"What did he say?" asked my six-year-old sister, who wasn’t half paying attention. That annoyed the heck out of me.
"You annoy the heck out of me," I’d say with as much indignity as a brainy geek with glasses and Cherokee/German nose could muster, then go back to my living fantasy, watching two unknown men save lives, and dreaming of the day (hopefully soon) when I would fall mysteriously ill and be so close to death that no one would be able to figure out my ailment, and they’d have to call in these mysterious new breed of men, these paramedics. "Paramedics." I would say it over and over, and feel a pre-pubescent thrill attack my spine each time. It just sounded so...official, and bigger than anything I’d experienced in my little life so far.
Emergency! was our family’s way of pretending we liked each other and wanted to spend quality time together, and soon it was the show's TV stars to which I'd become addicted.
Randolph Mantooth played Firefighter/Paramedic John Gage. He was dark-haired, dark-skinned and had a deliciously crooked smile. Where had he been my entire nine-year-old life?? Now that I look back on it, he was a chauvinistic pig of the highest magnitude; making fun of "fatties" and always referring to women as some sort of sex object ("Mom? What’s a sex object?" "Er, erm, nothing--be quiet and eat your cake."), but not then; you couldn’t convince me this man could ever do anything wrong.
Then there was his gorgeous and slightly-shy red-headed partner, Firefighter/Paramedic Roy DeSoto, played skillfully by actor Kevin Tighe. Roy DeSoto was married, and while we as an audience never got to see "JoAnn," I was jealous of her.
"I’ll bet she’s fat," I said one afternoon during mine and my sister’s make-shift fan club meeting, beneath the little tree in our front yard. My sister and I were always coming up with hair-brained schemes to figure out how to get accepted into the fake paramedics’ fan club. If only we’d figured out all we had to do was send in the form, it would’ve saved us a lot of torment and bitching during club meetings. There were never any other fans except the two of us. But that was okay, because we didn’t need the competition.
I remember our little worlds opening up, however, on a Saturday night trip for ice-cream, after Emergency!. As we walked into The Dairy Mart, I noticed a magazine stand on the right wall--the one where my dad always found the newest Popular Mechanics and where my mother always got herself a new crossword puzzle book. As soon as I started browsing the selections, I saw it. There, standing upright on the shelf with the glossy paper shining back at me, was the Holy Grail of teenage angst everywhere:
And guess whose faces were gracing the cover? Yup--the object of my very first stalking case, Johnny and Roy. While inside I was thanking the Heavens that they had blessed me and my lust, outside I wasn’t stupid. I knew the least sudden movement would signal to my dad, standing just feet away, that something was askew in the universe. I moved slowly toward the book, not wanting to draw attention to myself (I needn’t have worried. My red-checkered pants were doing that enough), and casually picked it up.
"Hunh. Wonder what this is?" I was one, cool cucumber. I figured by deliberately stressing the word this, I would appear unconcerned, as if merely possessing a healthy curiosity.
Again, I needn’t have worried. Dad was so engrossed in his article on the advances of hot locations for refrigeration repair schematics, that he scarcely noticed his nine-year-old daughter licking the pages of Tiger Beat and moaning.
Soon I was rolling in paramedic. I had collected every article with both Randolph and Kevin. I would read headlines like, "10 Ways to Capture Randolph’s Heart," and immediately tear into it as if it were a sandwich. And each time there was an interview and article about Randolph, there was usually one about Kevin, so I’d devour it, too. "What Kind of Girl Does Kevin Want to Date?" was always a big attention-grabber for me. It would also give my sister and I something of import to discuss at the next club meeting.
In fact, that’s when my mother began to suspect my addiction was interfering with my life. Each night before I’d go to bed, I’d kneel down to say my prayers that God, in his infinite wisdom, would allow me to meet these two men so we could all get married. Then before turning out my light, I would pucker up and kiss both Johnny and Roy’s posters. Oh, and sometimes before dinner I’d sneak a peck, just to brighten an otherwise tedious day. Then I’d go downstairs and enter the kitchen very nonchalantly, knowing exactly how to work that room. Yup--no one was going to discover my secret--I was too slick.
"You’ve been kissing your posters again, haven’t you?"
I wheeled around as if I’d been shot in the back. How did she know?
"Because I’m psychic."
Man, sometimes she just freaked me out.
"And you have paper cuts all over your lips."
Crap. Note to self: buy more Chapstick during next visit to The Dairy Mart.
Years later when I finally took the posters down, I noticed the lips had been worn off Randolph’s photo. He looked like one of those comic sketches from SNL where the guy cuts the lips out and uses his own through the hole to mock the country’s current presidency.
I'm still addicted to Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe--who's with me?