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List Inconsequential: Our First Crushes

List Inconsequential: Our First Crushes

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Luke Perry

As a child of divorced parents, I was mostly raised by radio and television. Growing up in the ’80s, I developed crushes on the cheesiest sitcom and pop stars of that era – Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block was my first victim. I tore his picture out of Teen Beat magazine and kept it in my Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper. I was smitten with a young Leonardo DiCaprio when he appeared on Growing Pains, since I wasn’t into Kirk Cameron or his Christian self-righteousness. My heart skipped a beat for Marty McFly from Back to the Future – Michael J. Fox was a fox. I have to say, I liked Parker Lewis (Corin Nemec) and his dimples, even though he wore a Swatch. But I’m completely embarrassed to admit I liked Zach Morris from Saved by the Bell. That hair! Flock of Seagulls called…

My ultimate crush in Junior High was Luke Perry from 90210. My best friend and I took the bus to the Santa Monica Pier because we heard he was signing autographs. The show was just starting to take off, so the place was mobbed. We stood in line for two hours, but didn’t get to meet him. I bought her a funnel cake as an apology, but it didn’t make up for the disappointment. All in all, I guess I just have a thing for guys with bad hair. – Amanda Jones

Amy Jo Johnson

If you were in grade school in the ’90s and weren’t burdened with irredeemably lame parents, chances are you were obsessed with “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” For the burgeoning “Me” Generation who wanted everything, this show gave us everything we could possibly want – relatable teen drama alongside giant fighting robot dinosaurs was a recipe for surefire success. But almost 20 years removed from watching my first Putty Patrol fight, the one fire that burns as hot as ever is that I have for “Kimberly,” played by actress Amy Jo Johnson.

While she later joined the casts of “Felicity,” there’s no denying the place that the original Pink Ranger has in all of our hearts. Along with being ridiculously attractive, her fun personality and unshakable resolve really set an unfair standard for the girls in our lives to live up to. For my birthday a few years back, a friend of mine edited her Wikipedia to state that she and I secretly married and that I was “the greatest smartest and sexiest husband in the universe!” It was the most thoughtful act of vandalism ever committed on my behalf. – Chaz Kangas

Danica McKellar

I was about eight years old when my family got one of those “retro” TV channels that only showed classic sitcoms. Though my pre-pubescent mentality didn’t quite feel like grappling with the old-timey vibes of “The Andy Griffith Show” or “I Love Lucy,” I did manage to have an intense connection with “The Wonder Years.” Though most of my interest in the show came from the music and some sort of projected relation to Kevin Arnold, my love ran much deeper for my first celebrity crush, Winnie Cooper. Technically, Danica McKellar, who played Winnie, should be my crush, but I was in love with the character more than the actress. I would imagine that it was I, not Kevin, who was awkwardly pining for her affection, taking every generous TV smile as a smile directed towards me. For an eight-year old geeky boy, Winnie Cooper was everything you could ever want; sweet, charming, pretty and she could do your homework for you. – Kyle Fowle

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Kerri Green

She was 18 years old. I was 10. We were in love. Well, at least I had feelings. Of course, Martha Plimpton’s character is much more interesting than Kerri Green’s Andy in The Goonies, but I fell hard for the cheerleader. Then I learned that the former Roy Rogers employee not only lived in Northern Jersey near my grandparents, but some of my relatives knew her.

So I did what a normal 10-year-old in love would do – I wrote a letter. I don’t think I even knew what a computer was then, so I composed this paean to my muse on paper by hand. The next time I saw my relatives they did confirm that they knew Kerri and that they would deliver the note. I was ecstatic and handed it over.

Later that day I got bored and wandered out of my grandparents’ house. It was raining. I saw something white, fluttering from the branches of the bare bushes that edged the driveway. When I took a closer look my heart stopped. It was my letter, the words already vanishing as the ink ran off in the rain. – David Harris

Robert Sean Leonard

In retrospect, Dead Poets Society was major in terms of my adolescent development. I was 14 when this film came out; I saw it with my mother during our annual two-week vacation to the Jersey shore, movie night a tradition as much as rubbing Noxzema onto our sunburned limbs. Oh God how I cried and cried at this movie. I remember the balled-up tissue in my hands, shredding apart under the stress of my emotional turmoil, me being too embarrassed to ask mom for another between my choked sobs. My pathos was due, in part, to my instant connection to, and resultant palpitations over, one Neil Perry, played by Robert Sean Leonard.

Who doesn’t love a Puck, I ask you? He shepherds a sad Ethan Hawke, eggs on a horny Josh Charles and takes inspiration from the philosophically bold Robin Williams! He digs Shakespeare and is committed to his craft! Oh, and he commits suicide. I guess all of that weeping kind of lodged him in my tender psyche somehow.

There were others who captivated my pubescent attention, of course. But if scaled against the competitors – from the lows of Kirk Cameron to the highs of “21 Jump Street”-era Johnny Depp – Robert Sean Leonard is my sentimental favorite. – Stacey Pavlick

Leonardo DiCaprio

Before the era of sneaking out of the house on school nights, I used to tip-toe my way to the stairwell at around 10:00pm on Friday nights. Stealthily I slid halfway down the staircase and watched whatever film my parents rented from across the way. One night in ’96 when I was eleven years old, my head got stuck in between two wooden banisters. It was the same night my parents were screening Romeo + Juliet. At first I felt panic. But then, for the very first time I saw Leonardo DiCaprio smoke a cigarette in slow motion against a dying California sunset. His divine symmetry and perfect androgyny subdued my efforts to loosen my head from the staircase. I looked on, frozen for the first time. His wet blonde hair and icy blue eyes stunned my consciousness. Innocently and sweetly I pined over Leo from that day on, collecting magazines and sketching his mouth in the margins of my school notebooks.

I remember the abstract wanting. Wanting, wanting. Not a knowing or even a feeling.

Just wanting. – Sky Madden

Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer probably wasn’t actually my first crush – that honor surely belongs to some long-forgotten sassy teen on a sitcom – but among the actresses who inspired strange, swoony feelings in my youthful self, she’s surely been the most enduring. We had HBO in the early ’80s, which meant ample exposure to Grease 2, the misbegotten sequel to the musical smash. As appealing as it was to watch Pfeiffer belt out “Cool Rider” in her satin jacket, the crush really locked into place a couple years later when she cropped her hair short to play the dangerous beauty in the John Landis comedy-thriller Into the Night. Something about her mixture of toughness, vulnerability and stunning star power – and, yeah, that she looks like she was invented to help linguists explain the word “gorgeous” – made me utterly helpless. The deepening of my appreciation for the art of film corresponded nicely with Pfeiffer’s development from a promising actress to one of the very best in the business, meaning I never needed to abandon my affection. With consistently strong performances, even in film that weren’t up to her talents, Pfeiffer kept giving me respectable reasons to keep watching her. – Dan Seeger

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Neve Campbell

Ah, Neve Campbell, a.k.a. The One Who Didn’t Show Her Boobs in Wild Things, Even Though Sixth Grade Danny Djeljosevic Really Wanted Her To. Considering how Dr. Christmas Jones herself turned out, maybe it’s for the best that she didn’t. I don’t think about her very much at all these days (who does), but I kind of blame Neve Campbell for helping me develop a “type.”

The mid-to-late 1990s were Neve’s heyday – she appeared in The Craft as a mouthy, mildly alt witch, in Scream as a mouthy, mildly alt slasher movie protagonist and in Wild Things as a mouthy, mildly alt trailer trash. After that, it’s all Scream sequels and stuff I know you haven’t heard of because I haven’t heard of it. Probably because she hasn’t played anyone that was mouthy and mildly alt.

Despite my crush, I’ve never watched an episode of “Party of Five.” I did, however, look up an episode guide and searched for every instance of the word “drunk.” It comes up a lot. – Danny Djeljosevic

Natalie Portman

I felt a lot of things after the premiere of The Phantom Menace: euphoria mixed with emptiness, a patina of fulfillment covering the lingering sense that something was off about this movie I was determined to love. All these confusing emotions combined magically within my already bewildered adolescent mind to produce a crush on the only actress involved in the production: Natalie Portman. This was probably some kind of defense mechanism, an attempt to fixate on the most positive aspects of what I’d seen, but the crush deepened as I used my developing internet search skills (learning about celebrities was pretty weird in the pre-Wikipedia era) to find out that she would be attending Harvard in the fall, which made her seem even more remarkable. Then I found out my younger brother was into her too, and wary about sharing a crush with that little weirdo, graciously ceded control and moved on. – Jesse Cataldo

Madonna

So, some may claim that Madonna does not belong on a list of first movie crushes, that she is a singer and entertainer rather than an actress. I take exception to that; she certainly is an actress, just not a good actress. But from my earliest recollections of Shanghai Surprise to the full blossoming of my awareness of her as a faux-Monroe in Dick Tracy, it was Madonna that suddenly imparted a strange awareness of the female gender upon me. Perhaps it was the blond ambition, but I still remember fondly those little butterflies just seeing her on screen. – Nathan Kamal

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Claire Danes

Sure, I’d had crushes before – a brief fling with Alyssa Milano here, a passing fancy for Winona Ryder there, but it wasn’t until relatively late in life that I finally fell, and fell hard for someone I didn’t know. I was 17 when “My So-Called Life” debuted on August 25, 1994, and God, I loved Angela Chase so much. Not only was she beautiful (and she was, she was beautiful – I could see that even if she couldn’t), but I felt such a deep connection to her, a deeper and more powerful connection than I had ever felt towards anyone in my life to that point, real or fictional. I somehow felt that I knew this girl, knew her pain, understood her crippling bouts of self-hatred and her desperate need to rebel. And I remember watching that last episode, the one where Angela finally realizes that Brian Krakow is in love with her, the one where for a brief moment she is able to look past her goofy, pain-in-the-ass neighbor and see the fellow human being within, a person in very real pain; and I can remember thinking then that she had somehow finally seen me. That someone had finally seen me. And I totally lost it then, I cried (just as I am crying now) because of course she still went off with Jordan Catalano into the night, of course she did. But I didn’t blame her, not really – I mean, I would have done the same thing if I were her. But I can also remember feeling in that moment that I sort of hated Angela Chase a little bit. Just a little bit. But only because I loved her so much. – Shannon Gramas

Winona Ryder

I’m going to blame this crush on seeing a big promo poster for Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael while at the video store with my pops, probably around 1991. Ryder is pictured swimming in a sundress and, in supreme ’90s-ness, is wearing giant, chunky black boots. All of this is, I guess, was enough to get a nine-year old’s juices flowing (ew, sorry). By high school, I thought I was over her, but seeing her star as damaged goods eight years later in Girl, Interrupted brought the all the pain back. Though the “Wicked Game” video was my 2001-monolith moment, Ryder always stuck with me; I was doomed when I saw a girl with short hair for years afterward. – Chris Middleman

Jenna Von Oy

Joey Lawrence was not the star of “Blossom.” Even as a cynical six year old, I knew that America’s love affair with open vests and monosyllabic exclamations of surprise couldn’t last. Even Blossom, in her infinite hatdom didn’t shine. Six did. Named after my own agesake, Six was Blossom’s prettier, funkier friend, relegated to comic relief so that kids everywhere could see Mayim Bialik’s alleged inner beauty. I’ll say then what I said now- FUCK THAT SHIT.

She’s all right or whatever, but Jenna Von Oy is a beautiful woman. She’s cute, she’s funny and she has that air of confidence about her. Even as a child I knew that she didn’t have to dress down, but she did it anyway. I wouldn’t find out what a boner was until a scant year later when Batman Returns came out, but I always knew she was special. I grew older and allegedly into the social studies type, but a part of my six-year-old heart still goes out to Jenna, wherever she is. Man, I watched “The Parkers” for her. If that’s not a sweet reminder of my youthful crushing, fuck y’all. – Rafael Gaitan

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