WHEN CELEBRITY OBSESSIONS ATTACK!
Although I have bared my soul in these pages with regard to my less-than-politically-correct affections for Mommie Dearest, Tom Jones, and Ozzy Osbourne, I have yet to come fully clean with you, dear reader. It is my hope that the dark secret I am about to reveal will result in the peaceful easy feeling of intimacy and one big cyberiffic "I'm OK, You're OK" group hug. It is my fear that you will never be able to look me in the virtual face again. I choose this moment to bare my soul because I have reached a crisis point with this celebrity obsession. It may be time for an intervention. You decide. The first step is admitting you have a problem, so here goes...
Since age 13, I have been obsessed with Jack Nicholson.
I can see the look of horror on your face. I know it's not pretty. But what can I do. We don't choose our celebrity obsessions. They choose us. It hasn't been easy to be a Jack fan. Let me relive the highs and lows of my relationship with Jack for you.
The Age of Innocence
At 13, having built up a vague fascination with Jack just from seeing him at the Oscars and from hearing my mom rave about his performance in Terms of Endearment, I rent Terms of Endearment. I am as captivated by the ex-astronaut playboy Garrett Breedlove as the sensible, frigid Aurora Greenway was. At this stage in my obsessional development, I have no shame. I put aside my daily habit of watching Raiders of the Lost Ark on video and reciting all the lines (record: 29 consecutive days). I kick Harrison Ford, who I had fancied since the days of The Empire Strikes Back, to the curb, although I do not remove his posters from my ceiling. I simply open a new Jack wing in my room and begin decorating. Fearing the harsh judgement of my pers, I resist going public with this new obsession and front myself as only having eyes for Simon Le Bon and Don Johnson. What exactly attracts my 13-year-old self to Jack? It's the eyebrows. There has never been a sexier pair of eyebrows. As Cher once said on a Todayinterview that I recorded for the archive, "Jack wasn't born to play the devil. His eyebrows were born to play the devil." Yes, it's Jack's eyebrows and his smile. And the Ray Ban Wayfarers. I save up my babysitting money and buy a pair in dual homage to Jack and Don.
Soon, I'm writing up a list of reasons, not unlike Luther's 95 Theses, why my parents, who had banned me from seeing all R-rated movies, should let me see Prizzi's Honor. The list includes such gems as "It will help me understand my Italian roots" and "the movie does not paint the mafia in an attractive light." I win my case. Jack gets nominated for an Oscar but fails to win. I will later fight the same battle for The Witches of Eastwick and be forced to endure watching the movie with my dad, squirming in my chair as Jack utters lines like "He has a tremendous schlong" and "I always like a little pussy after lunch." I have to say that my parents did not actively encourage or discourage my obsession, although they did question it. My mom called Jack "a libertine." I had to go look that one up. The dictionary said "hedonist." I had to look that one up and finally arrived at "pleasure seeker." What's so bad about that? Well, a lot, if you're as Catholic as I was supposed to be. People in the bible get turned into pillars of salt for behaving like Jack. As I typed libertine now, WordPerfect, bless its lil' heart, came up with a bunch of synonyms: free thinker, humanist, individualist, lecher, rake, wolf, flirt, degenerate, womanizer, rogue, playboy, sensualist, Don Juan, lustful and incontinent. With the exception of incontinent, I think these all suit Jack, at his best and his most base. I was attracted to his wildness and individualism and his bad boy behavior. I chose to downplay the degenerate and womanizer side.
Obsession as a Way of Life
Heartburn is released and Rated R and requires more campaigning on my part. I spend hours watching TV with the remote in my hand waiting to tape the commercials. The movie isn't too good, or maybe I'm just too young to care about a bittersweet divorce comedy. The only scene I really like is the one where Jack and Meryl sing all the songs they know about babies. I suddenly develop an interest in NBA basketball, particularly the LA Lakers, although I am living in St. Louis. Jack happens to have courtside seats.
I spend way too much time watching and taping Laker games. I save all the games on tape where Jack is shown in close-up, no matter how small. I type up an obsessive list of these games pinpointing the exact quarter and time when Jack is shown and describing his actions and wardrobe. The high point of my basketball season comes during a Lakers vs. Celtics playoff game when Jack grants Pat O'Brien a one-minute interview. He plugs his new movie The Witches of Eastwick in a very incoherent, leering way. This is Jack pissed out of his mind again at Boston Garden where, legend has it, he once mooned the Celtics fans. With the exception of post-Oscar victory press conferences, this is the only time I've ever seen Jack give a TV interview. He once told a journalist that it would make his job too hard if he let people see too much of who he truly is, therefore he sticks to print interviews.
The Age of Enlightenment
I start reading Jack biographies and old interviews in the library and discover that the illegitimate Jack grew up believing his mother was his sister and his grandmother was his mother. How very Chinatown. A journalist revealed the truth to him when he was in his 30s. His grandmother/mother and mother/sister had taken the secret to their graves. You can see where the guy might learn to distrust women. I can't condone his behavior, but I can understand where it comes from. I watch The Witches of Eastwick multiple times and revel in Jack's portrayal of the horny little devil. I amuse/terrify my friends by reciting his misogynistic monologues. 1987 is a major Jack year because in addition to The Witches of Eastwick, he also appears in Ironweed and Broadcast News. I can't find Jack's portrayal of a bum too sexy but I do admire his performance and lack of vanity. It seems to be his best performance since his classic 70s days (and I'd been watching and taping all of those old movies from the brilliant Five Easy Pieces to the horrendous The Fortune to the camp classic Tommy). Jack gets nominated for Best Actor but loses to his good buddy and fellow sex addict, Michael Douglas.
I think I'm Alone Now
I go through high school believing I am the world's only Jack fan. I put pictures of him in my locker, when I can find them. I find it very unfair that my classmates have no shortage of Kirk Cameron and Jon Bon Jovi centerfolds, thanks to teen magazines, while I am forced to buy grown-up publications like National Enquirer and Vanity Fair for Jack coverage. I get a brief merchandising windfall and peer respect when Batman is released in 1989. Department stores actually sell shirts with Jack's picture on them. Jack appears at the People's Choice Awards and hams it up on stage with Michael Keaton.
These are happy Jack days. Even the accompanying scandal is a fun one. A starfucker named Karen Mayo Chandler reveals details of her affair with Jack in Playboy. She says he liked to chase her around the room with a paddle and wore lime green socks and nothing else to bed. She says he kept his stamina up by eating peanut butter sandwiches in the sack. I'm too embarrassed to go to Waldenbooks and attempt to purchase Playboy so I have to settle for the details revealed in the tabloids and on Inside Edition. Later, I'll pick up the magazine anonymously on Ebay. Jack is on top of the world at this point and he rakes in the big bucks due to having a percentage of the Batman gross.
Unfortunately, he soon crashes back to earth when the sequel to Chinatown, The Two Jakes, is released to mediocre reviews and little fanfare. Jack has plumped up due to the stress of directing and starring in this plagued picture. He looks bloated and sweaty on screen, like Fat Elvis, another one of my unsavory obsessions. He has man boobs. The movie's one sex scene features the world-weary Jack, too tired for romance, telling Madeleine Stowe to get down on her knees and stick her ass in the air. To make things worse, tabloids reveal that Jack has impregnated Rebecca Broussard, who plays his secretary in the movie (and who has continued to "act"...most recently in a 1-minute love scene with Jerry Springer in Ringmaster). Rebecca is half his age, a waitress at a club that he owns, and one of his daughter's friends. This is the final humiliation for the classy, long-suffering Anjelica Huston and she slaps Jack in the face on the movie set and ends their 17-year relationship.
I took this break-up pretty hard. Anjelica was the yin to Jack's yang. They were good together. As John Huston's daughter, she gave the working class Jersey boy entree into Hollywood society. She made him more respectable. I can't blame Anjelica for moving on, but I don't think Jack's been the same since. Just rent the vastly underrated The Crossing Guard and watch Jack and Anjelica together. Their scenes are so charged. Even at the Oscars this year, the camera captured a lusty expression on his face as she was introduced as a presenter. He's so not over her.
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