One of the many things you don’t know about me is this: Scott Baio was my first celebrity crush. Sure I have a very sophisticated list of male celebrity crushes today: from Jon Stewart to George Clooney to my latest delicious acquisition Jon Hamm (he of the excellent Mad Men on AMC), my fantasy life is filled with funny, good looking, and more importantly, highly talented celebrities. But I have to admit, it all started from Scott Baio.
I do have an excuse for this seeming lapse of taste in my life: I was a newly arrived immigrant from Iran and had left a small nurturing school in Tehran for the large jungle otherwise known as the Los Angeles County Public School system. Everything seemed strange and somewhat scary to me: From the peach and aqua green colors, tube socks, and the scrunchied big hair that all the cool kids were sporting, to the entire notion of cafeteria lunch served by immigrant women with hairnets, the Los Angeles was (and still is) my childhood nightmare come true.
My entree into the teen culture of the time was our family friend, N and the Young and the Restless, her favorite soap opera. N and her parents embodied the Iranian immigrant community’s culture wars of the 80s: She with her short white shorts, her popularity with the boys, and her bedroom wall covered with posters of the two Coreys, Feldman and Haim (see, or probably don’t see, A&Es new reality show The Two Coreys), and her parents, with their desperate attempts to combine their nouveau riche-ness with some cockamamie notion of authentic Iranian identity. In this war, I was, with my thick eyebrows and fresh-off-the-boat awkwardness, meant to set an example for N. But the education was mostly on her part as she would tease and hair spray my hair up to a desired height, lend me her peach colored socks and helpfully bend down and scrunch them just so.
In this bizarre world of 1980s Iranian immigrants, the television series Charles in Charge, became my true escape. Every week I watched as Charles, aka Scott Baio, navigated the tricky business of going to college while making sure that the three kids he was nominally in charge of did not stray. As the show’s opening song put it so succinctly, Charles was in charge of “our wrongs and our rights.” I, indeed, wanted “Charles in charge of me!”
So imagine my surprise and my delight, when VH1 began to air the reality show Scott Baio is 45…and Single. Apparently since the days when he would appear in my fantasy and whisk me away to some G-rated romantic adventure, Scott Baio had developed quite a reputation as a ladies man. Not just any ladies’ man, only ones with blonde hair and breast cups over triple D. Now, at the age of 45, he’s wondering if there’s something wrong with the fact that not only is he still single but that he actually likes being so. To answer this age-old question, he hires a non-blonde life coach who promptly instructs him to take an eight-week vow of celibacy. And thus a guilty pleasure is born.
The problem, we realize along with Scott, is that the 80s weren’t just a time for incredibly bad fashion. It was also a time during which people developed intimacy issues. (And frankly, who can blame them?) A quick calculation of the ages of my first and also my most recent relationship–otherwise known as major fiascos—reveals the absolute truth of this fact. The men who stand at the two sides of my relationship spectrum are both in their 40s, roughly the age of Scott, and share with Scott the idea that all they want is a quiet simple life.
One of them calls himself “a simple man;” the other claims that all he wants is “to be left alone.” In the case of Scott, all he wanted, it seems, until VH1’s cameras came along, was to drink, smoke cigars, hang out with “Wayne” from The Wonder Years and have sex with unnatural blondes. It occurs to me as I watch Scott Baio genuinely be an ass (albeit a humorous one as any ass worth its weight should be) that such self-proclamations of simplicity and solitude are not so much statements of truth as reflections of the self-delusions of their speakers. There’re few things as twisted as a man who announces his own simplicity.
But I digress…
The wonderful Troy Patterson at slate.com compared Scott Baio is 45…to a bucket of KFC. While I personally don’t like anything that comes in a bucket, I cannot deny that the past 6 weeks of watching Scott try to stay celibate, apologize to the endless stream of women he has wronged, and be told by Joanie that his problem is his small penis, has been the kind of sheer pleasure that only summer and reality television can offer. All of this so that he can attain a kind of intimacy that apparently one must achieve by the age of 45: A wife and children.
The last time I fantasized about Scott Baio, “Walk Like an Egyptian” was #1 in the charts and “heartbreak” was still the hotel that made Elvis famous back in 1956. And while much has changed, including (thankfully) my taste in clothes and music (well, maybe not the latter), there is something pleasantly familiar in watching my first object of fantasy bluster and blunder his way through his 40s or at least through eight weeks of it. I haven’t seen the end of the series yet, so I don’t know if there now is a Ms. Baio, but the ever-reliable imdb.com informs me that Scott and his girlfriend (and apparent ex-body double for Pam Anderson during the global masterpiece that was Baywatch) Renee Sloan, are expecting a baby in December. Celibacy, apparently, does wonders.
Until next time, when I return with my own personal take on the ending of the Sopranos, keep your eyes on the tube.