I'mErica Online
I'mErica Online
Teen Idols and Sexual Sublimation

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About JT and Love My Bod

by Erica Jackson
By the time my mom was 13 years old and scrawled "I love Paul" on a copy of 16 magazine, teenage girls sublimating their sexuality vis-a-vis teen idols was already pretty standard. After all, with the now-prolonged post-war childhood, they had to have some outlet for all that repressed 1950s sexuality. In earlier generations, 15 year olds were marriageable. By my mother's generation, the tide had turned and teen brides were no longer de rigeur.

So what to do with all that ripe, not-yet edible fruit? Why, let it ferment on fantasies, of course! Surely no man my mother eventually encountered in her real life could rival the sweet, subtle, non-threatening sexuality of the cherubic Paul McCartney. I doubt even Paul himself could top the dreamboat fantasy that was Paul in my mom's barely-pubescent imagination. To guage the impact of Paul Mac on her life, let me just say now that, over thirty years later, my mother still has rocks her then-pregnant mom picked up after the Beatles' limo nearly ran her over.

At the very moment Granny was dodging killer limos, Mom was downtown with every other teenager in Indianapolis. It was obvious to them where the Beatles would stay, because there was only one nice hotel in that midwest metropolis in the early '60s. So, while these crowds waited for a glimpse of their idols, their hysterical presence forced the Fab Four to make a detour. In a deliciously bitter irony, John, Paul, George and Ringo spent the night at the cheesy motorlodge on the Indy 500 compound, just across the street from Mom's house.

When I see the concert footage from those days, and even earlier examples, like Frank Sinatra, it is obvious to me what all that screaming and fainting is about. Pure sex, baby. Good little Catholic girls didn't touch themselves down there, but there's nothing like rock and roll to rouse and release the deep passions of a young woman on the brink of sexual discovery. More popular than Jesus, indeed!

Little did my mother know that all hell was about to break loose with her generation's warm embrace of long hair for men, short hair and even shorter skirts for women, free love, open homosexual and interracial liasons...and it all goes back to those damn troublemaking masters of the hormone -- the Beatles.

So Mom was neither judgemental nor discouraging when my own love affair with popular music began in the early '80s. I had a false, utterly misdirected start with Michael Jackson. Mom found out his address (I don't know how she did it, but Mom was always way hipper than I) and we went to his house in Encino one fine Saturday that spring of 1984. I recently found the grainy picture I took as we chased him along the freeway. The other picture I took of the Gloved One is lost, but no less clear in my mind. It was better focused, but his hair is cut off because my best friend Rosie shoved me away in her struggles to climb from our car into his during the high speed chase. MJ got a good laugh out of our preteen antics, to say the least.

I grew disenchanted with MJ soon after that, for reasons I cannot quite recall. It was the hot, sticky summer between 7th and 8th grades, the summer I became a teenager, that I first registered seeing a picture of John Taylor. It was lurv at first sight. There was just something about those full, red lips, that impossibly chiseled square jaw, those high cheekbones and his innocent, yet knowing brown eyes. Oh yeah and I liked Duran Duran's music.

I spent that summer at my paternal grandmother's house in Indianapolis, watching lots of MTV and soon became all-too familiar with DD. I can still vividly recall JT with Andy on the cover of Star Hits and his review of, among others, Tina Turner's "come back" single, "What's Love Got to Do With It" in that issue. I can almost see his words in my mind, "She still looks great...sigh" as well as the pouty picture of JT accompanying the reviews. Sigh, my damn self! That boy was hot and I wanted me a piece of that magic!

Somehow I talked my grandma into springing for the UK fan club fee; it was the best 12 bucks I ever spent, my own or anyone elses. By the time I returned to Southern California on my birthday late that August, the fan club starter kit had arrived and it lay beside Rio and Seven & the Ragged Tiger on my waterbed. Mom was always near-psychic in this regard: she knew the winds of change had swept my teen libido over the summer. She also knew me well enough to change the background music.

The fan club continued to send me photos, posters, newsletters and information for several years. I really don't know how they could afford to send all those high-quality goodies for so long, but I wasn't going to draw their attention to the economics of their practices. All my MJ posters came down and my walls were soon plastered with Double Doo-ran.

I had some great posters, too. My mom's co-worker Daria, who started the Culture Vulture fan club, went to England to see Culture Club play and brought back an amazingly vivid poster on heavy stock unlike any I've ever found in the US. It was apparently from a TV taping overseas. The boys were all in their electric Anthony Price suits (JT's of course being red, my favourite colour) and jazz shoes. The background was a light, brilliant, surreal blue with back lighting passing through what looked like giant ice cubes.

After seeing JT play at Life in Greenwich Village recently, I spoke with my best Duran bud from "back in the day," Kristi. We all had a Kristi; mine was also a John fan and we engaged in a fruitless, silly, light-hearted competition over him for over a year, before real-life boyfriends began to take up much of her time.

I am amazed how much comes flooding back. It is frightening to fathom the multitude of silly little details we can still recall. I barely knew Kristi when she won the $5,000 daily cash pay off on KIIS-FM in Los Angeles. The song to listen for that day was, of course, Wild Boys. Most of that money went toward Duran imports, 12-inch remixes, posters, buttons and other loot.

Kristi and I weren't the only ones. I bet John Taylor wore those cheap, black, plastic bracelets for all of three months in the summer of 1985, but I still see fans wearing them at his solo shows. Surely, I need not detail the impact of JT's 1984 blonde bangs on our generation. As someone at the record plant scrawled in the master for one of my DD 12 inch singles ("Planet Earth," as I recall), "Durannies Rock On!!! : ) " Go ahead, check your copy, it's there, baby.

Thirteen years later I find myself rediscovering the apparently timeless beauty, talent and cool of John Taylor. Now I am a devoted reader and participant in JT's site, Trust The Process. TTP is one of the best sites I've seen in four years of surfing, because it combines fandemonium, information, community and content in one central location.

Little did 14 year old me imagine his cameo as The Hacker in the HBO short Timeslip was so wildly prophetic. John Taylor is, without a doubt, the sexiest hacker there ever was, real or imagined. I've known and loved lots of geek boys in my day, but none could erase the image of JT from my mind. Then again, JT could look cool, sauve and sexy doing just about anything, even picking off tourists at the Eiffel Tower. He's got it like that.

I'm a grown woman now, living a life I never could have imagined at age 13 or 14. It's not that my life is so very fabulous, though it certainly has as many moments of beauty and glory as any other. Now I'm an adult and have inherited many of the rights and responsibilities of that role.

By the time my mother was my age, I was six years old and much of her life was already decided. I, on the other hand, am still restless, rootless, unsettled and adventurous with an unknown path stretching endlessly before me. I have lived in two major American cities all on my own and am tottering into my professional writing career. My life now is as much a beginning as it was 14 years ago.

In many ways, however, my life is fundamentally different. I can hardly imagine that 14 year old girl who found the very thought of sex icky. Looking back through my now-jaded eyes, I find it sweetly amusing how my fantasies of John Taylor were always through a soft filter and involved lots and lots of hot, passionate, well, kissing. Little did that naive, unknowing me imagine that by century's end I would revel in my biracial, bipolar, bisexual, bicoastal life.

In writing this, I realize that DD's sense of aesthetics has turned out to be a far greater, though subconscious, influence on my life than even my 14 year old self imagined. Few can rival the fabulousness of the Duran cosmos. While I have not consciously copied JT or anyone since I was 15, I suspect I developed my appreciation for artistic, bright, creative, funny people as a result of those formative years of Durandemonium.

Unlike their contemporary, Boy George, the Durans were always able to blend so-called masculine and feminine gender roles and behaviours. I still find this far more appealing and erotic than rigid extremes of sweaty machismo or pink girlie-girlness. It is also probably why I'm still such a fag hag to this day and why I can never remember how to spell words like colour and behaviour.

A friend recently interviewed JT and told him right off that every woman he mentioned the pending interview to still had a soft-spot for JT. Even the ones who insisted they had always hated Duran Duran murmured, "But that bass player..." and grew weak in the knees. :::::taking sip of water, clearing throat::::: I plead guilty, your Honor.

Even now, in my 29 year old mind, John Taylor remains the very model of the perfect, Valentinoesque fantasy lover: soft, gentle, sweet and about as anatomically correct as your average Ken doll. But, Oh, those lips...

*EJ, November 3, 1998*
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