Winner of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for "Best Gay Romance" "Ever since Mrs. Malloy assigned us the What I Want To Be When I Grow Up paper earlier that year in her 1st hour English, my mind had been made up. . . I, Bradley James Dayton, will be a famous actor someday!" Meet Bradley Dayton--a wickedly funny high school senior whose woefully uncool life always seems to be full of drama, even in the sorry little suburb of Hazel Park, Michigan. It's 1987, the era of big hair, designer jeans, and Dirty Dancing. George Michael has "Faith" and Michael Jackson still has a nose. Brad, on the other hand, has a thing for acting, and while his friends are trying to get laid, Brad's trying to land the lead in Okla-homo! and practicing the Jane Seymour monologue from Somewhere in Time. Sure, he'd like to get laid too, but while Brad has known he was gay forever, the rest of "Hillbilly High" is not so forthcoming. Brad's already lost one best friend, Jack, who dropped out of marching band to step into the closet. But lately, things are looking up. Not only has Brad made Homecoming Top Five, but Richie, a new, totally cute member of drama club, definitely seems to be sending signals--and he's not the only one. Before senior year ends, Brad will know more about love, lust, and friendship than he ever thought possible. Because if all the world's a stage, he's ready to be in the spotlight...
Release date: June 1, 2009
Print pages: 432
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Frank Anthony Polito
—Michael Thomas Ford, author of Last Summer
“Sweet and funny.”
“With the Motor City running on empty in Reagan’s America, Frank Anthony Polito’s characters dance their mystery dance of teenage longing as if Motown never left for California. Sexy, funny, and wiser than it wants to be, Band Fags! pulses with a ragged beauty and bounces to its beat. I give it a 98.6.”
—Thorn Kief Hillsbery, author of What We Do Is Secret
“This heartfelt valentine to coming of age in the 80s shows that the right jeans, a decent production of Grease and discovering a true friend do offer some consolation.”
“More than just a novel, Band Fags! is a virtual time machine that transports you smack dab into the cheesy heart of the ’80s. It’s like a queer Wonder Years as it follows Brad and Jack’s memorable journey through high school hell. Screamingly funny, surprisingly charming and, ultimately, truly moving, it’s a fresh take on the importance of friendship during the worst/ best years of your life.”
—Brian Sloan, A Really Nice Prom Mess and Tale of Two Summers
“Polito’s refreshingly personable characters leap from the page with a flavorful magnetism that will leave you craving for a sequel, or better yet, a TV or film adaptation.”
—Dayton City Paper
“The dialogue sparkles throughout the book. And his characters and situations are all quite authentic.”
—Between the Lines
“Polito has perfectly channeled the voice of a closeted teen.”
“A consistently hilarious story of the best-friendship we all seem to have had, set in a time we can never seem to forget—the totally awesome ’80s—Band Fags! never misses a beat in its affectionate, moment-by-moment chronicling of the complicated journey we take from cradle to closet to what lies beyond.”
—Matthew Rettenmund, author of Boy Culture
“Sexy and funny and filled with charm and sensitivity. The dialogue is perfect, the characters are loveable and the story cannot be beat for a light read that will make you forget the heat of summer and remind you of the warmth of first love.”
“Explores the difficulties of growing up gay in the 1980s, all told with a sense of humor and affection for its characters. Band Fags! shines with its clever dialogue and witty comments.”
“Polito does a good job of recreating the insecurities and rivalries that characterize relationships between high school students.”
—Bay Area Reporter
“Band Fags! is like the gay teen flick John Hughes never got around to making. Let’s face it, there’s a Band Fag in all of us and Frank Anthony Polito has his on speed dial. This book is a sweet, funny, deeply felt valentine to the wonder/horror of coming of age in the 1980s. You might just pee your parachute pants.”
—Dennis Hensley, author of Misadventures in the (213)
“If the words Dallas, Dynasty and The Go-Go’s resonate with you, get this book.”
—In Los Angeles
“These Band Fags march to their own quirky beat in a timeless tale delightfully syncopated against an ’80s soundtrack. This surprisingly tender story of best friends locked in a tug-of-war of self-discovering is booby-trapped with Polito’s pitch-perfect wisecracks and hilarious observations.”
—Steven Sorrentino, author of Luncheonette
“A fun and quick read.”
“This former 1980s band fag declares Band Fags! totally wicked awesome. With pitch perfect dialog, and high stepping charm, Polito hilariously shows how not all hearts beat to the rhythm of the same drum major.”
—Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of I Am Not Myself These Days
“Hilarious…snappy dialogue drives the story, much more so than in most novels.”
“Frank Anthony Polito’s Band Fags! plays like an ’80s after school special; it feels like dropping right back into the oh-so-important questions of who sits where in the lunchroom, who ‘likes’ who, and which friends might be ‘fags.’ Polito absolutely captures the voice of a not-ready-to-be-gay-teenager in the ’80s, and spins characters who face real problems, ridiculous concerns, and the meaning of friendship over the years.”
—Alex MacLennan, The Zookeeper
“Band Fags! is one of those rare books you may want to read not once, but like, totally a bijillion times.”
“Polito makes you think, breaks your heart with the pain of having to ‘hide’ who you are and tosses in a whole lot of fun while showing ‘us’ how it is for gay teens.”
“Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage…”
“To thine ownself be true.”
Wanna know what bugs the shit outta me?
When somebody tells me something they think I don’t already know.
Case in point…
This morning during Miss Horchik’s 3rd hour World Shit—I mean, Lit—we’re studying the English Renaissance, even though we already covered it last year with Mrs. Malloy during English Lit. I guess maybe we’re having a refresher course or something.
So Miss Horchik is reading to us aloud from Hamlet. You know, by William Shakespeare. Act 1, scene 3.
“‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be / For loan oft loses both itself and friend / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry’…”
She gets to the part when Polonius turns to Laertes, and tells him, “‘This above all: to thine ownself be true.’”
Well, I don’t know why, but Miss Horchik looks right at me when she says this. Pageboy haircut perfectly parted down the middle, hand to heart, beady eyes opened extra wide.
I’m thinking, What’s that supposed to mean?
“To thine ownself be true.”
I mean, I know what it means: be yourself, don’t give a fuck what anybody else thinks, do what you wanna do. This is exactly the way I always live my life. I don’t need some middle-aged, former-nun-turned-high-school-teacher giving me advice, you know what I mean?
“What the hell was that?”
Like horses outta the starting gate at the Hazel Park Raceway, the entire Hazel Park High student body bursts into the halls the second the bell rings.
“What the hell was what?”
Textbooks resting against his hip, Max Wilson stares straight ahead as we fight our way thru the throng of hungry Vikings on their way in search of sustenance.
“Why did Virgin Velma single me out when she said what she said?”
Max looks down at me with blue close-set eyes, totally oblivious. “What did she say?”
He acts like we weren’t sitting in the same classroom mere moments ago. Maybe because Pam Klimaszewski and her tits just passed by and he’s had a thing for her (and them) since we were Sophomores two years ago…God, we’re getting old!
“She doesn’t like you,” I tell Max, hating to be a jerk, but it’s true.
He whips his gelled head around just in time to avoid walking into the open Auto Shop door.
When it comes to girls, Max Wilson loses all ability to pay attention. If he doesn’t get laid this year on Spring Break, I don’t know what’s gonna happen.
We turn the corner down the middle hall en route to my locker when my French III Independent Study advisor, Mrs. Carey, appears from her classroom wearing this circa 1968 chocolate-colored turtleneck with a wool knee-length skirt over matching tights and boots. Not sure why since it’s the middle of September. To me, she looks like a big brown blob. Maybe it’s because Mrs. Carey happens to be black.
“Bonjour, Madame!” I recite en français.
Mrs. Carey nods and smiles. “Comment ça va?”
She reminds me of that guy from the 7-Up commercials. Only female. And without the accent. You know, the one who played Punjab in the movie version of Annie.
“Ça va bien…Et vous?”
I roll my eyes at Max. He doesn’t know what the hell we’re saying. For all he cares, we could be talking about taking a poop.
“Bien, bien,” Mrs. Carey replies, thus completing the only conversation she truly comprehends. I guess her major back in college was Latin, but now that it’s officially dead, French it is!
As much as I’d love to stay and chitchat, I’m jonesing big time. I haven’t had a cigarette since this morning after Marching Band—yes, I’m a Band Fag. I only been partaking in the nicotine habit for about four years, but the thought of going without a smoke for more than a few hours makes me totally psycho…Imagine what I’ll be like when I’m thirty.
I bid Mrs. Carey “Au revoir.” Soon as she heads off to the Teacher’s Lounge, I bust open my locker, shoving my World Lit book to the back, in search of my secret stash.
Not that she’s not nice, but from everything I witnessed during my two-going-on-three years at HPHS, sometimes Mrs. Carey can be a Total Ditz. I mean, how many teachers will write you a hall pass so you can skip their own class? And during French II last year, Mrs. Carey accidentally gave my friend Stacy Gillespie her Scènes et Séjours teacher’s edition (with all the answers), and she never even noticed! I often wonder what it must be like being the only African-American in a school full of Caucasians just waiting to take advantage of you.
“Yo, Dayton…Can I bum one of them?”
Max watches as I jiggle my second-to-last Marlboro Light from its crumpled cellophane pack. Thank God I found my butts buried beneath my Advanced Grammar/Term Paper text, which I already had with Mrs. Mayer this morning during 2nd hour.
“Get your own!” I scowl.
At 85¢ per pack (plus tax) I can’t afford to be giving my cigarettes away, can I?
“I’ll be your Best Friend.”
Max follows fast upon my footsteps towards the double doors at the far end of the hall.
“You already are my Best Friend,” I remind him, even though he’s already aware of this.
In fact, Max Wilson was the first person ever to talk to me when my family moved to Ferndale…
“You like Star Wars?”
I remember Max getting totally geeked when he saw me parade my Luke Skywalker action figure up and down my desk during playtime in Miss Norbert’s 4th grade class back at Webster.
“Sure,” I lied. The movie came out years before, but I still hadn’t seen it. In fact, I had no real desire to. I just happened to think Luke Skywalker was cute from all the commercials, but I didn’t tell Max that. Instead, I said, “I seen it like five times.”
“I only seen it three,” he replied, sounding disappointed that I had one up on him. “What’s your favorite part?”
“I don’t know,” I said, not wanting to ruin my chance at making my first new friend. “What’s yours?”
Max answered without hesitation. “When Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Princess Leia are all trapped in the trash compactor and they’re about to get smashed to smithereens!”
“That part’s pretty good, I guess.”
I tried my best feigning enthusiasm, even though I didn’t know what the hell Max was talking about.
He lifted the lid to his desk. There amongst his purple Level 4 reading book, Hooked on Phonics worksheets, and Ranger Rick magazine, Max held hostage a collection of characters I only seen in the Star Wars section of the Sears Wish Book.
“I got an X-wing and a Y-wing fighter at home,” he bragged, “but my stupid mom won’t let me bring ’em to school.”
“That’s okay…I got both of them,” I totally lied again.
Luckily, Max never found me out for the fibber that I am. Eight years later, we’re still Best Friends.
Making a break for the parking lot, I tuck the slightly-bent-but-still-smokeable cig behind my ear, à la my new favorite actor, James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Oh, my God…He’s sooo good!
The second we hit the pavement, I bust out my purple Bic and fire it up. I know we’re not supposed to smoke on school property, but with only forty-five minutes for lunch, it doesn’t give me much time to jump in Max’s car, get outta the parking lot, head over to the BK in BF Warren, scarf down a couple bacon double cheeseburgers, and indulge myself in my dirty habit.
“Roll ’em down.”
There’s nothing worse than sitting on boiling hot vinyl, you know what I mean?
Crawling into the passenger seat, I immediately crank the window down. I hate Indian Summer. After spending the last three months in nothing but shorts and sandals, it always sucks being back in school all bundled up in jeans and shoes and a shirt.
“Dude!” Max groans the second I kick off my topsiders. “Your feet stank.”
He turns on the stereo, as if cranking The Cure is gonna mask my stench.
Catching a glimpse of my freckled face in the sideview mirror, I drape my arm ever so dramatically out the open window, hitting my cigarette hard. I love the way the paper crackles as it burns. The orange-red glow reminds me of campfire coals on a cool summer’s night.
I realize smoking is totally bad for me, but I gotta know how to do it, as an actor—yes, I’m also a Drama Queer. I mean, what if I get a part in a movie and my character calls for it?
“Step on it,” I order, soon as Max puts the LeMans in reverse.
“I’m stepping, I’m stepping,” he replies, sounding a tad annoyed.
We file in line behind all the other late ’70s and early ’80s model cars making their exit. Suddenly, I shout, “Honk!”
In front of us, I notice the blue Chevy Citation belonging to HPHS’s own Viking Marching Band drum major, Ava Reese. In the passenger seat sits Ava’s Best Friend and fellow clarinet player, Carrie Johnson. Both brunettes turn around and give a wave before Ava makes the right turn onto Felker.
“Where they going?” Max wonders, taking us in the opposite direction.
“Probably to Carrie’s house to watch Days of our Lives.” She’s a big fan, and tapes it every day on her VCR…Must be nice!
Me and Max have both known Ava since elementary school, but Carrie I didn’t meet till 7th grade Varsity Band at Webb Junior High. In fact, she was my first French kiss. Too bad big mouth Max went and told my mom about it on the way home from the Fun Night. I got grounded for a week.
“What class you got 4th hour?” Max asks, after I remind him we don’t have to hurry back.
“What is that,” he snorts, “some kinda horse thing?”
I roll my eyes. Max knows perfectly well that Chorale is the top choir at Hillbilly High in Hazeltucky, taught by Mr. Harold “Call me Hal” Fish.
Not that he’s not a nice guy, but sometimes I think Mr. Fish—I mean, Hal—thinks he’s one of us students and not our teacher. Sure, it’s cool he lets us get away with stuff like being late for class and smoking when we’re out at a gig, but it’s like, Dude…You’re thirty! Not to mention the fact that he’s sorta heavy and he sweats a lot.
I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad except he carries this rag around that he uses to mop himself off once the works start flowing. And since it’s seventy-five degrees on the first day of fall, I can just imagine the mess Hal’s gonna be by the time I finally show up to his class.
Oh, my God…Don’t look now!
Burger King is packed with a bunch of obnoxious, post-pubescent, hormones-raging high schoolers, but at least the air-conditioning works. Only I’m more in need of a cold shower when a maroon and gray Vikings Varsity football jacket catches my eye.
“What’s up, Bradley?”
As me and Max snake around the mile-long line, who do I see coming towards us?
None other than #23: Rob Berger.
“Nothing much.” I feel my face go flush the second his brown eyes meet my blues. “What’s up with you?”
“You know…Getting some grub.”
Rob flashes a sheepish smile. When I see the space between his two front teeth, it’s just about all I can do not to wet myself right then and there.
“’s up, Berger?” asks Max with a nod, as if seeing Rob out in public is totally no biggie.
I’m sorry, but you should see this guy…For starters, he’s got on these totally tight jeans, pegged at the bottom, with gray slip-on shoes, and no socks—love it! He’s also SWB (Short With a Bod), which I also love. Like 5’8”, 190 pounds, and built like a brick shithouse, with dark brown hair, cut over the ear, and buzzed in back. Did I mention his beautiful brown eyes?
Oh! And he’s got the sexiest little mustache. Plus a totally hairy chest and a totally big dick.
Wanna know how I know this?
Every day after Swimming back in 7th grade, Rob used to walk around butt naked in the locker room. You can bet I took my sweet old time getting dressed while I secretly checked him out toweling himself off. I’m pretty sure Rob Berger was the first guy in our class to grow pubes.
Suddenly, I realize Max is barking at me.
This is about all the response I can muster up.
“What do you want?”
I’m thinking, Rob Berger’s totally hot bod. Until I discover I’m at the front of the line where the nondescript middle-aged woman behind the cash register patiently awaits my order.
“Two bacon double cheeseburgers, small fry, and a medium Pepsi,” I tell her, polite as punch. Followed by, “Please.” And then I’m right back to my staring.
“I’ll see you in Drama,” Rob promises, catching my eye. “Don’t be late.”
Again, I’m gonna wet myself!
I watch his every move while he picks up his double Whopper with cheese, large fry, and large pop at the opposite end of the counter. As he slips away joining his jock friends at a booth in the corner, I take in one final glimpse of Rob Berger’s totally hot ass…5th hour can not come soon enough, you know what I mean?
By the time 1:00 PM rolls around I’ve endured about as much of “Call me Hal” and his sweat dripping as I possibly can. The second the bell rings, thru the Choir room door I fly, like a bat outta hell.
I’m about to enter the auditorium across the hall when I hear a voice call out my name. I turn to find fellow Drama Queer, Liza Larson, dressed in her uniform—black spandex pants, and black leather jacket complete with fringe. Her bottle-blond hair is perfectly feathered, and her signature penciled-on spider sits dangling from the web its spun in the corner of Liza’s left eye.
“What’s up?” I ask, slightly outta breath.
Liza gives me a look. “You gotta pee or something?”
I can’t help but wonder why she’s questioning me like this. Until I realize I’m hopping back and forth on one foot like I gotta find the nearest boys’ room. Really, I just wanna get into the auditorium ASAP and save a seat for somebody…Guess who?
“Wanna head out to Skid Row real quick?”
In addition to being one of my Senior classmates, Liza is also my post-Chorale/pre-Advanced Drama smoking buddy.
“I think I’m gonna pass,” I decide, even though I can’t believe the words just came outta my mouth. Mind you, I’m not a Burn-Out myself. I don’t partake in the whole Mötley Crüe, knee-high moccasin boot worn over tucked-in tight jeans-wearing culture. I just love to smoke.
“Your loss,” Liza sighs, sauntering away.
For a second, I think about running after her as she heads down the hall and out the side doors. For the life of me, I can’t figure out who started calling the spot across the street from HPHS Skid Row. They didn’t see Little Shop of Horrors, I guess. Me and my friends used to always call it The Log. Until we discovered it’s really a downed telephone pole laying on its side. Regardless, it’s in front of the Blue Building, and where all the badass Burn-Outs go to do their thing.
Unfortunately, I got other business to attend to.
“This seat’s saved!”
My fellow fire-haired Senior, Audrey Wojczek, just tried to join me in the third row of recently reupholstered auditorium chairs, complementing the newly painted walls: maroon and gray, respectively.
“Who you hoarding it for?” she asks, as if it’s any of her business.
“Um…” I start to say. “Somebody.”
Aud turns her head slightly to one side, furrows her brow, and purses her lips. “Somebody who?”
Thank God I’m saved by the ringing bell, freeing me from having to succumb to this infernal interrogation. Only I don’t see Rob Berger anywhere.
What the fuck?
Audrey takes a seat beside Tuesday Gunderson, a slightly overweight Senior girl with stringy black hair, just as our Drama teacher calls out, “Dayton!”
“Right here, Dell.”
I give a wave in case Mr. Dell’Olio can’t pick out my Howdy Doody hair in this low-level light from where he sits on the lip of the stage, scratching his receding hairline.
“Where’s your scene partner, Mr. Berger?”
I look around the auditorium again. Finally, the place is starting to look like a real theatre. My first year in Drama, you should’ve seen it…Torn curtains, lights that didn’t light, graffiti spray-painted on the backstage wall by some Class of ’86 breakdancer dudes.
“Not sure,” I sadly report. “I seen him at lunch.”
How am I gonna make it thru the next fifty-eight minutes when I’m wracked with worry?
“Right here, Coach!”
All heads turn towards the deep bass reverberating thru the room. I don’t know why Rob insists on calling Dell Coach. Maybe because he plays a lot of sports. If you ask me, it’s fucking charming as all get-out.
“You’re late, Berger!” Dell shouts, taking on a tone only a Varsity football player could relate to.
I can’t say I’m attracted to Mr. Dell’Olio—he’s at least thirty-five. But whenever he talks to Rob, it’s like he becomes a totally different person. Like maybe when he was in high school, he always wanted to be a jock, but instead he got stuck being a Drama Queer. I never realized it before, but it’s sorta hot the way he butches it up.
“Sorry, Coach.” Like an embarrassed little boy, Rob’s cheeks burn bright red. “It won’t happen again.”
When I see him looking around for somewhere to park his totally hot ass, in my best stage whisper I hiss, “Berger…. I saved you a seat.”
Rob nods and smiles.
Scootching in beside me, he puts an arm around my shoulder and gives it a manly squeeze. “Thanks, Bradley.”
I think I’m in love.
“Maybe he’s no Romeo
But he’s my loving one-man show…”
The only thing worse than being a Band Fag is…Being a Drama Queer.
At least according to the Hillbilly High Handbook.
I see why being in Band can be viewed as sorta lame. I mean, there you are, wearing this wool uniform along with this funny plumed hat and spats, stomping around the football field while all the Cool Kids sit up in the stands enjoying the game. Not to mention having to wake up at the butt crack of dawn for practice. Plus giving up your weekends to march in some stupid parade somewhere.
But how can Drama possibly be considered geeky? You perform plays in front of an audience of admiring fans. What person in their right mind wouldn’t enjoy the applause? I know I do. Why does everybody think movie stars are totally cool, but not the ones on stage?
Back in 10th grade when I decided I wanted to be an actor, I didn’t realize this would be the case. I totally thought cheerleaders such as Shelly Findlay and Betsy Sheffield or Vikettes like Lynn Kelly and Angela Andrews would be trying out for Drama Club. Maybe even a few football players like Tom Fulton. I remember he seemed to enjoy himself performing in this play we presented back in 7th grade in Ms. Lemieux’s class.
Well, it wasn’t so much a play as it was a skit, but I did have the lead opposite Tom’s then-girlfriend, Marie Sperling. I guess maybe it wasn’t real acting since I didn’t have any lines or anything—it was a silent skit. I did get to soft-shoe to Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” as this strobe light flashed around us the entire time, making everything look all Charlie Chaplin-esque.
Don’t bring this up to Max. Originally, Ms. Lemieux cast him in the lead, but after a few rehearsals, she decided he didn’t quite cut it. Not to brag or anything, but once I took over the part, she told me I was a natural talent. Did I mention she was our hot-to-trot Enriched English & Social Studies teacher and her first name is Cinnamon?
Wanna know who showed up to try out for Okla-homo!—I mean, Oklahoma!?
When I walked into the auditorium that afternoon in March ’86, I seen none of the kids I expected to see. Instead, there sat Pee-wee Herman’s #1 fan, Charlie Richardson, and the slightly overweight stringy black-haired girl I mentioned before, Tuesday Gunderson.
“You slumming or something?”
Outta nowhere, the only person I recognized as being remotely acquainted with appeared, her bright red locks falling past the bottom of her purplish pink striped sweater.
“Hey,” I said, happy to see Audrey Wojczek for the first time in my life.
We may seem like pretty good pals now during Senior year, but at the time, I barely knew her. I mean, we went to junior high together and all, but we weren’t exactly friends, you know what I mean? Audrey only transferred to Webb during Freshman year, after spending 2nd thru 8th grades at St. Mary Magdalen’s. Judging from the mouth on her, you’d never know it!
“What the fuck are you doing here, Dayton?”
Audrey served as treasurer of Drama Club. She also played the mother in The Skeleton Walks, the fall play first semester. Her performance came as a bit of a surprise to me when I seen the production, but as the recipient of the Class Clown mock award, I guess Audrey has never been much of a wallflower.
“I’m trying out for the play,” I remember telling her. “What do you think I’m doing?”
Back at Webb, me and Audrey constantly fought whenever we found ourselves together. She loved picking on me, saying my hair would fall out someday just because our Health teacher, Mrs. Strong, said that most redheaded men eventually go bald. Shit like that.
“The word is auditioning” Audrey corrected. “And it’s a musical, not a play.”
The spring play—I mean, musical—that year, like I said, was none other than Oklahoma! You know, “where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain,” and the “shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top.” By the guys who wrote The Sound of Music, Rogers & Hammerstein. Well, I never seen it before, but I knew the movie version had the mom from The Partridge Family in it, who happens to be the real-life mother of my very first crush ever. No, not David, but Shaun Cassidy.
Growing up, we never had much money. Evidently, James Dayton didn’t make a whole lot working as a cop in Troy while getting his degree in Physical Education from Wayne State. And once Laura Victor married him, she gave up the job she had since turning Sweet Sixteen working as a secretary in the tissues and pathology lab at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital to stay home with me and my sisters, Janelle, Nina, and Brittany.
Yet every so often, Mom found a little extra cash stashed somewhere. Her (quote-unquote) mad money, she liked to call it. I used to think so because she spent it whenever Dad made her mad, which seemed a lot more frequent the longer they stayed together and the older me and the girls got…No wonder their marriage ended in D-I-V-O-R-C-E in 1983.
I’ll never forget this one time my parents were out bowling on their bowling league…
After we put on our footie pajamas, me and Janelle gathered in front of the television with our babysitter, Sheryl Killian. Nina and Brittany must’ve both been in bed because they were still babies. I’m pretty sure I was in 1st grade at the time, so they were like three and two.
“Ooh, he’s cute!”
I’m sure I thought it first, but Janelle beat me to saying it out loud. After all, she is two years older.
“That’s Shaun Cassidy,” Sheryl informed us when The Hardy Boys came on channel 7 at 7:00 PM. “Isn’t he a fox?”
At the time, we were living in Center Line. The Killians lived down the block from us on Sterling, and Sheryl went to high school at St. Clement’s. I remember her being very glamorous in her bell-bottom jeans with her long blond Bionic Woman hair. Me and Janelle liked to sit on the back of the couch and braid it for her while we all watched TV.
“Is he your boyfriend?” I asked, feeling a tad jealous that Shaun Cassidy just might be.
Sheryl laughed. “I wish!” Then she told us, “He sings ‘Da Doo Ron Ron.’”
How could I not know that? I loved “Da Doo Ron Ron”! Except I always thought it was “Da Doo Run Run.”
Every time we took a ride somewhere in Dad’s car, me and Janelle would hear it on CKLW, so we knew all the words by heart. Boy, did I wish my name was Jill!
Thus began our weekly ritual…
Every Sunday night while our parents were up at Pastime Lanes, Sheryl would pop the Jiffy Pop, melt an entire stick of (“Everything’s better with…”) Blue Bonnet on it, while me and Janelle waited patiently in the family room, counting the seconds till show time.
From the moment Frank and Joe appeared in twelve-inch black and white, we sat glued to our seats, not even getting up to pee unless we absolutely had to. This was back before they invented the VCR, you know what I mean? And even if they’d been around, the Daytons certainly couldn’t have afforded one.
Wanna know what I remember most about The Hardy Boys, other than how cute Shaun Cassidy looked in every episode?
That creepy music from the opening montage! And all the various book covers appearing one by one: The Clue in the Embers, While the Clocked Ticked, The Hidden Staircase.
Back then, I didn’t know the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were literary characters that had been around for fifty years, but oh how my 6-year-old heart skipped a beat when Shaun Cassidy began clapping his hands high above his head, wearing th. . .
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