Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Cost Of Being Famous

(EDITOR'S NOTE: As we go full-steam ahead with rehearsals for Hey! Dancin'!, co-playwright Kirk Pynchon shares a particularly fond memory of the year 1986. Enjoy.)

During my junior year in high school I became famous…sort of. I auditioned and became a cast member of “Jet Set”, a local cable access show in Cleveland. Jet Set was a teen show, “produced for teens, by teens”, as the log line went. It was essentially an hour-long talk show where local teen athletes, musicians and honor roll students got interviewed ad nauseam, interspersed with bootlegged MTV videos of the hippest rock bands at the time (Mr. Mister, The Outfield, The Hooters). I was the co-host and VJ of Jet Set – and I thought I was the motherfucking bomb.

Now, in full disclosure, I was never recognized from Jet Set. With the exception of my mom, no one I know watched the show. Occasionally one of my friends would watch it after I bugged them incessantly. They would respond with, “Dude, I saw your show. You looked like a total homo.” But that didn’t matter. In my heart and in my head I was a star and a tall, cold glass of awesome.

There was one time when I actually experienced a moment of idol worship. One of the girls on the show, Tanya, had a friend named Robin who “thought I was the best part of the show and looked just like Don Johnson.” She desperately wanted to meet me. Tanya assured me that Robin was really cute and would I be interested in going out on a double date with her?

Hell yes!

I was absolutely ready and willing and able to meet some of my public. And if my public just so happened to be one cute girl that was enamored with me then even better. I hate to use the term “fan” (as Prince says, “Fan is short for fanatic so I like to call my fans ‘friends’”) but I was about to hook up with my very first, full-blown groupie.

The double date took place that Saturday night at a miniature golf course on the west side of Cleveland. Tanya was there with her boyfriend Jeff and when she introduced me to Robin I knew that it was going to be not a good night but a great night. Robin was absolutely cute. She was a vision of pink – pink shirt, pink skirt, pink socks and pink scrunchy. She had such incredibly feathered hair that Heather Locklear would have wept from jealously. And she wore this incredibly sweet smelling perfume that I only later realized was called “Poison” (I only realized it later because the girl whom I lost my virginity to wore it and today I can’t smell Poison without feeling really, really old).

Robin came up to me, a bundle of nerves, and said, “Oh my gosh! I am so excited to meet you!”

As cool as the other side of the pillow I said, “Well, I’m excited to meet you too, Robin. I’m glad you’re a Jet Set enthusiast. Now, shall we golf?”

Robin melted into a pool of Kirk Pynchon adoration right before my very eyes.

So our time on the miniature golf course was magic. Robin was completely engrossed in all things me. She hung on every word I said. Every subject I brought up fascinated her; the importance of “Miami Vice” in my life, my basketball career and why I deserved more playing time, how much I liked chicken parm sandwiches. Everything riveted her.

We continued our putt putt game, not caring what the score was (which was good because, honestly, I sucked at putt putt). As we moved to the last hole on the course, a gust of wind suddenly blew a leaf into Robin’s well-coifed hair. Seeing a chance to be a gentleman and give her a thrill at the same time, I smiled and said, “You have a leaf in your hair. Let me get it out.”

I put my golf club down and casually walked up to Robin, who looked at me with her expectant, hazel eyes. I reached to pluck the offending leaf away…

…and scraped the entire side of her face with the pencil that I had forgotten was still in my hand.

Robin looked at me with horror and pain as if to say, “Why, Kirk, why?”

Robin now had a huge red wound that went the length of her entire cheek. It remained there for the rest of the night. Luckily, her obsession with all things Kirk was still as strong as ever (but not nearly as strong as mine) and she forgave me. By the time Jeff and Tanya drove us to the nearby Pizza Hut for dinner, Robin had reapplied another layer of blush and it was like the incident never happened.

At the Pizza Hut, while we ordered our Meat Lover’s Pan Pizza, Robin mentioned that she wanted to get a salad from the salad bar. Being the classy guy I was, I offered to go up to the salad bar for her. Robin just beamed.

“Any special requests?” I asked.

“Well, definitely no onions,” Robin said, which I took to mean I can’t wait to make out with you later, “and lots of ranch dressing.”

My heart sank a little bit. I hated ranch dressing. I still do. It is the worst fucking salad dressing on the planet. I’d rather drink my own urine then eat a salad with ranch on it. But I wasn’t about to let ranch dressing come between me and a little tongue action with Robin so I forced out a smile.

“Coming right up,” I said.

I went up to the salad bar and began creating the prettiest goddamn salad you have ever seen. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppercinis, croutons – all perfectly proportioned and all perfectly organized on the plate. Robin would lose her mind when she saw how awesome I had made her salad.

As I made my way over to the tubs o’ dressing, I started to get a little nervous. Could I really kiss Robin after her mouth had been swimming in a ranch dressing pool? I wasn’t sure, so to be safe, I put the ranch dressing in a small bowl on the side. That way I could control the amount of ranch she would be using. Genius, I know.

I sauntered back to our table where I thought it would be really charming if I pretended to be a French waiter and impress Robin with what little of the French language I had learned in school.

“Votre salade, Madame,” I said in the worst accent possible.

And I was right. I was charming and Robin was impressed. That is, until the small bowl of ranch dressing fell off of the salad plate and landed right in her lap. Robin was now completely mortified and rushed to the bathroom with Tanya to clean off the gobs of ranch dressing that now clung to her skirt.

I sat down, full of shame and embarrassment. Jeff, who I didn’t really know and had only met that night, said through a mouthful of pizza, “That shit was hysterical.”

The rest of our dinner was an exercise in me trying to win Robin back. Though she wasn’t cold towards me things were definitely a little chilly and I worked overtime in my attempts to charm the socks off of her. I told jokes and I made compliments. I talked about the inner workings of Jet Set and what it was like working on a hit teen talk show. I even paid for dinner for all four of us just so she’d think I was still a big shot (which Jeff was only to happy for me to do). I did whatever I had to in order to maintain my one true fan and keep my hope for groupie sex alive.

So as it was getting late, Jeff drove us back home. Being in the back seat with Robin, I knew that this was where I needed to make a big move. The move that would effortlessly segue into some back seat heavy petting. Luckily, I had that big move – my killer move. It had never failed me in the past and it certainly wasn’t going to fail me now.

“Hey,” I said to Robin in my best Mickey Rourke whisper, “I’m really glad you’re here.”

“Yeah?” Robin asked with love in her eyes.

I let a silence come between us before I said, “Yeah.”

Robin smiled at me. I smiled at Robin. Robin inched closer to me. I inched closer to Robin. Robin put her hand on my thigh. I elbowed Robin right in the nose.

Okay, in my defense, it wasn’t my fault! Jeff had a beat-to-shit Honda Civic Hatchback that had absolutely zero room in the back seat. Plus he was a slob and had a bunch of crap thrown around so I really had no space to work. So when I went to put my arm around her I accidentally smashed her in the nose with my elbow. I swear, if I had been in a Lincoln Continental then this would be a completely different story.

But none of this mattered to Robin. She had had enough of me. I scraped cheek, a stained skirt and a bloody nose was enough punishment for one night. TV star or no TV star, Robin was going to have nothing to do with me. She stewed for the rest of the ride home, pinching her nose and wiping the tears from her eyes.

As I got home that night I remember thinking to myself, “What’s the big deal? I bet there are other chicks out there who have seen Jet Set and who want me even more than Robin. I’m a TV star! They’ll be coming after me in now time.”

Three months later the show was canceled.

Post script: I recently dug out the video of my Jet Set appearances (which as a teenager I had labeled “Jet Set – The Best of Me”). I popped it into the VCR and watched my younger self for the first time in over twenty years. The cool, hip guy that I had imagined I always was had been replaced with an awkward, nervous and uncomfortable sixteen-year old with bad acne, even worse hair and a voice that sounded like a eunuch. Very sad.


Anonymous said...

Thankfully your skin cleared up.

Colin said...

I can see so much of the Genesis (meaning the beginnings and the pop group) of Hey! Dancin'! with this post. I'm sorry I didn't see you on your choreography trip, but I hope we can run into each other in Chicago when the show opens.