Wednesday, September 2, 2009
“He looks just like Tommy Hepp!” Stephanie said. Tommy Hepp is our second-favorite t.v. star after Kevin DeSpain. He’s on Roadies, the new show about motorcycle cops on Thursday Nights.
From Susan Saunders Sleepover Friends Series - #27 - Where’s Patti?
Notice in t.v. shows characters guzzle Cola , not Coke or Pepsi or even Dr. Pepper but Cola , they also wash their clothes in Sudsy detergent and gobble up Corn Crunchies for breakfast , I had read that it was for a two fold reason - 1 - they didn’t want to endorse products -
imagine what havoc it could’ve caused to see Kirk Cameron on Growing Pains eating only
Capt’n Crunch. Kidding aside , in the 1938 movie It Happened One Night during the infamous bedroom scene - Clarke Gable is getting ready for bed , he peels off his shirt to reveal a bare chest - no undershirt. Of course people watching it now might think oh - ho-hum. But this actually caused an uproar , no - not for the sight of a bare chested Gable! The uproar was caused by several undershirt factories who begged the scene be removed as the sales of undershirts suddenly plummeted! 2. - if you didn’t use a brand name you had the freedom to do whatever you wanted with the product - say a character found a severed finger in his box of Corn Crunchies - Kelloggs would be near fainting if the finger was pulled out of a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes - with it’s technicolor token rooster in prime view. People in a way are brand names. A child mentioning Prince in the 80's would be hard pressed to find any child that would say Prince who? What Prince? Series fiction, kinda like T.V. shows, exercised the same procedure with stars as the t.v. shows did their brand names.
The biggest peddlers of fake stars were the preteen / juvenile series this was perhaps because this age group was so in tune with the idea of branding and labeling. By then a phenomenon surged in brought on the heels of the 70's for star-gazing ( and not with telescope ) , proposed between the glossy layers of squeaky-clean pin-up magazines. Centerfolds of t.v. and movie stars were promised on bright backgrounds , ‘tell-all’ interviews scraggled out nonsense about all the really important things a ditz of twelve wanted to know about her fave star - preferred pizza toppings , the name of their pet dog , favorite color and carefully coaxed opinions. In order to represent a good portion of the preteen population , writers followed suit and characters that would be the readers of said magazines were developed. In all honesty, though it was never mentioned , can anyone not picture Jessica Wakefield lounging in the local variety store thumbing through a copy of Big Bopper? Of course she would not be looking for Johnny Depp or Kirk Cameron only her beloved Johnny Buck.
So lets bring on the fake stars!
Sweet Valley Twins made almost a reoccurring character out of Johnny Buck , in fact if a fan was to try and list all of the Unicorn members or simply mention Jessica’s favorite rock star they wouldn’t hesitate to remember Johnny’s name but may stumble on some of the Unicorn’s who were mostly filler.
Who is Johnny Buck? I was positive in my mind when I read the series back in the 80's that he was created to represent Bruce Springsteen , some of my friends agreed but then it was pointed out that wait , Johnny is described as young , practically a teen himself with blonde hair.
This threw our discussion momentarily off the loop of Bruce and switched us to the possibility of Corey Hart - after all in the late 80's everyone was Corey crazy! There was Corey Hart , Corey Haim , Corey Feldman and I think their was even a football player with the name Corey! In the end it didn’t really matter Johnny Buck represents all of them - from Bruce Springsteen to Corey Hart to even perhaps Michael Jackson - anyone that can instigate an aficionado. Jessica’s quest for fame is the following shadow of the achieved goal , hoping their glittering light will shine down on her and she can step on into the spot light. It was a feeling most 80's babes craved - to become their own idol. To come full circle no longer the worshiper but the worshiped. Arrogance as it’s most tin-foil glory. Jessica’s heart palpitates for Johnny Buck with a following that boarders on cultish - she never goes that far but in book #55 the Unicorns go cukoo for a new singer named Coco - cukoo for Coco ( puffs ) ( couldn’t resist ) , and literally create a fan club. Though other singers and stars came and went - Melody Power , Kent Kellerman , Jessica was most loyal to Johnny Buck. Ironically because he is such an ‘in’ figure to adore watch what happens in book #42 Jessica’s Secret - when she is confronted that he could be ‘out’.
‘“Don’t you love this poster of Johnny Buck?” Jessica said as she examined Robin’s walls. “I have the exact same one at home.”
Robin shrugged. “It’s okay , I guess. I’m not really into Johnny Buck anymore.”
Jessica frowned uncomfortably. “Oh , me either,” she said quickly.
Elizabeth gave her sister a surprised look. If Jessica didn’t like Johnny Buck anymore, it certainly was news to Elizabeth. Up until about two seconds before, he had been Jessica’s very favorite singer.’
How typical! When Jessica is confronted with the possible sudden unpopularity of a star , she’ll ditch him , revealing how fickle , how capricious a tightrope walk the celebrity must endure for his fans! Even a fake star! I remember how many arguments I had with my friends - I had jumped on the Johnny Depp fan wagon back in 1988 but my friends were split , two of my best friends - including my very best friend adored Corey Haim , only me and my other best friend loved Johnny Depp. Their argument against Depp , he’s beautiful but too old! That may sound strange now but mind you , us being twelve meant that Depp was seventeen years older , compared to other actors like Corey Haim and Kirk Cameron who were only five and six years older than us at the time that was a huge stretch but who were we kidding - we didn’t stand a chance with any of them! They were only to be admired , eye candy for our walls and taped inside the inner cover of our Note Totes & Trapper Keepers.
Sweet Valley Twins swung full force into the 90's and with no dated stamp on Johnny Buck that would leave him for dust in the 80's - that was another good reason to use a fake star imagine trying to convince the grunge set how cool M.C. Hammer was , or Vanilla Ice? Even Michael Jackson would be a hard sell - Johnny Buck continued on as timelessly un-aging as his fans. But a sprinkling of what was going on made a hilarious appearance in book - #86 - It Can’t Happen Here ,
In the book Aaron Dallas befriends new kid / bad boy Brian Boyd who is one of those disrespectful kids that always impresses materialistic ninnies like Jessica... for a while. With his cap on backwards and oozing an aura of coolness he shoplifts c.d’s at the local record store and to prove he’s not exactly up to Sweet Valley’s more mainstream standards - those who listen to the pop rock sounds of Johnny Buck - the groups he’s into are - The Flying Lizards - probably an in-joke because they sing - Money ( that’s what I want ) - and you guessed it, Brian’s father is loaded! , but don’t laugh too hard save it for this one - The Jumping Jack-o-lanterns - yup! That’s right , an obvious reflection of the grunge mood and one of it’s top bands - the Smashing Pumpkins. I laughed like crazy when I first read it , making me wonder if boy bands would suddenly creep up for Jessica to pant over. Usually Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins kept out anything that would date the books too much - clothing was vaguely described and always things that could be read years later and still be easily pictured - jeans and t-shirts for the tweens and for the teens - khaki walking shorts , polos , and slacks.
I kind of wished Lila in Sweet Valley High would’ve made some eviscerating crack to Jessica about her love for Johnny Buck.
Other series leapt on the fake-star band wagon - The Party Line and The Fabulous Five mirrored each other in their wavering stance on using both real and fake stars. The Party Line
would mention Paula Abdul and then switch over to have it’s characters discussing their favorite singer Vermilion - in fact book #1 Allie’s Wild Surprise - is about the characters - Allie , Rosie , Julie and Becky’s attempts to score tickets for Vermilion’s concert. That’s where rule and reason number 2 comes in - being able to manipulate the reputation of a fake star , Allie is not only able to score tickets for the concert she’s able to score them from Vermilion herself! The Fabulous Five runs a similar course - while they can talk of Paula Abdul , Charlie Sheen , and River Phoenix they can also rush to buy the latest Brain Damage album , crash the group’s hotel room and manage to convince the lead singer into dedicating a song to them during a concert tour thereby one-upping their enemies the Fantastic Four. It’s a fantasy a writer couldn’t pull off with a real celebrity without becoming liable.
The Babysitters club is a real curio on this subject , I mean decide for yourself - the series is about 4 - stretching to almost 8 preteen girls - ranging in age from 11 to 13 and yet celebrities were rarely discussed. I never noticed this at the time - though I remember wishing they’d go to the mall more to flirt of course. Basically , I had noticed their was something missing just not sure what exactly. As accurate as the girls are portrayed that’s a key point to miss - and movies when they are discussed are often dated - The Parent Trap , Meatballs , Mary Poppins. It’s not until book #10 Logan Likes Mary Anne - that a fake movie star is really gushed over and by Mary Anne of all characters who declares her soon-to-be-steady-boyfriend , looks exactly like her heartthrob Cam Geary. Later on the series goes for a more accurate stab in book # 87 -Stacey and the Bad Girls. Having left the 80's far behind it’s now 1995 and grunge is rearing it’s ugly head , Stacey has begun hanging out with girls who wear sly grins , nose jewelry and black lipstick as if it were the norm. Well the norm for Stacey. Considering Stacey is a cheerleader I’m still not sure what she was ever doing with them these were girls who had the ease to throw food in someone else’s house , raid their friends cupboards , buy things on sale and return them at cost for a free lunch , and sneak liquor into a concert ( but exclude one of their so-called friends). Most of all I thought how could they possibly have the same tastes in music?! U4ME I assumed was a boy band - though Stacey’s mother assumes it’s a grunge band , Stacey assures the reader it’s not , and because Stacey’s boyfriend can’t stand U4ME there’s not a lot of options left for it to be anything but a boy-band. Strange - grunge girls going to a boy band concert with little bottles of liquor hidden under their hats?! Rereading it , it seems a little hard to take.
Considering what I recall of the 80's I pegged both Stacey and Claudia as girls who were so concerned with being hip , they would pour over magazines , watch the latest videos and check out the new shows but after scouring the books I begin to doubt wether these girls ever watched t.v.
On the flip side Sleepover Friends offers a virtual buffet of fake stars but then , it is a series probably most accurate in describing fifth grade girls. Lets be honest, flashback to 1987 ,
as a fifth grader , if you didn’t know that Growing Pains wasn’t just an expression that it was a t.v. show you would’ve probably have been considered a nerd. If your friend said how cool the new boy’s hair looked - just like Billy Idol and you said whose he? You’d probably have some serious explaining to do. If nobody tried to fake you out with Fleetwood Mac’s Big Love song as being a couple actually making love well then you just haven’t experienced culture. You couldn’t escape it , especially as a child nor sometimes did you want to , that being said I give you Sleepover Friends own celluloid csar - Kevin DeSpain.
Over six feet tall , looking fantastic in a bathing suit he is described as having wavy dark hair , piercing green eyes , and an adorable dimple. He is not a teen , not a singer just a t.v. actor - often burned by Kate as - ‘He’s not an actor at all. He’s a....a...t.v personality like Spunky the wonder dog!”’- book #20- Lauren in the Middle. They watch him with slavish loyalty wether it’s in his weekly series Made for Each Other where he plays a detective with bionic powers who travels around in an antique bi-plane solving crimes with his beautiful co-star Marcy Monroe or
if it’s a mini-series co-staring the sexy Tanya Colter or even a box-office bomb at the theaters called Endlessly. Susan Saunders deftly handles the spoofing of said stars gently - for instance she could’ve just said a detective who travels around in an antique bi-plane - I mean bionic powers! And sticking in antique bi-plane brings to mind all the detective shows that had just about exhausted all modes of transportation. A talking car - K.I.T. from Knight Rider , the Screaming Mimi helicopter from Riptide , retro corvettes - Riptide again , Simon & Simon and new corvettes - Miami Vice , red ferraris Magnum P.I. , cigarette boats - Miami Vice , not to mention the lamborgini-ish fantasy car from Hardcastle and McComick. Interestingly, though Kevin is described as very much a man when he finally appears on the cover of book #21 - he looks quite a bit like River Phoenix. To show you how much Kevin is a part of the series I decided to find out just how many books he is discussed in - out of 39 books he is mentioned in 19 - that’s half! That’s not bad considering he’s not mentioned until book four. The girls follow Kevin DeSpain’s on again off again romance with Tanya Colter his co-star in several movies. They make his date-night chili , they have all his key ‘info’ , they stalk him when he blows into town to film and wonder of wonders they actually get to meet him. I have to give credit where credit is due - Susan Saunders came up with the most interesting star-meeting I’ve ever read! Rather than bump into him in the usual way - hotel rooms , restaurants , backstage - they, having taken in a stray dog and given him a temporary collar , lose the dog only to have it found by - you guessed it Kevin DeSpain who now wants the dog , Lauren whose p.o.v. the stories are mainly taken from thinks she’d give him anything - including her brother if he wanted him.
As for the other fake stars there is the Boodles - Great name! ( Boodle means booty - you know the loot taken in a robbery ) and their hit - I’ve gone dotty over you. They play a key role in book #2 - Starring Stephanie.
( Flipping through a Rolling Stone magazine ( or should I say Star Turns?, I found this ad for Boodle liquor! What I love about this ad is they assume nobody else knows what Boodle means either. They make it sound like some sort of dance - let's Boodle!) Joel Carter and Carter Grant in Surftown ( which may or may not be a subtle Miami Vice spoof ) , The Fabulous Flynn brothers - a.k.a Marx Brothers , The Gruesomes - rather than the Addams Family. Tangles an all girl rock band with hair practically to their knees ( Bangles ) , The Bounder Sisters ( ahem Pointer Sisters? ) who sing Get Down , Heat with it’s sexy lead singer Chaz who has spiky hair and a snake earring , Suzy Q from the Hot Tamales , Jangles ( I’m not sure if this is a mistake from Tangles - to Jangles or really a different band but it’s actually mentioned twice ) , the Grady Gang - Brady Bunch , The C-47's with their hit Funky Shack , the B-29's and in book #14 - Lauren Takes Charge - a fifteen year old singer is mentioned who started her career in malls , with only a cheap cassette player to back her up , ( sound familiar? ) her trademark is poufy red bands and a pillbox hat - so cutesy they scoff! Her name is Lavonne and she inspires this accurate stab out of Stephanie ‘for someone who can’t sing , she has a pretty good career going,”but my all time favorite star spoof is in book #27 Where’s Patti when the girls notice the older brother of a pair of rowdy twins looks exactly like Tommy Hepp. I laughed like crazy when I first read it - in fact I almost rolled out of bed. I recognized immediately whom she really meant. Johnny Depp and that’s all the writers usually want is for us to relate to the characters - their adoration of Johnny Buck , Brain Damage , Kevin DeSpain - Tommy Hepp mirror our love , they are the thinly veiled stars decorating our walls - Corey Hart , the Smiths , River Phoenix , Johnny Depp.
Hope you love the pictures - the 21 Jumpstreet shot is a full length poster that was incredibly hard to get , they were all sold out at the local Woolco and I managed to convince them to sell me their display model. I had dormer style ceilings and taped him right over my bed and a few times the tape unstuck just at the top and I would wake up with beautiful Depp , hanging down in front of me! The Bruce Springsteen shot is from a Rolling Stones ad - I cropped out some lettering at the bottom - to me this is the infamous Johnny Buck. Though there is something to be said about Corey Hart. Okay I still can't make up my mind.