Recently my editor at Stomp & Stammer asked me how much of BIUL is embellished, and how much is actually true.
Believe it or not, it’s almost entirely truthful. I condense and streamline experiences for space constraints, and add a punchline here and there, but it’s all based in truth. In fact, there are anecdotes that I haven’t used, because I figure that readers will doubt their veracity.
For example, how I conquered my childhood fear of the dark with the help of The Love Boat.
The Love Boat aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986, and centered around a cruise ship staffed by a preternaturally happy crew. Popular actors and actresses of yesteryear often guested as “passengers” on the show, as well as stars of contemporary hits, and musical performers. The general theme of the show was romance, particularly the rekindled variety, and love.
In 1977, I was 5. My first awareness of Star Wars was a Darth Vader costume my parents dressed me up in for Halloween, even though they felt I was too young to see the movie. (They were right. Did you see Star Wars at 5? HOW FUCKED UP ARE YOU?) Like many 5-year-olds, I had an irrational fear of the dark.
My parents were in the process of toughening me up a little (well, my Dad was), so my only stuffed animal at that time was a Cocker Spaniel with a portable radio in its stomach. Once the lights were turned off, I would keep my fears at bay by quietly listening to it, but then its batteries quit after playing Jackson Browne’s “Lawyers In Love”, and I was fucked. I needed a Plan B.
As I trembled in the darkness, struggling not to imagine child-shredding monsters and blood-dripping fangs, the answer came to me. Softly, with the warmth only a well-fed horn section can provide.
Love… exciting and new
Come aboard, we’re expecting you
I knew not who sang these words, only that his voice was soothing, like a beloved family doctor. The lyrics were simple enough that I could grok them at 5. They floated through my head effortlessly, as though I knew them by heart, absorbed them somehow.
Love… life’s sweetest reward
Let it flow… it floats back to you!
My mind filled with images of sunlight glinting off blue ocean, smiles brimming with ivory teeth, glittering gowns and crisp leisure suits. Fantasy Island? No… that’s show’s theme was instrumental, and thereby more difficult to memorize unintentionally.
The Love Boat! Soon we’ll be making another run
The Love Boat promises something for everyone
Set a course for adventure
Your mind on a new romance
I thought of Murray, who used to work in Lou Grant’s office with Mary Tyler Moore, and how he retired to a plum, cushy gig as the Love Boat’s captain. Maybe he had connections with Mr. Rourke, or Tattoo. No more putting up with the bloviations of Ted Baxter!
The evil agent of KAOS who tormented Maxwell Smart was reprogrammed, and to test his reliability, he was positioned as the ship’s doctor. Whatever your opinions of reprogramming might be, you can’t argue that Sigfried was a nasty man, and he is clearly happier as the lovable Dr. Adam Bricker.
Somehow, the Love Boat had contracted the baddest bartender in the world, even cooler than Cincinnati disc jockey Venus Flytrap, with whom my young white self initially confused him. Venus was more street-savvy, but Isaac the bartender had the superior ‘stache. Wherever Isaac went, the party followed.
In the late 1970s, TV screens were still relatively small. If a woman’s teeth were visible on a 6-inch picture tube, she was considered attractive; doubly so if her hair was notably shiny. Julie McCoy, the Love Boat’s toothsome cruise director, fit the bill on all counts. Pretty girls in 70s television had nice big bitey choppers, because their smiles are the biggest and most visible.
Darkness and Julie McCoy cannot coexist, and thus any fear I had of darkness was obliterated. As Jack Jones crooned the remainder of Paul Williams’ lyrics within my mind, I drifted into the sleep of the innocent. Although I was too young to know it, I had defeated the mind-killer.
I had faced my fear. I permitted it to pass over me and through me. And when it had gone past I turned to see its path. Where the fear had been was nothing. Only I remained.
Love won’t hurt anymore
It’s an open smile on a friendly shore