August 18, 2017


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Swooning scribes

Authors remember their first celebrity crushes

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/4/2016 (496 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Readers will be either delighted or nauseated to find themselves among the pages of Crush: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush. By turns hilarious, wistful and cringe-worthy, this delicious collection of essays in which 38 writers wax philosophical about their first celebrity crush is a time capsule that, once opened, transports the reader back to childhood in all its nerdy glory. Reading it is like reading your best friend’s sixth-grade diary (if it was edited by Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton).



Vince Bucci / The Associated press files</p><p>Author (and actor) James Franco</p>

Vince Bucci / The Associated press files

Author (and actor) James Franco

United Artists / The Associated Press files</p><p>Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak appear in a scene from the 1955 film <em>The Man With the Golden Arm</em>.</p>

United Artists / The Associated Press files

Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak appear in a scene from the 1955 film The Man With the Golden Arm.

Warner Bros. / The Associated Press files</p><p>Actor Paul Newman</p>

Warner Bros. / The Associated Press files

Actor Paul Newman

Though we may be loath to admit it, we’ve all experienced the "kind of private Beatlemania" that is a celebrity crush. And while not everyone slept with a picture of Duran Duran bassist John Taylor under their pillow, as Crush reveals, there are worse things — like, say, writing really bad poetry about River Phoenix (looking at you, James Franco).

Apart from Franco, the more recognizable authors include novelists Stephen King and Jodi Picoult, as well as 1980s bratpack member, actor Andrew McCarthy — now an award-winning travel writer.

And while the book can feel slightly unbalanced at times — a few of the essays are overly long or disappointingly superficial, such as Stephen King’s too-short blurb on Kim Novak — for the most part it’s pure magic.

Alter and Singleton, who both reside in Washington, D.C., are also contributors. Alter has written for national magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, and penned two other books.

Singleton, himself the author of two books, currently teaches creative non-fiction at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md.

Crush casts a wide net, featuring writers "of various ages, ethnicities, orientations, and experiences," and acknowledges no two celebrity crushes are the same.

The garden variety — where the crusher sees their crush as a romantic interest — is explored to great lengths. Some, however, revered their crushees as idols or role models, while for others their crush was an escape, or antidote, to the banality of suburbia.

What all celebrity crushes have in common, according to Alter and Singleton, is they function as a dress rehearsal for the real thing. Perhaps Jodi Picoult says it best: "Both painfully real and wholly implausible," celebrity crushes "offered us safe places... where we could try on and try out feelings."

It’s not rocket science, but it sure is fun.

The usual suspects from the 1970s and ’80s are all there — Paul Newman, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson — as well as a few surprises. Mark Hamill? Tarzan? There’s even Rydia, a green sprite from the video game Final Fantasy II. (It takes all kinds, folks.)

Some writers never could make sense of it in the first place. Dave Housley describes his crush on teen actress Kristy McNichol — of the TV drama Family and feature film Little Darlings, among others — as a "weakness, defect, character flaw, or ‘super-weird feeling I get when I look at that Dynamite magazine cover.’"

Other contributors have no patience for their tweenage antics — or as Caroline Kepnes eloquently puts it: "WTF was I thinking?" Her essay Brian Austin Green: Pen Pal, in which she details her "terminally aggressive crusade to win Brian’s love," is easily one of the collection’s best.

Crush also reveals some vital statistics.

One: an alarming number of people were really into Donny Osmond. And two: Although celebrity crushes may strike some as more of a "girl thing," at least half of the essays are written by men.

In I Think I Love Him, Singleton gushes over David Cassidy of The Partridge Family fame, with his "beautiful chestnut-brown waves cascading over his forehead like a follicle waterfall and sweeping behind his head like sea grass in the ocean breeze of eternal summer."

Now that’s poetry — James Franco, take note.

Lindsay McKnight works in the arts in Winnipeg, and has finally stopped sleeping with a photo of John Taylor under her pillow.


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