A Loving Homage to the Movies

From as early as I can remember I could be found in the darkness of a movie theater with a fistful of malt balls in my hand, my bottom firmly planted on a seat somewhere in the middle row of the theater, and my legs dangling over the seat’s edge, barely skimming the floor, which was covered in chewing gum and a sticky coating of Coca Cola. Continue reading

Lightning in a Jar: Wounded Prey


I was raised on romance. Songs like, “Fly Me to the Moon” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and countless memories of sitting in a darkened theater watching the larger-than-life romances of Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Louis Jordan and Leslie Caron, not to mention Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and their respective princes.

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

Romance on the Silver Screen: Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

At home, I was hooked on late night movies. Two o’clock in the morning and you could find me watching Fred Astaire blithely dancing across a ballroom, in his top hat and coattails, whisking Ginger Rogers into his arms as they danced cheek to cheek. Or, a debonair Cary Grant gazing passionately into Grace Kelly’s eyes. Ditto, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who suggestively asked Bogie to pucker up his lips and blow.

As a little girl, I imagined one day meeting my own knight-in-shining armor. I even had a dream about this mysterious someone. He was on the battlefields of World War II (don’t ask), injured in combat and I was a nurse who had to nurture him back to health. We fell passionately in love and when I awoke, I had the faint memory of something that never happened. At least, not to me.

But then Jake swept me off my feet. There had been other crushes, as far back as first grade, but none amounted to anything but a passing fancy. With Jake, it was different. For six months we spent every possible moment together—in school, after school, on the weekends, and it seemed, whenever we couldn’t be together, we were on the phone. Kismet.

Maybe I would’ve been better off growing up on the set of a movie. I could have gone to the school sock hop with Andy Hardy. I would’ve treated Clark Gable a whole lot better than Scarlet O’Hara ever did. I could’ve danced in the rain with Gene Kelly, forever living my happily ever after on a Hollywood sound stage.

But instead, I grew up in reality and real life doesn’t promise the same happy endings. It’s filled with twists and turns, jealousy, misunderstandings and ultimatums. There’s love, yes, but there’s also love gone wrong, growing apart, moving on, and that’s all she wrote.

So, when Jake unceremoniously dumped me for another—a senior with soft brown curls, upturned nose and a smattering of freckles—I was devastated and downright miserable. Nothing and no one could console me.

James had said I was bubbly, which is why he called me Bubbles. But after Jake dropped me cold, it was hard to believe I had ever been upbeat or could be so again. Laughing and joking seemed pointless. Crying came naturally.

The shock of the breakup paralyzed me. After crying on my mother’s shoulder for two and a half hours, I took to bed, and stared at the ceiling, wondering how I would ever be able to return to school and show my face. The humiliation of it all. I had neglected many of my friends while I was dating Jake. Would they welcome be back into the fold or would I need to find new ones?

My best friend, Liza, had never liked Jake in the first place. “You could do better,” had been her refrain. I could do better, but it scared the bejezus out of me. I thought I had done better with Jake, but now Jake had a new girlfriend and they were in love. I wondered if Liza would say the same about her. That she could do better.

I couldn’t sleep that night or the next. I had no appetite, not even when my father offered to take us all to Sizzler’s for charbroiled burgers. I was mad at him. I blamed him for forcing us to go to D.C., certain as I was that the trip was the source of my problems. After all, had I not been gone a week, Jake and I might still be together.

I briefly thought about James. Last time I saw James, I was angry and said things I now regretted. I wondered what it would be like when I saw him again come Monday. How could I face him? Ugh. I wasn’t looking forward to going back or seeing him. And, I wasn’t sure which would be worst.

I heard the phone ring. Three times. My parents had a rule that the phone had to ring three times before you could pick it up. No more, no less. Go figure. There was a persistent knock on my bedroom door.

“Mónica, teléfono,” said my mother in Spanish.

Exhausted, defeated I dragged myself into my parents’ bedroom to take the call, carefully shutting the door behind me so as not to be overheard. A thought crossed my mind. Maybe Jake was calling to apologize, to beg me to take him back.

Picking up the receiver, I said, expectantly, “Hello?”

“Hey, heard what happened. You up for some company? Say the word and I can make it in 10.”

It was George, one of Jake’s good friends. I recognized his distinct nasal voice. George, who was just a tad taller than me, had jet black hair and swarthy looks. He also had no discernible personality to speak of, told dull jokes, and had a few whiskers that appeared to be growing willy-nilly on one side of his chin, which he said he kept to impress “the ladies.” George and I had never hung out on our own. I barely knew him and I found him rather annoying the few times he tagged along on my dates with Jake. And, now suddenly he wanted to pay me a visit. Someone must’ve told the hyenas that the prey was wounded and it was time to come in for the kill.

The smell of fried plantains wafted through the closed bedroom door. My mother was making dinner, and probably also cooking up her fritters made with white rice and bananas. My favorite. Her way of trying to make me feel better, and normally it would do the trick. Normally.

Normally, I’d be racing down to the kitchen to steal a bite before dinner. But I no longer knew what normal felt like. I had no appetite, nothing. Just a bland feeling creeping over my heart, cut by the pain of losing Jake.

“So, would you like me to come over or not?” The hyenas were getting restless.

Summing up all the enthusiasm I could muster, I said, “Sure. But make it in 30.”

I needed time for the swelling in my eyes to subside. Too much crying, I suppose.

(To be continued.)

Missed an installment? Catch up by visiting the High School Years page.

I’ve Got a Crush on—Who?

Everyone has crushes, right? I can mark my entire life, not by decade or major milestones—First Communion, high school graduation, college, marriage, childbirths, etc—but by the crushes of my life, both celebrity and school. Herewith, is my top-tier list of a lifetime of crushes. See if you can guess which are not the celebrities.

Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan in "Gigi."

Louis Jourdan:  One of my favorite film experiences was seeing Gigi, which was released when I was three. I adored this movie, which had a young and stylish Leslie Caron frolicking all over Paris. But I fell in love with Louis Jordan, her love interest. I actually saw this film five times when it was still in the movie theater. Mr. Jourdan sent my little heart palpitating—to the moon!

Tony Curtis:  I think I was five when I realized Tony Curtis was a hunk, even before I knew what that meant. I remember wondering if he’d “wait” for me. To grow up, that is. If you saw him in 40 Pounds of Trouble or Boeing Boeing,  you know what I’m talking about.

Fred:  I was in Mrs. Coletti’s first grade class when Fred walked into my life. Those deep, brown eyes! Those Groucho Marx eyebrows! Would you believe I faked having a party just so I could invite him to my house? I don’t know what I planned to do once he got there, and I’ll never know because it didn’t take long for him to figure out he was walking into a trap.

Sir Paul McCartney:  What an experience it was to see the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was all into the music. She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There. But it was Paul who stole my heart. I even had an “I Love Paul” button that I proudly wore on my shirt. It was like being pinned by the Beatle himself!

Curtis:  Just like Charlie Brown, I had a little redhead that got away when I was in third grade. Oh, I was head over heels for that boy. He put my science fair project to shame, when he brought in a log cabin he made, complete with electric lights that turned on and off. The allusive Curtis refused to talk to me, that’s how shy he was. And, I was equally shy and so I never said a word to him, but admired him from afar, pining for the day that I would become Mrs. Monica Curtis. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

The late Davy Jones with Maureen McCormick as Marcia Brady (The Brady Bunch).

Davy Jones: Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees! OMG, who didn’t love Davy? Me and Marcia Brady went all gaga when he entered the room. Gorgeous eyes, cute British accent; he may be the reason—the source of my love for all things British. In fact, most of my crushes from this point on were Brits.

Cliff:  In junior high, Cliff was as shy as they come. Why did I like all the shy guys? My friends and I would call him up, then hang up as soon as he answered. All I needed was to hear his voice. No one said, “Hello?” better than that boy.  Cliff’s school locker was two down from mine, and in between us, was the locker of a mutual friend, John, who was a great go-between. Between classes, I would ask John, “Does Cliff like me?” And he’d find out and respond during the next period, “Yes.” I was on Cloud Nine.

I contrived another party just to invite Cliff, and this time, I went through with it. Cliff arrived with his best friend, Barry. The two of them went in on a gift for me, which I’ll never forget. The Association Greatest Hits album, which featured one of their hit songs, Cherish. I was sure Cliff meant that as a secret message for me. He wanted me to know he cherished me, but didn’t have the words to say it himself. Well, Cliff, if you’re reading, I cherished you, too. 😉

Pierce Brosnan: Ah, the eighties. The decade of the television mini-series. I first encountered Pierce in The Manions of America, a drama about Irish immigrants during the Great Famine. Pierce was Drop Dead Gorgeous. That’s all I have to say. He sealed the deal for me in Remington Steele. Full disclosure: it was the first and only time I ever wrote a fan letter and the letter paid off. Three months later, I received a response and a 5X7 signed glossy. My life would never be the same. Side bar: A lot of people didn’t like his role in Mamma Mia, let alone his singing, but to me Pierce was divine and yes, he sounded exactly like Bruce Springsteen. So, sing on, Pierce!

Colin Firth: Two words. Mr. Darcy. Three words. Pride and Prejudice. Colin is THE man, THE one. My blogger pal, Mediating Mummy or, as I call her, MM, and I have major crushes on Colin. Her blog keeps me up to date on all things Firth. I will see any movie he’s in, even if it’s a bit part. I don’t care. He’s Colin Firth and that’s good enough for me. Recommended double feature: All five hours of Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth (accept no imitations!), followed by Bridget Jones’ Diary.  You will not regret it.

Jason Isaacs: This little hottie I actually deplored when I first saw him in the Harry Potter films. He plays a meanie, after all. Lucius Malfoy. But then I saw him in the BBC production, The State Within, where he plays a British Ambassador based in Washington, D.C., in a terrifying, action-packed conspiracy thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat, I kid you not. Bloody good fun! Bonus: He’s starring in a new NBC series, Awake, that has gotten lots of buzz.

So, tell me. Who have you had a crush on?