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why is jennifer connelly standing on my heart?
brushes with fame, in my head
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)
pop culture

A week ago, I heard a story from a young woman of my acquaintance about how she had used up the very first roll of film in her very first camera taking pictures of a TV cartoon character on whom she had a crush. She begged her mom to get the film developed and Lion-O from "Thundercats" was a prominent theme in pretty nearly all of the photos. It got me thinking about celebrity crushes (yes, cartoon characters included.) We've all had 'em.

My first serious celebrity crush was blonde. She was short, spunky, and a lone female surrounded by a sea of males. She was also blue and had a tail. That's right. Smurfette was the love of my life when I was 8. I think it's because her action figure (or, rather, inaction figure) wore a short skirt and you could see her undies. Or it might have been the tail.

My parents, by the way, were fully aware of this. I really don't know why they didn't have me talk to a professional about my attraction to a diminutive blue cartoon character. I know if my kid had a thing for Spongebob Squarepants, there'd be at least one child psychologist penciled into the day planner.

(My father suggested while reading the first draft of this column that they just wanted me to find a nice blueish girl. There's reason number two that I should have been seeing a shrink.)

We all have our crushes on celebrities (even the ones drawn on acetate.) Whether it's because someone is attractive or sings well or he's rich or she's drawn with large breasts, everyone has fantasized about what life would be like with that special someone on his or her arm. We've all had the thought, "If only we could meet, I'm sure that's all it would take."

For those not familiar with the term "celebrity crush," it differs in some very significant ways from the regular crush. First, and most importantly, it is based entirely in fantasy. There is no obsessing in a celebrity crush. One does not carry a torch for the celeb in question. I, for example, do not download pictures of Naomi Watts or Scarlett Johansson to use as wallpaper for my computer desktop. I'm not desperately clinging to the notion that I am destined to marry a beautiful, famous woman. I mention this, in large part, because my mom was concerned that you would all get the the idea that I don't currently have a girlfriend due to some sort of obsession with the unattainable ones.

Don't worry Mom, I'm single because of a totally different set of psychological maladies. I promise.

My next crush, to the best of my recollection, was at least human. Ah, Nancy McKeon, I hardly knew ye. I'm not really clear as to the reasoning behind this one -- there's a distinct chance she's a lesbian -- but there was just something about Jo Polniaczek. Might have been the motorcycle. Might have been the really high hair. Might have been the distinct lack of a tail.

I'd venture a guess that man has always had a flirtation with celebrity. I imagine that the first tribe of cavemen sat around looking at the paintings on the walls, and a few of them were thinking, "Who's that next to the horse? Is that Ook's daughter? And she's on the wall for everyone to see. I totally have to meet her."

The impulse to have a crush on the famous is both exceedingly simple and aggravatingly complex. On the surface, we like their personality, their looks, their bank accounts, their ability to entertain, and the attention that accompanies that. They have what tends to be referred to as "it."

At the same time, there is also the underlying subconscious idea of dating/marrying fame. There's fame by association -- who's dating him, who's in that photo with her, who was caught canoodling with them. There's living vicariously through celebrity -- I might never be famous on my own, but I could be known as "what's-her-name's husband." There's the idea that the lives of the rich and famous are, by definition, more interesting than ours. There's the drive to be known for something, even if it's a fleeting moment that leaves you a footnote in someone else's biography.

Following "The Facts of Life," I went through a string of crushes, but by then, I was entering adolescence and my focus started at least being on actresses closer to my own age, quite possibly because they, too, were entering or in adolescence. Alyssa Milano, Nicole Eggert ("Charles in Charge"), the middle daughters from "Just the Ten of Us," and any girl Mike Seaver ever dated on "Growing Pains."

I imagine that another part of the appeal of celebrity crushes is that we associate said celeb with the character(s) he or she portrays. This, obviously, can be very dangerous, as there are any number of celebrities with either bad personalities or the IQ of dirt. And not even smart dirt.

An example: Mischa Barton from "The O.C." She's a pretty girl (I think so, anyway), and her character, Marissa, has a pretty good head on her shoulders. However, I won't go so far as to say that Mischa was the worst interview I've ever seen on David Letterman, but I can't think of a worse one. When she wasn't giggling inanely, she was giving no answers to softball questions. She very gigglingly answered, "I don't know." to the question, "Do you have a boyfriend?" What person doesn't know the answer to that question if it's asked of them? If there were extenuating circumstances, even, she could have explained them. But no. "*giggle*I don't know.*giggle*" I've never seen Letterman have to try so hard to make an interview interesting. It was painful. Yeesh.

Point is, I don't want to date her now, regardless of how I feel about Marissa Cooper. On the plus side, since she doesn't seem to know if she has a boyfriend, it could be you. *giggle*

Along the same lines, sometimes we can be told something about a celeb and it will ruin any chances we had in our minds about the possibility for romance. When I found out that Shannon Elizabeth was a huge supporter of PETA, well, the bloom pretty much came off the rose. Hard-core animal rights people scare me.

Now that I'm getting up in age (read: my 30s), I find that half of the celebs who catch my eye are actually women younger than me. I think that's okay. Jessica Alba has been drinking legally for the last few years. So has Natalie Portman. I assume that by the time Lindsay Lohan STOPS with the self-medication, she'll be legal to drink, too.

There is also the fact that celebrities simply appear more attractive to us. Sure, Jennifer Aniston is a good looking woman. But there are probably a dozen women on the New York City subway every day who are at least as pretty, if not more. But they did not captivate an entire nation in 1995. Again, there is also the point I made above of associating the actor/actress with the character he/she plays; the public was probably actually more attracted to Rachel Green than Ms. Aniston, but the lines do tend to blur.

People magazine publishes a yearly list of the "50 Most Beautiful People." I think most of us can agree that might be a bit of a misnomer. I was looking at their list from last year and I can tell you that there are better looking women out there than Hilary Swank or more handsome men than Jamie Foxx, to name just two. But they're celebrities. This inherently ups their attraction quotient, regardless of the objective truth. That's not to say that they aren't good looking people; they're just not, if we're going to be honest, two of the 50 best overall.

Sure, that argument has an air of speciousness; People magazine covers celebrity. They're not scouring the streets to come up with some UPS delivery guy who happens to have perfect facial structure. But that same UPS worker probably isn't inspiring the general public to fantasize about him, either. Probably.

The thing about all of these crushes I've had over the years is that throughout, I have enjoyed, if only for a moment, entertaining the idea that the sole thing keeping me out of a relationship with the femme du jour is simply that she and I have not had the opportunity to meet. I'm sure you all agree, for instance, that Mira Sorvino and I would totally hit it off if we were introduced at a party. I'm so obviously a great catch and we do really have so much in common: she went to college in Boston and studied Chinese. I went to college in Boston and studied the menu from Kee Kar Lau. It's without a doubt a match made in heaven.

(Pssst. Mom. That's a literary device called "tongue-in-cheek.")

Sure, it's whimsical, but we all do it. Many couples, for example, have The List -- those "free passes" that state that if one of them were to have the improbable opportunity of engaging in hanky-panky with any from a (preset) list of celebs, it doesn't count as cheating. Obviously, this is goofy. But it's fantasy. Mrs. Jones can harbor the harmless illusion that if the stars were to align and place them in the same bed, naked, George Clooney is not off-limits to her. As can Mr. Jones, though that would indicate their relationship might have more important issues to explore.

I guess what it really comes down to is that we're ultimately attracted to the concept, not the reality. The larger-than-life aspect of celebrity. The billboard in Times Square. The photo spread in Rolling Stone. The fame and the money and the glamour and the appearance. Honestly, we don't know what the reality is. That said, if any of you out there are friends with Miriam Shor, could you let her know I'm single? I think we'd be perfect for each other.


A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

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dr. jay gross
3.15.06 @ 3:39p

Celeb. crushes are safe and great to have. A contemporary young lady...target of unrequited dreams....can be a painful heartbreaker. Why go through that? I do prefer a warm-blooded female to a cartoon character, but I can't fault you for your proclivities......some people have invisible friends. (That's very safe!) The best support for an inferiority complex is a 'dream lover'.

vanessa monte
3.15.06 @ 4:17p

The smurfs never "did it" for me. Hworang (Tekken) now that's some hot animated ass! My first crush...Michael Jackson (when he was black...ish) then Elvis and then Davy Jones ( I was "crushed" to find out one was dead and the other was old, damn you Nick at Nite and your reruns breaking little girls hearts everywhere) Thus starting my love affair with musicians and band dick! Alyssa Milano was my second girl crush...my mom was my first ( I have not seen a therapist for this backwards Oedipus complex) she was sexy and unmarried...and I got to see her naked...A LOT! She had some provocative photos that I use to pimp out to the boys in my neighborhood. Needless to say, I had a lot of friends. Currently, I'm diggin' on Adrien Brody. I want him to smell my ovaries with that enormous nose of his!

robert melos
3.16.06 @ 3:20a

I think I was into Brainy Smurf. I always found the geek types to be more attractive. Celebrity crushes were always more of that either or game. Ginger or Mary Ann. On now Jack or Sawyer. They're a nice fantasy, but mostly it's the character they are playing that gets the real fantasy since, aside from talk show appearances, we have little idea of what most celebrities are really like, except most can't stay married more than one year.

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