At University I lived in a house with three other girls. I would never live with all-women again. It was a hot-bed of hormones, PMT and bitchiness and that was just me! We had a kitchen wall on which I artistically posted a collage of black and white photographs of attractive men. You know the ones like the Athena man holding a baby or the Levi’s jeans advert in a launderette. We called it The Sexist Wall; a sort of feminist statement – anyway, that was our excuse.
One person who had an awful lot of images on The Wall, was the actor Rupert Everett. In the eighties I don’t think I ever met any girl who wasn’t in love with him in even a small way. The tall, debonair, aristocratic actor was outstandingly beautiful as a young man. There was something about him, in all those foppish clothes with an Aaron jumper around his shoulders that made him so attractive. I saw a clip of him in Another Country on YouTube the other day. God, he was gorgeous as a young man! It reminded me of the time me and my friend, who was also a Rupert lover, sat through ‘Dance with a Stranger’ at the cinema twice, so that we could just gaze at him, in all his glory, on the big screen. All the time terrified we were going to get chucked out for watching a 15 Certificate underage. But it set me off thinking of all the crushes I’ve had over the years. Of which there have been many….
My parents were very young when they had my brother and me. My Mum was only in her early twenties. So, in a way, I grew up with them growing up. My Mum had a photo of Paul Newman posted on the wall behind the ironing board in the pantry. I can’t say I ever found him attractive, but I certainly know who I inherited my ability to have crushes on men from.
My first crush must have been when I was about four or five and it was the singer and actor, David Essex. My underlining memory of him was of first seeing him dressed as a sort of gypsy. There was something about the jaunty way he wore a scarf tied around his neck and the twinkle in his eye, coupled with his curly brown hair and dark eyes that made him seem as though he would be the perfect man to fall in love with. Whenever he came on Top of The Pops, my face would light up, I would blush, and my parents would instantly suspect how I felt. I thought I was going to run off with him and live on his funfair, endlessly spinning around on the waltzers. This crush lasted for many years until I saw him on EastEnders in 2011. He was grey, virtually bald and the twinkle in his eye had been extinguished a long time again. Then again, I was no spring chicken.
There were passing crushes such as Alan Bates in Whistle Down the Wind, A Kind of Loving and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Terence Stamp in The Collector and Tom Courtney in Billy Liar. At the age of ten, I experienced my first real-life crush, on a male ballerina who was a former pupil of my ballet teacher and revisited to take a class. All the students were much older than I was. I was very young to be en pointe and already advanced in technique. I was a tiny redhead and the male dancer asked me to stop hanging behind all the taller girls and come to the front. My childish frame meant that I was the perfect partner for him to lift and demonstrate on. I remember him teaching me a fish-dive. This is a very complex position, in which the male dancer takes the weight of the ballerina and holds her feet under his arms. He told me to look up and smile at him and as I did so, all sorts of feelings grew within me. That crush lasted a long time and spurred me on with my ballet obsession. I decided there and then that one day, I was going to dance with him again, but this time at Covent Garden.
For years, I would imagine scenarios with these crushes as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. I would be a famous actress, or a dancer and these men would fall madly in love with me. These men were always perfect. When I imagined my life with them, they would always be the kindest, happiest people. Not just attractive, but they would idolise me and treat me well. In a way I was learning to tell stories, which I would later write about. My primary school teacher, Mrs Bradshaw, once told me that my imagination was so vivid in storytelling, that one day she believed I would be on Jackanory. I’m still waiting and I’m not even sure if it is still on television nowadays.
As I grew into my teenage years, my crushes developed. There was Nick Heyward with his boy-ish charm and blonde wavy hair. I imagined that when I first listened to ‘North of a Miracle’, he had written most of those songs about me. There was Dr Robert from The Blow Monkeys and somewhere along the way, there was even a crush on Martin Shaw from The Professionals. Goodness knows where that came from!
Yet the crush that really has stood the test of time was Simon Le Bon. For years, I would gaze up at him on my wall and I would look forward to the day when we would finally meet, and he would realise that he much preferred me to his wife, Yasmin. After all what on earth could he see in the beautiful, willowy supermodel, compared to me; a short, ginger with freckles? This crush lasted for many years; decades even.
In the early noughties. I went with my friend to see a reunion of the original Duran Duran. Looking around at the audience, I wondered why there were so many middle-aged women there, until I realised that I was one of them too. The band kept us waiting for ages before they came on stage. I was fast losing patience and had suggested to my friend that perhaps we should just leave it and go home. But suddenly the house lights went down. and as they brought them back up slowly and focused on one band member at a time, I could feel my thirteen-year-old-self returning. Just seeing Simon in that harsh spotlight on stage, made me scream with excitement. It was nineteen eighty-two, all over again.
Crushes come and go, and to be honest, I have never really found anyone to compare with Simon Le Bon since. My brother always found it hilarious that I had crushes on all these beautiful men and yet I had boyfriends who looked nothing like them. But I think there is a lot to be said for having crushes as a child, as a sort of rite of passage into adulthood. I think it is an intrinsic part of growing up; almost like a training ground for relationships. I can’t think of any of my classmates who didn’t have some crush on a pop star, whether it was John Taylor – who everyone loved in the Eighties, or Jon Bon Jovi with his huge blonde, mullet perm. More than anything, it is a form of escapism. As adults we try and find ways to escape from the realities of bills, real life and problems. Whether by escaping to foreign climates, reading a good book or having hobbies. Having crushes is just another form of avoiding life, coupled with dreams about how we think we would be happier.
Sadly, I seem to have outgrown this phase of my life now. I can’t remember the last time I had a crush on anyone famous. So, if you don’t mind, I might just shut myself away for an hour, with a tub of ice-cream and a DVD of ‘Another Country’ or the ‘Greatest Hits of Duran Duran’ ,as I escape back into my youth for old times’ sake.
And Simon, if you read this? That offer still stands as it did when you first sang ‘Save a Prayer’ to me. But don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath!