Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cheerleaders #12 Staying Together - Shady photographers , Fallen Angel 1981 & the Equalizer

The 80's was filled with t.v. shows that featured dramas filled with rip-snorting action , though seldom was anyone in any real danger - the A -team could convert their van into a tank , the trio on Riptide would skim across the water in hot pursuit of their villain , the Fall Guy
would find his stunt player skills coming in handy as he’d leap from moving vehicles , while Magnum P.I would duke it out almost comically over some damsel in distress and bikini. This
style converted nicely to teen fiction giving them nail biting action plots that eeked out towards the end of the 80's as P.I. shows began fazing out. Cheerleaders had their fair share of exciting
action packed episodes that had them lured by shady photographers , out running an avalanche and kidnaped at gunpoint!
Cheerleaders - # 12 Staying Together - 1985 - Diane Hoh
Honey blonde hair Angie Poletti ( not to be mistaken with corn silk haired Mary Ellen ) wallows in loneliness that her computer geek boyfriend Arne isn’t paying enough attention to her perhaps she could console herself with some Rocky Road ice cream , and for a moment wishes she were a computer or a typewriter anything with wires that would interest her boyfriend. ( Careful now remember the over-computing boyfriend in Wes Craven’s Special Friend - he put the mind of his robot into the body of his dead girl friend! ) Wondering wether she can actually keep a boyfriend leaves her with a touch of resentment towards the ultra-gorgeous Mary Ellen. ( Ever wonder if Mary Ellen was named after Mary Ellen from the Walton’s - I always thought so , it’s such an unusual name , old fashioned yet with a strong persona. Just a thought )

Mary Ellen works at Marnie’s ( okay now that has to be a homage to Hitchcock’s Marnie! ) a posh boutique where she models clothes and gets to wear interesting do-dads - a raspberry knit top and skirt ( but no raspberry beret - sorry the Prince reference slipped out! ). She is actually something like a live mannequin! ( Was this actually a practice? I know from old movies that store models would put on a fashion show for the clients - one of my favorite scenes is in How to Marry a Millionair in which Marilyn Monroe , Betty Grable & Lauren Bacall play such models. Incidently Marilyn wears these terrific stacked see-thru plastic heels held on with red ribbons! ) Mary Ellen then notices a strange young man watching her who introduces himself as Reece Oliver a photographer who wants to do a portfolio for her , but Mary Ellen is no dummy she takes in his colorless eyes , impatience and the fact that he wants to do the photo shoot in his motel room and turns him down flat. Annoyed Reece , brushes her off as if he didn’t need her anyway because he works for American Sports magazine.
Reece makes the rounds spooking Nancy Goldstein who takes his card ‘as if it were a pamphlet from a religious cult’ and quickly brushes him off though wonders when the man drops Mary Ellen’s name is Mary Ellen silly enough to pose for this ahem traveling photographer.
Meanwhile Mary Ellen having seen Reece’s name in her father’s copy of American Sports calls herself Dope! Dope! Dope! And tries to leave a message for Reece changing her mind. Still thinking about it she decides she’ll take her younger sister Gemma to his motel room for the photo shoot knowing with her there , she’ll be perfectly safe. Meanwhile lecherous Reece has come to the football game and has decided healthy looking Angie Poletti is perfect!

But Perfect for what?! The reader by now has all kinds of horrors running through her mind.
Back to Mary Ellen - seeing Reece as her one way ticket out of Tarenton she decides it’s stupid to get to overly involved with hunky garbage collector - Patrick and begins pulling away form him. As for Angie she is more excited about being chosen by Reece to photograph over gorgeous Mary Ellen who when she finds out is horrified - in fact her face drains of color we are told till her complexion is the color of smoke. Her little sister Gemma tries to pick up her spirits by suggesting too bad their wasn’t a store department for pushing people off cliffs dissolving Mary Ellen and herself into a fit of giggles. Marnie’s second outfit mentions teal suede boots. Did anyone own suede boots at sixteen in the 80's? The closest I came was cowboy boots with red stitching in the early nineties. And Villainous Vanessa ( whom Mary Ellen mistakenly thinks was chosen over her by Reece ) is wearing black leather trousers. Fashion police alert! While Olivia and Walt plot to include lonely Angie along on their date she is wearing an orange sweater that clashes violently with his cranberry turtleneck! Cranberry turtleneck - yikes , is that part of Walt’s sense of humor? Angie is unavailable ( no it wasn’t the turtleneck that scared her away ) she had a date with Reece who rather than take pictures of her has a strange request of having her show him around town. Though voices of unease nudge Angie she is so blown away by the fact that he picked her over Mary Ellen she ignores her doubts. It doesn’t help either that when her parents are introduced to him , they too ,don’t seem to think anything is wrong with their daughter spending time with a man who claims he’s a photographer and that the shoot will take place in his motel room - huh? Say what!?

When he starts asking for an advance on his fee you’re wondering where is this story going , my first thought was pervert! The old I’m going to put you in the movies routine or some underground dirty magazine called Naughty Nymphets or something. But by page 75 I was thinking scammer he’ll drain her for every penny. But is doesn’t quite go that way. While Mary Ellen’s ego has taken a nose dive , thoughts filled with maybe I doesn’t have what it takes , Reece keeps showing up on Angie’s arm like a date.

There is an interesting moment in the story where Mary Ellen throws herself at Patrick almost deciding to make love to him on the spot to erase the humiliation of not being picked - but realizing that , she backs off ( not wanting to cheapen the act ) and changes track to abandoning her goal of branching off to New York , she’ll stay within the confines of pokey old Tarenton
As Angie wishes Reece would just get on with taking her picture , the doubts her friends have about him as a fraud are finally given some evidence during a basketball game when the coach recognizes Reece as an ex student called Billy Slocum , a loner who never fit in but loved basketball even though he didn’t make the team. Angie on frosty terms with the other girls on the team hasn’t discovered Reece’s true identity and has gone off to his motel to take pictures. The girls Mary Ellen & Olivia hoping to confront Angie discover she’s gone off to the motel and decide to go over there in an interesting move ( Sweet Valley High never takes this route unless they want to fling a damsel in distress ) the girls decide to do this consciously- without men. Though Olivia briefly wishes she could tell Walt ( she always feels safer when he’s around ) Mary Ellen steamed with woman’s lib scolds her - you don’t think we women can handle this? Olivia reprimanded also agrees with one good reason not to call in the male-calvary - they would just think the girls were jealous with over active imaginations.

The girls storm in , but the scene is not the seedy underworld an anxious reader might have envisioned first off , Reece Oliver a.k.a Billy Slocum is just a self-pitying crumbbum who graduated two years ago from their high school with a thorn in his side for cheerleaders recalling the ones that rejected him. Meanwhile Angie is mortified to discover she’s been tricked - worse still is Billy seems to be enjoying the fact that he’s tricked her. As Angie’s eyes fill with tears she whispers - ‘ "Oh, no. No , I’m not that stupid. I’m not.’ Billy flatly says ‘Guess again."’
After Billy rants about how cheerleaders all think they’re high and mighty and run the school , the girls with a small amount of sympathy but not much tell him to get some help and if he ever tries to do it again they’ll inform everyone that he’s a sleaze and a cheat. The kids quickly form a party to cheer up Angie whose harsh tone oozes with sarcasm - ‘ "What’s this a therapy session? Good friends gathered around the bereaved to mourn the loss of her pride."’ - wow not bad. But in the end Angie comes around and her friends hope she won’t loose that honest , trusting spirit that makes her so special. The girls then promise to branch out more, admitting they felt rather sorry for all the Billy Slocum’s out their - but we’ll see. Do they don’t they?

Angie’s fate could’ve been a lot worse - Shady photographers popped up in the 80's mainly as plot devices for t.v. movies of the week and action series. All of them were up to no-good and the girls didn’t escape their fates as easily as Angie who’s pride was the only part of her wounded. One of my all-time favorites was Fallen Angel a t.v. movie put out in 1981 about a young girl ,12 just turned 13 yr old Jennifer Phillips who is frustrated by her young mother’s new relationship. Her mother is played by Melinda Dillion ( you might recall her from A Christmas Story ) she does a terrific job of playing that vivacious single mother ( I recall some mothers who were like this back in the 80's ) friendly , childlike but fiery - calling their daughters Missy as in listen Missy! when they got mad. She is a waitress who wears a bouncy ponytail and friendly smile at the diner where she works , flirting with the male customers- for tips mainly ( she whispers to her daughter ) but also because she likes men and encourages Jennifer to take an interest, after all she is growing up. All fine advice, if not for the fact that Jennifer is bored during her summer and meets up with Howie in the local arcade. Howie is a baby faced pedophile ( played by the marvelous Richard Mazur - who was in License to Drive ) who frequents the kids hang outs looking for fresh prey. He instantly latches onto Jennifer and starts a powerful psychological attack on Jennifer hoping to keep a wedge between her and her mother. Treating her like an adult he invites her to join his softball team , even gets her a dog from an animal shelter and begins taking harmless Polaroid pictures of her. Howie is even introduced to Jennifer’s mother who takes him as a friendly , harmless man who has given her daughter a new interest in sports.

Due to the beginning of the movie we know exactly what Howie is up to , his real job is filming dirty movies starring all the children he’s seduced into his trust. And when they are burned up ( too drugged out , and emotional ) they are tossed away. Even Howie is unsure of allowing his ‘Angel’ as he calls her to possibly succumb to this fate and wants to keep her for himself , his boss laughs at him and urges him to start her and soon. Jennifer is reluctant at first until her mother drops the bombshell that she is marrying her new boyfriend ( who’s not a bad sort , but Jennifer just isn’t ready for the change. ). After seeing some of the children at the house where they film the movies ( the little boy looks slightly like a Chad Allen - real cute) , Jennifer is eager to become a star ( not for what they have in mind! ) but becomes uneasy by one of the children a curvy twelve year old pro painting her toenails who purrs flash ‘em some skin and you can have anything you want. Jennifer is soon urged to kiss the Chad Allen lookalike while Howie takes photos , Jennifer doesn’t really mind and the boy is strangely kind and friendly ( one wonders what goes through this little boy’s mind when he asks in a hopeful eager rush if Jennifer is coming to live with them?! ) Pretty soon the two kids don’t need urges to kiss anymore and finally Howie takes it a step further. Faced with Howie telling them both to take off their suits at a secluded pond the boy doesn’t hesitate , Jennifer embarrassed says no. But Howie puts on the pressure claiming to be her only friend , and that if he’s not friends with her , her dog Fred would have to go back to the pound and you know what they do there - Jennifer cries stop and struggles for a moment before giving in trembling with embarrassment.

Later on we see Jennifer playing rather aggressively with Fred after her mother has come home to confront her , her boyfriend has shown her a dirty magazine left behind at a truck stop that he noticed some of his crew members passing around and laughing about and points out an advertisement for a movie called Lollipop Lovers and says Tell me that’s not Jennifer.
Confronted with the ad , Jennifer scoffs it telling her mother she’s crazy in a jovial way, lying with ease. But faced with the fact that her mother is now suspicious Jennifer writes a goodbye note admitting she won’t be able to face her and runs off to Howie.

In this one scene we discover the kind of damage that has been done to Jennifer she has gone from a carefree shy young girl to a manipulative survivor. When Howie urges her to go home , she demands he put her up at his place and then turns on the charm knowing Howie has a soft spot for her. Running her fingers seductively up and down his chest she says I’m getting better and older - a lot of dubious promise in that statement. Up until now, we, as viewers assume that any action Jennifer has had was with the boy , who is her own age, not with Howie , not with a grown man. It’s enough to make your stomach do a flip to see that she is a breath away from becoming the tart , the pro whose only motivation seemed to be getting things. Howie takes her back to his place where three other ‘stars’ live , three boys one of them Jennifer’s kind co-star. He orders them pizza and as soon as he is alone with Jennifer begins to put the moves on her.
Meanwhile Jennifer’s mom has been searching everywhere and do to the fact that a run-in with Howie has made her suspicious - he admits hesitantly to taking the harmless Polaroids of Jennifer that she manages to wrangle his address out of an overworked police officer.
As Howie is all set to kiss Jennifer the doorbell rings , he gets up to answer it , hears a mumbled reply to who’s there and opens the door to let Jen’s mom come flying in. Enraged and pissed off - it seems she was peeking through the window , she hits him with her purse as Howie cowers , even Jennifer tells her to stop it. The three boys come out to see what all the commotion is about and the mother grabs all of them and leads them out telling Howie that he is sick! Sick! But Howie protests that he loves them , loves them all , they’re all he has and stumbles over to the door to watch them leave.

The end comes to a decision that has to be made wether or not Jennifer will testify against Howie. Her mother says absolutely not and wants to put it behind her , the boys have disappeared and if something isn’t done he’ll walk. Howie even manages bail by his disgusted lawyer who is irritated by Howie’s inability to see that what he does is wrong and tells him the first girl at the beginning of the movie - Michelle is now in a nut house. Howie literally shakes with this knowledge on the brink of cracking himself. Jennifer finally resolves the issue of accepting her soon to be step dad by asking him what he thinks she should do testify or not? Weighed with the responsibility of now being asked for his opinion knowing he’s taking the opposite stance as her mother , he tenderly tells her yes she should testify.

Jennifer out and about thinking with Fred sitting in the basket on the front of her bike she runs into Howie who grabs Fred and tries to manipulate/intimidate her into not testifying , he makes no real threats but implies that people with think she’s a whore and it will be embarrassing. Jennifer realizes that Howie won’t hurt her and gently takes back Fred. She tells him that she believes he truly loves them ( her and the others ) but he needs to discover it’s not right and she says maybe I was whore - she trails off barely getting it out - but I’m not anymore. With that she rides away stunning Howie. The last scene is her passing Howie in the courtroom to testify.
Terrificly well-done, well acted movie displays many emotions - Jennifer doesn’t just hate Howie that’s the kicker, part of her still thinks of Howie as a friend , she passes him on the way to take the stand in court with an almost apologetic smile. Their only fault lies in showing Howie in a too sympathetic light , and he’s left as scapegoat for the other monsters who financially back perverts like Howie to get away.

Jennifer is played by Dana Hill ( Audrey in National European Vacation ) she is adorable with apple cheeks and a charming overbite. She looks like a common twelve year old -the way I remember being at twelve year old - flat chested , thinnish , puppy fat , small. I look at kids nowadays and I’m a loss guessing ages! It must be those steroids they shoot into our beef - twelve year olds now are tall , husky and developed!

Another shady photog pops up in an episode of the Equalizer - remember that show I just loved it! It was so 80's icy-noir I think they filmed most of the episodes during the months of November in New York just to give it that frosty look - also so McCall could legitimately wear his trade mark trench coat. If you don’t know or remember it , the show was about an ex- C.I.A?
Agent Robert McCall whose retired and runs an ad in the paper Odds against you? Need help call the Equalizer. Basically he was a bit of a vigilante mixed with strong arm. The first season’s out and it’s worth buying or at least renting. This episode isn’t out yet - The episode starts with a twelve year old girl running away from home taking the bus to N.Y. to escape her violent father who spends most of his time yelling / arguing with his wife. After sleeping in an alley she meets Judy a streetwise 14 yr old prostitute ( from the looks of it ) in a coffee shop. Judy is dressed in tight jeans a bomber jacket , has teased hair with a short side ponytail section held up with a small plastic bow shaped barrette , she carries a hard little clam shell round purse and smokes cigarettes , she urges the girl to do like the best line in a movie she ever hear go home ( E.T. ) but the young girl is stubborn and naive and Judy takes her to a ‘photographer’s place though she grinds her teeth for the young man to give the girl a ‘straight’ job.
Meanwhile her mother calls up the Equalizer. Unfortunately as he drops by to talk to them , the girl after a night on the town decides maybe she just better go home and starts to head for their hotel room hears them violently arguing and runs back out of the building. ( I think they’d left their whereabouts on their answering machine. ) McCall recognizes her and wants to know why their daughter changed her mind about coming home causing the parents to take a good look at themselves.

The young girl stays with the photographer , he feed her and though she is uneasy is eager to work. At first the pictures come across like ad’s for a Sears catalog , The girl poses grinning in jeans holding a big teddy bear. He takes the pictures and shows them to his boss who runs an underground magazine behind the facade of an actual magazine. He comes across like the actual pervert going hmmm over the pictures and demands the photographer to speed up her progress. After posing in a tank style bathing suit the young man starts the next step holding out a flimsy blue nightie set for her to put on. The young girl gulps, you can see right through it. He keeps urging, she takes it and goes off to change only the room she picked holds some copies of her fate - the dire magazines. The young girl comes out fully dressed wearing her coat -( I loved that coat - it was featured in Sears I had one just like it , it was red kindof a felt material heavy wool I think with frog closures mine looked like something Little Red Riding hood would wear.)
The man is furious and starts to strong arm her , till McCall comes in, gun drawn, to save the day. Forcing the guy to tell him who and where his boss is , McCall crashes the bosses glamorous party , publicizing his new magazine. McCall however has a stack of dirty photos which he flings at the party guests informing them of the man’s after hours publishing.

The girl is reunited with her family and though wants them all to go home together , the father has enough sense to admit he has to get help first. Just enough wise-up stories to make any girl cautious in the 80's who wanted to be the next Brooke Shields.

Hope you like the photos - some are from Fallen Angel , some are from the Equalizer episode.

The real Bruce Patman

The real Bruce Patman
For more 'real' Sweet valley comparisons click here it'll take you to Cliquey Pizza 2

The Real Lila

The Real Lila
Same soft , dreamy look!