and probably more fun to watch now for entirely different reasons. I could imagine someone turning it into a Mystery Science Theater 3000 type of show, where there are snarky comments made for every ridiculous scenario, cheesy band number, or godawful evening gown. Also, I noticed all the women wore dresses no matter what, many of which were pretty frumpy and uncomfortable looking, even if they weren’t having dinner.

As a child, I was oddly enchanted by evening gowns and fancy events. It’s probably because I used to love reading fairytales. I also used to love watching beauty pageants, not because I believed in evaluating women by their looks, but because I loved the evening gowns. I liked the colors and designs. But times change, and just like The Love Boat and silly shows like it, beauty pageants have also gone out of style. Even Miss America, which was probably the most prestigious pageant, has changed its focus more toward promoting scholarship and community service than beauty. I think that’s a positive thing, but I must admit that as a kid, I loved the glamour of 80s television. It was fun to revisit it over the past couple of days, watching The Love Boat, a televised intellectual equivalent to empty calories.

Having now been on some cruises myself, I now realize that there’s a price to be paid for wearing fancy duds, and not just at the cash register. I have a few sparkly dresses, but I don’t wear them well. I find them uncomfortable, and I never want to spend a lot of money on dresses that I won’t wear more than a time or two. Consequently, I don’t really look smashing in an evening gown. Even if I had a really cute figure, I think I would rather just wear a nightgown with no bra, rather than a hot evening dress that is always too long for me and heavy with sequins. And that is exactly what I did yesterday, as my stomach and intestines launched into a few more revolts. I did feel markedly better yesterday, but I wasn’t quite all the way…

Well, I’m happy to report that today, I feel 100% better. I have a spark of energy, and I managed to eat a banana, toast with butter, and drink two cups of coffee with cream without feeling like I needed to puke. I’m sure there will be some residual crud from the virus my body seems to have vanquished, but I think I’m on the mend. It was the first time I’ve been sick in ages. In fact, I don’t remember the last sickness I’ve experienced since moving to Wiesbaden. I was sick more often in Stuttgart, probably because Bill was always traveling to Africa and exposing me to exotic pathogens.

One thing I’ve learned from being sick for the past few days is that I needed a reminder that I don’t enjoy the experience of sickness. In fact, perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I definitely don’t want to catch COVID-19. I have no idea how I got this stomach bug, which I’m guessing is less contagious than COVID is. But being sick for the past few days has SUCKED, even though I was somewhat functional the whole time. Maybe if this bug has done anything, it’s renewed my resolve to stay healthy.

Will I watch more Love Boat today? Maybe… I was watching the second part of the Greek two-parter when Bill got home. He worked late last night and stopped by the store to get me some OTC meds and food. I might watch the second part, just to finish. I could tell I was getting better, though, because as the day wore on, I was getting more tired of the lame storylines. I may need to view something with more substance today, if I choose to watch television at all. It’s amazing the boost one gets when that initial post-sickness energy surge hits.

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celebrities, nostalgia, TV

Wandering into a Solid Gold time capsule…

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, music shows were all the rage. I watched a lot of them, mainly because my sisters did, but the show that I liked best was Solid Gold. This musical variety show had a bona-fide star as its host– Dionne Warwick, Marilyn McCoo, Andy Gibb, Grant Goodeve, or Rex Smith– and a weekly countdown. There would be an array of musical guests, many of whom would lip sync to their hits, and a duet starring the host and a musical guest, which was performed live. They had “man on the street” segments, which would show off the singing or lip syncing talents, or lack thereof, of everyday people on the street. And, at least in the early years, there would be comedy. All of it was accompanied by hyper-sexual dancing by the Solid Gold Dancers, led by the highly exotic and erotic Darcel Leonard Wynne.

How do I remember all of this? Well, I was a fairly regular viewer back in the day. But I also remember it because I binge watched a bunch of episodes yesterday. Someone uploaded several of the earliest episodes of Solid Gold, and in a few cases, even left the ads in circa 1980 and 1981. I found myself falling down the nostalgia time shaft as I watched these videos, remember when I was still a child in the early 80s. I never stopped listening to a lot of the music from that era, so that was less of a shock than the ads were.

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the past. Maybe it’s because I wish I could do it over. There are other choices I would have made if I had known what would lie ahead for me. But I think I also like looking at the past because I genuinely enjoyed the music of that time period… and the fact that you could have a variety show that featured acts as diverse as Pure Prairie League (featuring Vince Gill), Glen Campbell, and The Rolling Stones! In fact, radio wasn’t unlike that back in the day. You could tune in to your favorite pop station and hear something by a band like Exile, which had sort of a country flair, and then hear Earth, Wind, & Fire or Led Zeppelin.

Since I have wildly diverse musical tastes, that kind of random characteristic of early media appealed to me very much. I miss it now, especially since independent TV and radio stations are now pretty rare. The person who uploaded the Solid Gold episodes lived in the Rochester, New York area, so the ads and PSAs were relevant to that area. But they also ran some pretty awesome early ads for jeans and person hygiene products. I felt both really old watching them, and young, as I remember how young I was in 1980 and 1981. There were poignant moments, too. Like, for instance, this song performed by the late Harry Chapin in a March 1981 episode…

As Harry Chapin introduces this song, he tells everyone that as a 38 year old, he’d already lived a quarter of his life. As it turned out, he was actually nearing the end of his life. He died on July 16, 1981. He speaks about others who died, too. I wonder what Harry would think of the world today.
And this was Harry’s last ever television appearance, which was on Solid Gold. It was taped just two weeks before his death.

I remember watching Stevie Nicks, as she performed live on Solid Gold. She was one of the few guests who performed live, rather than lip syncing and dancing to a recorded version. I seem to recall that she appeared to be a bit coked up for that performance, but who knows?

I always loved this song.

I am so glad someone uploaded those early Solid Gold shows. I had never seen them before yesterday, and they were truly entertaining in a campy kind of way. I forgot how different the early 80s were. We were a lot more innocent and fun back then. Not everything was about political correctness. And you really had no idea what you might see. The episode below had everyone from Rocky Burnette to Bill Cosby, as well as a truly hilarious performance by Cornell Gunter and The Coasters, and a strange dress worn by Stephanie Mills. The 80s were bizarre.

Bill Cosby before he was a jailbird is on this episode.

I think the reason I started watching yesterday, though, was because of the dancers. They popped into my head, even though I can’t dance at all. It was quite a shock to see that three of the former dancers were on a show called Live to Dance back in 2011. They were still pretty hot, despite their somewhat advanced ages.

Dayum! I am especially impressed by Darcel! She was about 60 when she did this.
Speaking of the Solid Gold Dancers… Pam Rossi now has her own dance studio.

It really doesn’t seem like the 80s were that long ago, especially looking at the outfits the dancers wore. To put it in perspective, though, most of what I watched yesterday was from 1981– forty years ago. In 1981, forty years ago would have meant 1941. That was when World War II was in full swing. And come to think of it, I’m sure people in those days thought the world was going to end, too. Somehow, we got through the war and everything that came after it. So I guess we’ll get through these weird times, too. Or, a lot of us will, anyway. I remember when AIDS the scariest thing. Now, it’s COVID-19, and global warming.

Anyway… it was a lot of fun to take a trip on the 1980s time warp. I feel old as hell now. Sometimes, I would like to go back to that era. Then I realize that there were many things back then that I don’t miss. I can always listen to music from the past without revisiting the many traumas of growing up. And watching Solid Gold is definitely a super fun and funny way to revisit the past. It also gives me a convenient topic to write about, other than the other “crap” in the world. God knows, I don’t feel like attracting more hate mail.

On another note, how lovely was Harry Chapin’s last performance! I wish I could have gone to one of his shows. What a wonderful, generous, and heartfelt song… and it was delivered by a man who truly loved and was loved by others. I’m so glad I got to watch it, even as it saddens me that he’s been gone for forty years. If you want to pick any of the videos in this post to watch, that’s the one I think you should watch. Harry Chapin was one in a million, and that last performance really warmed my heart.

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book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Belinda Carlisle unzips her lips…

Here’s a repost of an Epinions book review I wrote in July 2010. It’s currently reposted on my music blog, Dungeon of the Past, but I’m giving some thought to discontinuing that blog soon. Since this repost has gotten good views on my other blog, I’m going to preserve it as/is here on this one.

Summer seems to be the time for celebrity memoirs. I happen to love a good celebrity tell all, so I’m always game for reading and reviewing them. I’ve just finished reading Belinda Carlisle’s Lips Unsealed: A Memoir (2010), having picked it up a couple of days ago, thinking I needed something more lightweight to read after the somber subject of my last book review. *Sigh* As it turned out, Ms. Carlisle’s memoir didn’t quite fit the bill for easy, breezy reading material.

Who is Belinda Carlisle?

Here’s an explantation for those of you who did not grow up in the 70s and 80s or did not listen to pop music back in that era. Belinda Carlisle is the lead singer of the 80s era punk/pop girl band The Go Gos. She’s also done quite a few solo albums over the years, though her hey day as a solo artist was in the late 1980s. Since that happened to be the time I was in high school, it made me part of Belinda Carlisle’s targeted group of fans. However, while I did like Belinda Carlisle when she was a Go Go, I never liked her as much as a solo artist.

So why did I read her book?

I read Belinda Carlisle’s book for several reasons. First off, while I wasn’t a big fan of Belinda’s music, I did always think she was kind of cute, likeable, and perky. I liked the Go Go’s; when they were popular, they were among very few all girl bands.  Reading Carlisle’s memoir opened my eyes to the host of personal problems she’s struggled with, apparently throughout her life.

Blame it on dad…

Belinda Carlisle grew up in southern California. She was her mother Joanne’s firstborn child out of a total of seven kids by two different men. Belinda was born when her mother was 18 years old. Her father, Harold Carlisle, who was Joanne’s first husband, was about twice his wife’s age.  He was out of the house a lot when Belinda was growing up, due to his work.  Harold and Joanne were terribly incompatible, yet they still managed to have two more kids before Harold Carlisle permanently left the home. Belinda was seven years old and very upset about the split. However, Joanne had been keeping company with a neighbor named Walt. He eventually moved in, married Belinda’s mom, and took over daddy duties, fathering four more kids.

As Belinda tells it, they were always very poor and her bio-dad wasn’t around at all. Apparently, he never paid child support or visited. And Belinda’s mother had encouraged her kids with Harold Carlisle to call Walt “Dad”. Belinda writes that she still calls him that and thinks of him in that way, even though Walt was abusive and an alcoholic.

As the oldest child, Belinda had to take on a lot of responsibilities around the house.  This was in part because her mother suffered from a mental illness and because with seven kids in the house, there was a lot to do. Belinda also had a very fragile self-esteem. Because her family was poor, she didn’t have a lot of cool clothes and she had a less than svelte body. Her classmates made fun of her.

As she came of age, Belinda Carlisle went from being an awkward, chubby kid to a wild teenager. She writes of hanging around her friends at concert venues in Los Angeles, drinking, doing drugs, and occasionally shoplifting. She developed an affinity for punk music and eventually ran into the other women who would help make up the Go Go’s.

Making music and getting laid and snorting cocaine and getting drunk… lather, rinse, repeat

Once the story progresses into Belinda Carlisle’s music career, an unpleasant image of her begins to emerge. She describes herself as a very troubled person, not particularly talented as a songwriter, not able to play any instruments, and not even the greatest singer. But she was the lead singer for the Go Gos, despite those shortcomings. Her status as a lead singer opened doors for her, created resentments for some of the other band members, and apparently made her feel very insecure.

As Carlisle writes it, she was constantly snorting cocaine and drinking because she didn’t like herself. She also didn’t like her bio dad, who, once Belinda became an adult and was famous, tried to reconnect with her. She writes of an incident in which he showed up at a concert with his second wife and their daughters, whom she claims he “replaced her with”. Belinda met them while extremely high on cocaine. She says he tried to explain his side of the story. She tuned him out, claiming that he was just blaming her mother– who no doubt was responsible for at least some of went wrong. Then she expressed bitterness that he would try to contact her “just because she was famous”. I daresay if she was that high on cocaine, her perceptions of what was actually said in that meeting are probably very skewed.

Later, bio dad and Belinda’s sisters from his side of the family tried to reconnect again. She refused to see them and eventually told her dad she didn’t want a relationship with him. And yet, throughout this book, it’s pretty clear to me that his unexplained departure when she was a little kid had left a huge void. As far as I can tell, that psychic wound is still very painful for her. Yet, as she proudly proclaims her sobriety and newfound sanity, this is an area she evidently still refuses to address.

A bizarre anti-drug PSA by Belinda Carlisle. She had cute hair, though.

I’ll admit…

My husband is one of those dads who left his children when they were young and no longer has a relationship with them thanks to extreme parental alienation. Because of that, I feel some empathy for Belinda Carlisle’s father. Granted, everybody’s situation is different. Harold Carlisle might very well be the jerk Belinda Carlisle makes him out to be. But, I do think it says something for him that he tried on several occasions to reunite with her. Yes, he did find her when she was famous, but this all occurred at a time before the Internet. Maybe that was the only way he could track her down.

I don’t get the comment Belinda Carlisle made about her dad “replacing her” with daughters from his second marriage. First off, it would be impossible for Belinda’s father (or any other parent) to replace one child with another. And secondly, clearly Harold Carlisle wasn’t all bad.  He did apparently stick around and raise his younger kids.  If he was a total bum, he would have left them, too.  Finally, Belinda’s mother had four kids with her second husband and she considers them her siblings. Why isn’t her father allowed to have a life post divorce? Clearly, her parents didn’t belong together, but Belinda makes it clear that neither of them were angels. Why heap all the blame on dad?

Like father like daughter…

Another issue Carlisle never seems to address is that for all her complaints about her father’s absence, she was apparently often absent from her son Duke’s life. She was using cocaine and alcohol frequently when Duke was a small child, traveling a lot, and partying a whole lot. Yes, she was still married to Duke’s father, but by her own admission she was not around much and was certainly no paragon of parenthood. I’m sure she’d blame that on her bio father, too.

Beyond Belinda’s daddy woes…

There’s an awful lot about drugs in this book. It seems that Belinda Carlisle spent about thirty years of her life high on cocaine. For that, she was rewarded with fame and fortune. She doesn’t make fame out to be as great as it seems, except when she starts name dropping all the celebrities she’s met over the years. Since this is a celebrity memoir and the nature of a celebrity’s work puts them in contact with other celebrities, that’s to be expected. But it does seem to me that Carlisle got more than her fair share of second and third chances. More often than not, she comes off as a bit self-absorbed and selfish.

Despite my griping…

I will admit that Lips Unsealed is well-written and interesting and, for that, I’m giving it four stars. Belinda Carlisle must have a guardian angel, since she found a husband that she describes as “saintly”. They’ve been married for over two decades and their son has apparently grown up healthy and functional. They live in Los Angeles and the South of France. They must be doing something right.

Overall

Belinda Carlisle’s memoir did annoy me on more than one occasion, but I think it’s worth reading if you’re a fan of hers or the Go Gos. She claims that now that she’s in her 50s, she’s clean and sober. I truly hope she is and has learned from her mistakes. Judging by this memoir, however, I think she’s still got a long way to travel on the road to recovery.

And here are the comments left on my Dungeon repost. One was from Belinda’s sister.

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book reviews, celebrities, movies

A review of Brat: An 80s Story, by Andrew McCarthy

As a child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up watching films made by the mythical Brat Pack, a group of young actors of the 1980s who made wildly popular films and had reputations for bad behavior. As a twelve year old, who was also a fan of the hit sitcom, The Facts of Life, I had watched Molly Ringwald go from her adolescent feminist character on TV to a huge movie star in John Hughes’ hilarious coming of age films. I had also seen St. Elmo’s Fire, which starred Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Mare Winningham, Rob Lowe, and of course, Andrew McCarthy. Andrew McCarthy then went on to star with Molly Ringwald in the 1987 Hughes film, Pretty in Pink, which was a hugely successful movie in terms of money made, even if the reviews were kind of lukewarm.

My teen years were in the 1980s, so I was a big fan of the so-called Brat Pack actors. They seemed to be friends, always starring in movies together. Many of the movies made by “Brat Packers” were John Hughes vehicles, but St. Elmo’s Fire was a Joel Schumacher film. I had loved that movie, too… and being a big music fan, I also loved the soundtracks that came from 80s era films like The Breakfast Club, which Andrew McCarthy was not in, and St. Elmo’s Fire, of which Andrew McCarthy was a cast member. It was a no-brainer that I would read Andrew’s 2021 book, Brat: An 80s Story. I knew I would enjoy it because of the subject matter, but I also knew that Andrew McCarthy is an excellent writer, having read and reviewed his travel book The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest For the Courage to Settle Down back in 2014. I remember how I had devoured Andrew’s fascinating travel stories and marveled at how good of a writer he is. To be honest, I much prefer his writing to his acting.

Brat: An 80s Story is a look at how Andrew McCarthy broke into acting and almost killed himself with an addiction to alcohol. The book also sheds some light on Andrew’s middle class upbringing on the East Coast, one of four brothers. He had a difficult relationship with his father, who disdained Andrew’s chosen career path of acting, yet never missed a chance to ask for money once Andrew hit the big time. In fact, a number of Andrew’s friends and relatives hit him up for cash, and he says that most of them resented him for giving them the money. Having seen Andrew McCarthy in several films, I had this image of him as a posh New Yorker type. But the truth is, he grew up much like a lot of people do, and he got terrible grades in high school. He barely got into New York University’s acting program and never intended to graduate, having set his sights on a career in theater. He ended up with a movie career instead.

I enjoyed reading about Andrew McCarthy’s experiences making movies in the 80s. He definitely strips some of the glamour and mystique from the movie business, describing how he would meet legendary stars like Jaqueline Bisset (he starred with her in Class, which was his debut)– driven to a meeting in a fancy car. Then, afterwards, someone would give him cab fare or he’d bum a ride from an assistant. He mentions the conditions of working on The Beniker Gang, a movie he did in 1984, about a group of orphans who want to be a family. He clued me into some things I’d never noticed about his films, like Pretty in Pink. For instance, I never noticed at the end of the film that Andrew was wearing a badly fitted hairpiece, even though I’ve seen that movie dozens of times. The ending of Pretty in Pink had to be reshot and, at the time, Andrew was in a play in New York that had required him to shave his head.

He’s wearing a wig! I never knew! Take a close look at the “parking lot” at the end… I also loved reading about how Molly helped Andrew get cast in Pretty in Pink.

Interspersed within his stories about making famous and infamous movies of the 80s, Andrew McCarthy includes some stories about how he fell into alcoholism and drug abuse. I get the sense that Andrew was more of a drunk than a druggie, but drinking to excess had led McCarthy to ruin. He made several forgettable and terrible films in 1987, and he made some devastating mistakes squandering opportunities that could have propelled his movie career into the stratosphere. Some readers may not like this aspect of McCarthy’s story. Looking at Amazon’s reviews, I notice that some people were hoping for more of a tell all about Hollywood life and making films. But I think Andrew’s confessions about his drinking habits are helpful and insightful. Andrew drank to excess because he was struggling with insecurities. The drinking helped, until it didn’t anymore. McCarthy’s stories about his booze habit explain why he made 80s era turkeys like Fresh Horses and Mannequin, and turned down an opportunity to work with Robert Redford.

I haven’t seen many of the movies done by Andrew McCarthy after Pretty in Pink. I did like him in that movie, as well as a few others he’s done. I enjoyed Weekend At Bernie’s, for instance, and even saw it in the theater. I almost never go to the movies, especially nowadays! But I did memorably see that flick at a theater with an ex boyfriend. It’s important to note that this book really only focuses on the 1980s and McCarthy’s work during that decade. Don’t expect to learn anything about what he’s done since then. Also, he only mentions his wife and children in passing in this book, although he does include some stories about his relationships with members of his family of origin, especially his dad. I could relate to his issues with his father, which is another reason I liked this book.

There’s something about McCarthy’s “sensitive” schtick that has always kind of turned me off a little bit, even as I thought he was kind of cute in an East Coast sort of way. I really do like him better as a writer. Brat: An 80s Story has some candid, self-deprecating moments in it that are endearing and relatable. He never comes off as cocky. Instead, it’s almost like he can’t believe the surreal circumstances that put him where he is today. He really has had some extraordinary experiences. He was actually in Germany at the Berlin Wall when it fell, and was recognized by a German soldier for being in the movie Heaven Help Us (known as Catholic Boys in Europe, where it was very successful). He also made friends with Claude Chabrol, a legendary French director who gave him the sage advice– “What is true today may not be true tomorrow”.

McCarthy comes across as someone who’s real, and I liked his anecdotes about what life as a star was like for him in his heyday. It sounds like he’s a lot happier and more grounded now, since he’s branched into writing. And he definitely dispels the myth of the “Brat Pack”. Even though it seemed like that cohort of actors were all buddies who did everything together, the truth is, the Brat Pack never really existed as anything more than a concept put out by a journalist who happened to hang out with Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, and Emilio Estevez one raucous night. After the filming stopped, so did the relationships. Andrew says he’s never seen Judd or Emilio again in the years since St. Elmo’s Fire, and he’s only run into the other actors sporadically.

In some ways, Brat: An 80s Story also reminds me a little bit of Justine Bateman’s book, Fame, in which she describes how “reality” was hijacked by becoming a famous 80s era actress. Much of what McCarthy writes about his experiences during that era echo Justine Bateman’s experiences as a famous sitcom star who grew up on TV. But I think I enjoyed McCarthy’s book more than I did Bateman’s. He has a gift for storytelling, making it seem more as if he’s a friend sharing a tale in a room, rather than a celebrity. He also includes photos, including an adorable one of him as a child, riding a bike.

I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to those who want to know more about Andrew McCarthy’s acting career, as well as a few tidbits about show business itself. However, for those hoping for a dishy tell all, it might be a disappointment. Personally, I liked Brat: An 80s Story. I appreciated the look at McCarthy’s past and how he’s become the person he is today. I think he did a good job marrying the juicy Hollywood dishing with insights about who he is as a person. If that sounds good to you, I recommend reading Andrew McCarthy’s book, Brat: An 80s Tale.

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true crime, Virginia

Repost: The Colonial Parkway murders… and a near miss on the Parkway for me…

I am planning to write some fresh content today, but I wanted to repost this piece I wrote on March 23, 2015. It’s here “as/is”. I think it will be interesting to people who know the Williamsburg/Yorktown/Gloucester areas in Virginia, as well as those who knew me when I was young.

Today’s post is inspired by¬†an article I just read in the Huffington Post…¬† The featured photo is a picture from the National Park Service of the Parkway in spring…

I have mentioned before that I grew up in Gloucester, Virginia, not too far from Williamsburg and Yorktown.  I spent much of my young life traveling on what is known as the Colonial Parkway, a 23 mile stretch of scenic road between Yorktown and Jamestown.  As a kid, I’d ride with my mom on the Parkway to get to Williamsburg.  We often went there to go shopping or stop by the Naval Weapons Station, which used to have a small commissary my mom favored over the larger ones at Fort Eustis and Langley Air Force Base.  It’s a beautiful drive.  I actually enjoyed making that drive when I was younger and had jobs in Williamsburg, though sometimes I would take an alternate route just to shake things up a bit.

I grew up in the 1980s.  During that time period, there was a series of murders that took place on the Colonial Parkway.  The first one happened in 1986, when I was fourteen years old.  The two victims, 27 year old Cathleen Marian Thomas, and 21 year old Rebecca Ann Dowski were last seen hanging out in a computer lab with friends at the College of William and Mary.  Three days later, a jogger on the Colonial Parkway spotted Thomas’s car on the edge of an embankment.  The women had been strangled and their throats were cut.  The killer was never found.

As time passed, there were more murders.  I’m not going to detail them in this blog post because you can read the article I linked for more accurate information than I can possibly offer.  I will mention one other pair that were killed because I remember them the best.  On April 9, 1988 20 year old Richard “Keith” Call and 18 year old Cassandra Lee Hailey went out on their first date.  They were both students at what is now Christopher Newport University.  They disappeared after that fateful first date and haven’t been seen since.  They are presumed to have been victims of the Colonial Parkway killer.

I believe Keith Call was from Gloucester, so I remember hearing more about him and Cassandra Hailey than the other victims.  I remember seeing the posters asking for information about their whereabouts.  That same year in Gloucester, a teenager named Laurie Ann Powell was also reported as missing.  She was a graduate of my high school and was last seen alive on March 8, 1988.  She was found in the James River April 2, 1988.  I remember there were posters on the walls at my school about her, too.  I remember reading her “senior will” in the Dukes Dispatch school newspaper and thinking how eerie it was.  She had written this memorial to her high school days, not knowing that she wouldn’t have many days beyond high school.  I never knew her because she was a few years ahead of me.  Over twenty-five years later, the murders still haven’t been solved.  The killer(s) must either be dead or locked up somewhere, since as of around 1989, the murders seem to have stopped.

It never occurred to me to be afraid to drive on the Colonial Parkway.  I did it all the time.  I remember having a job in Williamsburg and my boss– a woman I couldn’t stand and who likewise couldn’t stand me– used to scold me for driving that way to work.  Coming from Gloucester and needing to get to the part of Williamsburg where I was working, the Colonial Parkway was the quickest and easiest route.  And again, it was (and still is) a very lovely drive.  Fortunately, I never broke down on it, though I did end up in a very scary situation once that involved the Parkway.

I’m about to veer off topic a little bit, since this incident has nothing to do with the Parkway murders.  It does have to do with a sleazy person, though, who scared the shit out of me while driving on the Colonial Parkway.

From late September 1997 until mid August 1999, I lived with my parents in Gloucester County.  I was fresh from the Peace Corps and dealing with some rather serious depression and anxiety issues.  Because my father was an alcoholic and we didn’t get along, I needed support.  At my mother’s suggestion, I started attending Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings in Williamsburg.

The meetings were held every Wednesday night at a large Methodist church near the College of William and Mary.  I looked forward to attending the meetings because most of the people who regularly showed up were nice folks and it was helpful to talk with them.  One of the guys in it actually hooked me up with the therapist who helped me get over depression.  Because he had issues with depression and ADD, this guy knew all the shrinks in the Williamsburg area and said Dr. Coe was the best.  I have long since lost touch with the guy who recommended Dr. Coe, but Dr. Coe is now my friend rather than my shrink.  At the very least, I will always be grateful to ACOA for that connection.  

There was a guy named Peter who used to attend the ACOA meetings. ¬†Peter lived in Surry, which is a community not far from Williamsburg, but in order to get there efficiently, he had to take a ferry across the James River. ¬†He was a swarthy guy with dark curly hair and luminous hazel-brown eyes. ¬†I don’t know what his ethnicity was, but I would guess he was of Italian or Greek descent. ¬†Perhaps he had gypsy blood. ¬†He wasn’t bad looking, but my initial impressions of him were not positive.¬†

I didn’t like Peter.  He used to make fun of me and harass me during the meetings.  I didn’t think he liked me; but in retrospect, he must have thought I was somewhat attractive.  His way of showing his “attraction” was to be annoying, snarky, and critical.  One time, he looked in the front seat of my car at some books I had picked up at the library.  One of the books I had borrowed was called Sex For Dummies.  He thought that was funny and felt the need to make rude comments about it.

After awhile, he either became less obnoxious or I got used to him.  For awhile, I didn’t dislike him as much as I had.  I even started bantering with him.  Though he had a lot of baggage owing to being raised by an alcoholic, he would tell us interesting stories about his plans to build a house out of straw.  Eventually, he hooked up with some woman and they had a baby girl, though they never got married.  I remember one night, they came to the restaurant where I was working and had dessert on the terrace.  I think I even waited on them.

In August 1999, I went to grad school.  I came back home for fall break.  A male friend of mine from college was in Williamsburg for a teacher’s conference, so we made plans to get together.  It was a Wednesday night, which was also the night of ACOA meetings.  I decided to stop by and see old friends I knew from that group, then meet my old college friend at his hotel room. 

Well, it turned out that night, ACOA was cancelled.  Since I no longer lived in the area, I didn’t know.  Peter also didn’t get the message.  He showed up at the church and we sat around and talked for awhile.  He made a comment about how “good” I was looking.  I had lost a lot of weight working at a restaurant in Williamsburg and hadn’t yet had time to regain it at school.  He asked me if I wanted to go see his baby. 

In retrospect, I should have said no.  My friend was waiting for me and, honestly, I didn’t even like Peter that much.  But we were getting along and, for whatever reason, I was curious about his baby.  I guess I also didn’t want to be rude.  He and his girlfriend had broken up, but she allowed him liberal visitation.  He called her and said he was coming over to see the baby and she agreed.

I stupidly let Peter drive me in his truck rather than following him in my own car.  We went to the ex girlfriend’s house and saw the baby.  The ex girlfriend was noticeably tense and seemed upset with Peter.  I seem to remember her telling him he was a jerk.  I paid little mind to it.  The baby was really cute and I was entertained by watching Peter thrill her by holding her up high and twirling her around.  The baby seemed to enjoy Peter’s roller coaster moves and responded by smiling and laughing.  She had Peter’s eyes and coloring.  She has probably grown up to be very exotic looking.

After our visit with the baby, we got back in Peter’s truck.  We were chatting casually.  I was telling him about school.  I expected him to take me back to the church.  He headed for the Parkway instead.  I told him I needed to get back because my friend was waiting for me.  He said he thought maybe I could blow off my friend.  I insisted that I wanted to get back.  He said he wanted to “hold me” for awhile.       

Suddenly, my brain was crystal clear.  I somehow managed to stay cool as I insisted that he take me back to the church so I could get my car and go.  I reiterated that my friend was expecting me and would call the police if I didn’t show up.  Now, in truth, I doubt my friend would have called the cops.  He probably would have worried, but ultimately might have thought I had simply stood him up.  However, he also knew I wasn’t the kind of person to stand people up, especially him.  He was one of my best friends. 

I sternly informed Peter that if I didn’t show up for our appointment, my friend would be looking for me.  All Peter knew was that my friend was a guy.  He may have even figured my friend could beat the shit out of him.

Peter argued with me, then started lecturing me about how I let other people control me.  What was the harm in blowing off my old friend and having a little fun with him in his truck?  I thought that was a pretty rich comment, since I had made it clear that I didn’t want to be with him in the way he was suggesting.  Indeed, it was obvious he was upset because I wasn’t allowing him to control me.  Fortunately, my tone of voice convinced Peter that he needed to do what I said.  He finally took me back to my car and I will never forget the overwhelming sense of relief I felt when I was no longer in his truck with him.  I swear, I felt like I was about to shit my pants.  I was petrified.

I remember being polite to Peter as we said goodbye.  Then I went to see my friend.  I was really shaken up and upset.  We tried to go out, but I was too freaked out to enjoy the evening.  Later, I was really pissed off.  I have mentioned before that I have never been much of a dater and I don’t generally attract abusive people.  Most of the guys who have liked me are nice to a fault.  Peter didn’t like me.  He saw me as someone he could talk into fucking him.  He was a colossal asshole.

Not long after that incident, I visited friends at the restaurant where I had once worked.  I was pretty shocked when I saw Peter on the waitstaff.  He didn’t last long, though.  He came over to say hi to me.  I am sure he could see it written all over my face how much I despised him for what he tried to do.  Perhaps he didn’t have any criminal intentions toward me, but he showed extreme disrespect.  And it’s that experience, not the Parkway murders, that makes me think less of the pretty 23 mile drive.  I haven’t been to another ACOA meeting since. 

I wonder if Peter’s ex girlfriend continued to be so liberal about letting him visit their baby.  That girl is now a teenager.  Hopefully, Peter wasn’t a terrible father to her and my instincts about him were wrong.  I can’t help but feel sorry for his ex girlfriend, though.  I would hate to have a child with a man like Peter.  Clearly, he was aptly named, too.  

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