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Idol talk: Lawrence residents reminisce about their teen crushes

May 17, 2010

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Sharon Wang admires a fellow fan’s Beatles memorabilia. Her favorite Beatle in her high school days was Paul McCartney.

Sharon Wang admires a fellow fan’s Beatles memorabilia. Her favorite Beatle in her high school days was Paul McCartney.

On the street

Who was your teen idol growing up?

Marcia Brady. I always liked her personality and thought she was fun.

More responses

The hottest man on the planet isn’t a man at all.

He’s looking for his estranged “Baby,” even though at 16, he’s not much more than a baby himself.

And that’s just the way millions of girls like him.

Oh, Justin Bieber, you heartthrob, you, causing riots and leaving faint girls in your toothy wake worldwide.

The cases in point are about as dense as the singer’s side-swept hair. They include an incident a month ago, when a free concert in Australia turned into pandemonium and fully outfitted riot police had to be engaged. And then there was the time his manager was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a canceled Bieber appearance at a New Jersey mall.

And just in case you didn’t think tweens to be a serious set, there’s this one: Bombshell reality star Kim Kardashian received death threats when she joked that Bieber was her boyfriend.

What do mothers and, ahem, former teens themselves, have to say about the angel-voiced kid with the wispy hair and penchant for making today’s girls swoon?

Pssssh. He’s nothing compared to good old Paul McCartney.

Or Leif Garrett. The Coreys (Feldman and Haim). Kirk Cameron. David or Shaun Cassidy. Or even some of the less popular guys from New Kids on the Block.

Yes, kids, mom had a teen idol, too. Someone whose face she plastered on any open plane in her domain, whether it be the walls of her room, the door to her locker or the covers of her notebooks. And your dad probably had a pin-up or two he mooned over, whether or not he was brave enough to display her photo publicly.

There were heartthrobs before Justin Bieber, and no, we’re not talking about Joe Jonas. The marketing of teens to teens has been a moneymaker for Hollywood since the days of World War II, says Jeff Kuhr, film and media teacher at Lawrence High School.

“Since the 1940s, the whole phenomenon of the teenager has been pretty prevalent in culture,” says Kuhr, who jokes his teen dream was actor and oatmeal pitchman Wilford Brimley. “And once it was determined that teenagers had disposable income, suddenly you have a whole new marketing toward them, from film, from music, as well as television.”

Beatlemania

Nobody understood that get-rich dream of marketing to teens better than the mop-topped boys from across the pond: The Beatles.

Sharon Wang of Tonganoxie graduated from the town’s high school in 1966, meaning her class was ground zero for Beatlemania. And, boy, did she have a bad case.

“A girlfriend of mine, her father had a record store, so we were able to hear and buy their albums early,” she says. “A lot of us favored Paul and several thought Ringo was special. My locker and books had Paul’s picture on them.”

Paul as in Paul McCartney, of course. Wang says that she had so many photos of the Beatles plastered on the walls of her room that her father jokingly treated them like their namesake pests.

“My father, he would say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to use insect spray every time I come into your room because of the Beatles,’ ” she says.

And the Beatles easily transcended age groups, winning over not only high school girls, but also girls who wouldn’t get their diplomas until well after the band had broken up.

“Back then, everybody had their favorite Beatle,” says Lawrence’s Rhonda Marshall, 55, who graduated high school in 1973, and says her favorite was Paul. “He was the cute one.”

Bad boys

The year Marshall graduated from high school, Kate Zylstra also had a dark-eyed dream boat on her wall. He just wasn’t the type of nominally safe guy her friends swooned for.

“Nothing freaked my mother out more at the time than me having a particular glossy black-and-white photo on my wall. The thing is, it is 1973, and I am 11 years old. The photo is of a young Al Pacino from the film, ‘Serpico,’ ” she says. “He had long, shaggy hair, beard, mustache and — gasp — an earring. My friends had posters of Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett. No boys for me.”

Zylstra says now that she’s a mother herself she looks at her tween crush in a much different light.

“Being a mom, now, of a 15-year-old son, I’m thinking ... I must have just really freaked her out,” the Lawrence resident says. “I mean, how many girls when they were 11 had Al Pacino on their wall? What does that say about me? I’m not sure.”

That said, once she officially became a teenager, Zylstra settled into a more mainstream crush: John Travolta, circa “Saturday Night Fever.”

“I think it was that 15-year-old awakening of the hormones and the way he would dance,” she says, admitting she would “dance” with him. “It was just a hormone thing, I guess he was my Justin Bieber.”

Then vs. now

So how would the heartthrobs of today — the Justin Biebers, Robert Pattinsons and Joe Jonases — stack up if pared against the classic heartthrobs of the past 50 years. Obviously, today’s moms are a bit biased.

“Oh my gosh, I don’t see it. I don’t see it at all,” Zylstra says of what teen girls see in Bieber. “Like that David Archuleta from ‘American Idol.’ No, I really don’t see, no.”

Kuhr says that’s the beauty of the teen idol — it’s not only about who your “choices” are for crushdom as a teen, but also what the world is like during your childhood. And right now, teens are either Team Jacob or Team Edward rather than Team Paul or Team Ringo.

“I think every generation gets the teen idol that they deserve,” Kuhr says. “Just like every generation has its own horror films that kind of reflect the anxieties of that generation, I think you see that with who the teen celebrities are.”

Note: In a photo above, Sharon Wang was originally misindentified as Rhonda Marshall. This has been corrected.

Comments

MojoCatnip 3 years, 11 months ago

Henry Rollins and H.R. from Bad Brains.

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 11 months ago

connie francis and dionne warwick in concert together this weekend in Vegas.

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jenniflip 3 years, 11 months ago

I had an enormous crush on Colin Hay from Men at Work. I dreamed that we would meet when I was at the magical age of 16, (obviously completely unaware of the illegalities) marry, and live happily ever after. Why Colin Hay? Who knows, it's just Overkill.

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overthemoon 3 years, 11 months ago

Davey Jones. Totally manufactured cornball fiction. But in sixth grade the Monkeys were cute a good fill-in for those of us just a tad young for the Beatles heartthrob period. And they did a couple of decent songs.

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whats_going_on 3 years, 11 months ago

New Kids, Leo DeC and Jonathon Taylor Thomas.

Hey, at least I can be proud of 1 of them. Leo turned out to be a pretty decent actor.

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barrypenders 3 years, 11 months ago

Tiny Tim always made my toe tap.

Stimulus, El Kabong, and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless us all

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drnater 3 years, 11 months ago

Distant a hero is only what you make it to be, it doesnt have to be someone who fought in the war just to be a "real" hero. In my mind Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Malone, Shaq and all the rest of the Dream Team were hero's. They didnt fight a war for our country but they brought prominence back to America during the Olympics. The Beatles are hero's for inspiring musicians because if it wasnt for them half the recording techniques and various sounds that are heard everywhere now probably wouldnt be where they are. They put so much into there music and that is what got them to be national icons. Anyone who questions why any of the Beatles are rich, or if they were in it just to get rich needs to go back and check their history. If they wanted to ultimately make the most money possible, they wouldnt have started making their music so intricate that they couldnt reproduce it live. Which is whats funny about music now, we hear all these people singing on the radio and are so "in love" with them, yet we hear them live and they cant even sing. Thats the problem now days, is music is more of a joke than a serious art. Justin Bieber is the equivalent to what Billy Gillman was to country, once he hits puberty nobody will want to listen to him again. The Jonas Brothers front like a band with their instruments, yet they have a whole band on another stage that is out of sight of the camera. T-pain butchers his own songs live because he's so wrapped in autotune that he cant really sing. At least when boy bands around they could all keep a note, and werent tone deaf. That is why music now days isnt really music, its electronically reconfigured "masterpieces." This makes me wish that I was allowed to grow up and see when a group like The Beatles sold out Shea Stadium, and could actually sing and play their respected songs live. What we have now are embarrassments to music, at least rappers can come up with truth to speak about everyday life and reproduce it accurately live. The death of Pop Music happened when we started allowing people who cant sing come out with hit records. (see fergie)

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Irenaku 3 years, 11 months ago

I have to say it...Ralph Maccio. :)

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distant_voice 3 years, 11 months ago

As a kid, I always liked rock music, and when it came to making it, The Beatles and The Stones couldn't be beaten. But even as a teen, I never looked at these guys with anything remotely akin to hero worship. I think the Loving Spoonful said it best with the lyrics: "...they sang about beauty and love at $10,000,000 a show" (okay, so they sang $10,000 in 1966 money). That's the reality of most all rock bands that carries right down to the hip hop music of today. You've got to be wearing some major blinders if you don't think they're in it for the money. Is Paul McCartney rich because he made music people just happened to like, or is he rich because he targeted his music to what he knew fans would pay to hear? My heroes happened to be my Scout Leaders. No, not the guys who dressed up in cute khaki uniforms and helped us make things out of Popsicle sticks; my two Scout leaders had been Marines in the Pacific during WWII, and learned the hard way what values are important to pass along. These were the real heroes.

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denak 3 years, 11 months ago

Count me as one of the people who just don't get Justin Bierber. To me, he is just manufactured.

At least, Duran Duran played their own instruments. :)

Dena

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Deja Coffin 3 years, 11 months ago

My five year old loves Justin Bieber.... him and the Jonas Brothers. So does my two year old but I think that's just so she can be like her big sister. My crushes growing up were Boys 2 Men and Immature (if anyone remembers them).

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scott3460 3 years, 11 months ago

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.

And Vicki too, but you all probably don't know her.

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violet4ever 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm an adult and probably older than you since you have a young daughter. I too had a huge crush on Paul McCartney, and I would hole up in my room spinning Meet the Beatles (my first album) over and over (and crying to some songs), with Beatles posters on my walls and every teen magazine that had Paul in it. I loved his voice and still do today. I love a beautiful Bel Canto style voice. I like Pavarotti's gorgeous Bel Canto voice too. I do not get Justin Bieber with his swagger coach and autotune though I can see how teens and tweens would be enamored. But I certainly get David Archuleta, another beautiful Bel Canto, who is always his dorky sweet self and hates how autotune robs the emotion from a voice. Many adults appreciate David Archuleta's singing, non-judgmental kindness and strength of personal character. Frankie Avalon, Tony Orlando and Paul Anka all get David Archuleta. Paul Anka said he would choose David to play himself as a young man in his autobiographical play. If you only know David from American Idol, you might be pleasantly surprised by his pop music and Christmas album. And starting June 1, we expect his childhood memoir, then a new single and new album. I'm an adult and I can't wait.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

Beatlemania only lasted about 5 years, primarily because the Beatles were more interested in making their music than being teen heartthrobs. They were phenomenal musicians and songwriters, and dramatically influenced the course of popular music. Paul McCartney can still sell out stadium tours, primarily because of his music, not his boyish good looks.

Will this be true of Justin Bieber 5 years from now, much less 30, 40, or 50?

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