As we continue to honor the teen movies of our youth, we thought it’d be worthwhile to go back to the beginning: the men who shaped us into the women we are today. We’re looking at the crushes we had as girls that have influenced all of our romantic decisions – and some life decisions – ever since. Feel free to leave your foundational crushes in the comments!
This is fairly easy for me as I wear my foundational loves on my sleeve. The guys here were all formative in the sense that they’ve influenced my choices ever since, even if I wasn’t necessarily a teenager (I started early).
I’ve said this numerous times but Griffin Dunne is the originator (the daddy, if you will) of all my loves since. You can easily trace a line from him to any number of my boys since. I saw My Girl when I was 5-years-old and identifed wholeheartedly with Anna Chlumsky’s Vada Sultenfuss. I, too, am a hypochondriac; I, too, have a contentious relationship with my father; I, too, had a best friend who was a boy (and, thankfully, he’s alive). More importantly, I, too, became a writer because of a guy. In this case, I watched Vada’s quest to get her teacher’s attention and decided that it was in the English profession that all the hot guys were. Yes, Griffin Dunne was the best looking guy I’d ever seen and it’s an assertion I stand by today. Imagine my disappointment when I realized the guys in the English department at my college looked nothing like him, and no one was rocking elbow patches. Movies may be liars, but my love for Griffin Dunne will last a lifetime.
This is another story I’ve told several times. My mom worked graveyard delivering newspapers when I was a teenager and I’d often go with her and sleep in the back of the car. She spent many of these evenings listening to books on tape. One night she listened to Lolita, read by Jeremy Irons, and I woke up with…..weird ass feelings. Without Jeremy Irons I might never have fallen for pretentious dudes with accents.
The first time I ever turned into a moony-eyed, have to consume EVERY. SINGLE. THING. about an actor it was in 1998. Titanic was pretty much a rite of passage for every teenage girl and I was one of several caught in its net. Leonardo DiCaprio’s foppish ’90’s hair, piercing eyes, and complete inability to process that boobs were in front of him was damn adorable and I was hooked. I went back and watched Romeo + Juliet on a loop. I rented every movie he had out and made a point of seeing everything he did after. I even went back and started taping Growing Pains reruns when they used to air on the Disney channel. And that doesn’t include the countless books and fan mags I bought. I found a few of these several years ago and had to giggle.
After my Leo phase ended it took a fair bit before I became obsessed with someone again and that person was Orlando Bloom. (Told ya I had a thing for dudes with accents.) I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black 16 (!) times in theaters to the point that, up until a few years ago, I could recite the first 45 minutes verbatim. It was a great way to battle insomnia. Orlando Bloom was so pretty and English. It’s such a shame the guy peaked so quickly.
If you can’t tell, I got a thing for dudes with dark hair and dark eyes. There’s a lot of them in my lineage. (I blame you, Griffin Dunne.) I saw Sixteen Candles when I was about 14 and was flat-out astounded by Michael Schoeffling as Jake Ryan. This was a case where I loved the character more than the performer. Yes, he’s a taste creepy considering Molly Ringwald is far younger than he is, but that’s the joys of a John Hughes movie; they make you believe you’ll find a high school guy who’s into you for your mind!
We’ve talked a lot about formative crushes and such here at Citizen Dame, over on Twitter, etc. Every time I discuss my earliest five men (or more accurately, boys), my answer varies just a little because there were quite a few. After all, I was boy crazy from at least age 4. After giving my memory a thorough examination, I have concluded that these may not be my earliest crushes, but they were the most significant during my teen years.
Thomas Cruise Mapother IV
My earliest of celebrity crushes began when I was but a tween, and has lasted more than 30 years, which is weird since I’m just barely 30 now. I know I have not been shy about my undying devotion to this delightful weirdo, but it runs so very deep. The 90s were particularly kind to him on and off the screen, and I knew he was truly my favorite person when I reconnected with a friend I haven’t seen since high school. One of her first questions was, “Are you still obsessed with Tom Cruise?”
Yes. Yes I am.
On Halloween morning in 1993, I was sitting on the living room at my best friend Candace’s house when her mother walked in and asked if we had heard the news. They had just moved into the new place the day before and hadn’t yet gotten the cable hooked up, so we had not. It was the first celebrity death that truly impacted me, and occasionally I still find myself imagining roles that would have gone to him instead of someone else. And every time I’m in West Hollywood and happen past the Viper Room, I get a weird little tinge of sadness. Yes, over someone I never met who died 25 years ago.
There was a time when you only had to tell me Keanu Reeves was in a movie and I would be there without a thought. The best thing that ever happened to my middle-aged self was the John Wick franchise, because it renewed and somehow kind of validated that old teenage adoration. I did, quite literally, wear out a VHS copy of Point Break because I watched it so many times. Partly for the beautiful Patrick Swayze, but mostly for Ted “Theodore” Logan, if I’m being honest. Chain Reaction, Much Ado About Nothing, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Feeling Minnesota, Speed… I saw them all because of him.
The intensity. The brooding. The Oscar nomination age age 19. Was there a star more tailor-made for the 90s than Jack Dawson himself? No, there was not. I remember the day he turned up on one of my favorite sitcoms, Growing Pains. High school Karen demanded to know, “Who is that?” And it was the beginning of a crush that in some ways still exists, even though I know way more about his personal life than I would like to. And yes, his personal proclivities somehow irritate me more than Tom Cruise’s. Go figure. But he’s still a good looking guy and we’ll always have the Titanic.
I know, I just heard that record scratch. What can I say? I was OBSESSED with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and so was my mom. Although she wouldn’t admit to being nearly as into it as I was. We went to see the movie together and loved it immediately, and then spent the next several months pouring over the shelves at the Blockbuster, watching every one of his films they had on hand. Silverado, No Way Out, Field of Dreams, JFK. What can I say? I still like him.
I had some strange crushes as an adolescent. While I attempted to read Tiger Beat and other pre-teen and teen magazines about cute boys with floppy hair, I never got into them. No, give me Old Dead British Guys, as my friends would say. I’ve decided to write my list in chronological order, from the first crush I remember
Bing is probably the odd one out on this list. I’m not sure what was going on in my adolescent mind, but he’s one of the first crushes I can remember, way before I even knew what a crush was. It was definitely the voice, and the doe-eyed innocence he cultivated so well on screen. I watched all the Road movies one summer at my aunt’s house and exhausted my poor cousins, who did not understand what I found so fascinating. It’s because of him that I disliked Fred Astaire for years (Astaire’s basically the villain in Holiday Inn, after all, and was so mean to my Bing). Looking back, I still have a soft spot for Bing, even if I’m fully aware of his problematic status.
My crush on Jeremy Brett began because of Sherlock Holmes. As a pre-teen, I read the Holmes stories over and over again, and the Granada TV series starring Brett remains the most faithful of Holmes adaptations. Brett is strikingly handsome, especially in the early seasons, and gives Holmes an intensity and humor and humaneness that is often missing from Holmes adaptations. But I didn’t really understand that I had a crush on him until I saw him as Freddie in My Fair Lady. He’s just adorable, and he’s still my Sherlock Holmes.
Ah, Jeff. You walked out of that blow-dryer in Earth Girls are Easy and into my heart. You were the first star I ever wrote a fan letter to (and got a signed picture back!). I saw some films that were way too old for me because of you, like Into the Night and The Tall Guy. I’m still not sure why you’re so damned sexy (beyond the great body), but you are.
As with Bing, I know that Lennon is somewhat problematic. Even as a teenager, I had a general idea about his treatment of Cynthia and of Yoko. But I do still love his music and his persona and his mischievous, sardonic sense of humor. I was obsessed with the Beatles through middle school and a good bit of high school, and John was one of the major reasons. That voice? Yes. That poetic sarcasm? Also yes. I used to be able to quote all of A Hard Day’s Night, my dudes.
Cary Grant is actually responsible for my interest in Alfred Hitchcock, and thus responsible for my study of film, my attendance at NYU, and my presence on this podcast. So, thanks, Cary. I had a minor thing for Cary after Bringing Up Baby, but it was with Notorious that my passion ignited. And no wonder—the way he looks at Ingrid Bergman melts the screen, and his rage with himself over his love for her is just devastating. “Dry your eyes, baby, it’s out of character” is such an intense, brilliant, horrible line, and Grant treads the fine line between hero and villain throughout. He’s also gorgeous. As we know.
I’ve gone into my thirsting habits plenty. I’m a fangirl from way back. However, my teen years were a bit hard. Sure, I had some boy band crushes, but none were really long lasting. Instead, like anyone diving into more classic popular culture, I was falling for much more… unconventional… men. Highschool is hard when your crushes are passing (or well passed!) middle age. Anyway, here are some of the men who hung on my locker in high school.
*Sigh* Still an always and forever crush for yours truly. I feel hard for the actor during my film noir phase (which dominated most of high school). I found myself positively giddy when I found movies he lived to see the end of. Richard Widmark was (and is) more than simply eye candy. He was a brilliant and versatile performer. Check out his work if you haven’t.
This crush dominated my pre-teen and early teen years. I saw Les Miserables for the first time in middle school, and promptly threw myself into everything about the musical. This took me to the original London cast recording and voila! Michael Ball. The actor orginated the role of Marius on-stage, and in the last thirty years has became a legend on the London stage. I wrote him fan letters, joined his fan club, and made my family drive to Salt Lake City when he gave his first (and only) show on this side of the pond. I still love him and remain a faithful listener to his BBC2 radio show.
We know how I feel about Martin Milner. *sigh*. I think I discovered Milner when I first stumbled onto the joy that was TVLand and Adam-12. Yes, he was quite sexy in that police uniform!! In fact… there may or may not be really poorly written Adam-12 fan fiction featuring Pete Malloy and a decidedly mary sue, self replacement character. Like I said, high school was hard. I spent the decade diving into his films, we’re not talking about my sheer glee when I discovered he made a movie with Richard Widmark– I wore that sucker out. I even started the first Martin Milner fan group on Facebook when I got to college. I’ve since heard that he knew about it’s existence right up until his passing, and it makes me happy.
Bobby Darin is another early teen crush for me… even pre-dating my Frank Sinatra love if I remember correctly. I do enjoy my crooners. It all started when I watched a documentary about him on PBS (didn’t we all do that as young teenagers?!). All it took was one time through “Beyond the Sea”, and I was hooked.
Michael Crawford… the original “Phantom of the Opera”. That (looks around nervously) awakening came as a young teenager with my parents in Las Vegas. He was playing in EFX at the MGM Grand at the time, and he was huuuuuuuge on the marquee. Then, in a moment of interesting timing, we wandered back to the hotel room in time to see the above concert special playing on PBS. I never heard of him, barely knew about The Phantom of the Opera, but I had to know more. Those hands. That voice. Over the next few years, I bought all his albums, obsessed about the musicals and even saw him in concert (and sobbed like a baby when it was over). Oh, l’amour.