In seventh grade my friends and I were not part of the popular crowd of girls who looked sexy in gymsuits and paired off with boys. Instead, we immersed ourselves in a world of make-believe.
We were three couples: me and Ricky Nelson, Phyllis Kirschner and Tab Hunter, Shessie Einbinder and Pat Boone. Each “family” had one child as well as a fat scrap book filled with photos of the husband, and gossipy headlines cut from movie magazines. On the wall next to my bed I taped a picture of Ricky wearing a cowboy suit with pants so tight you could see a bulge in his crotch.
Star-struck by Ricky, I saw other girls on TV screaming when they watched him perform. Then one sultry afternoon I squeezed in among thousands of sweating, lovesick teenagers at Steel Pier in Atlantic City to see his show. Once the shrieking started, I joined in and couldn’t stop; each time I screamed was louder than the time before until I thought the veins in my neck would pop.
Nearly two decades later when I was living in D.C., Ricky was featured at The Cellar Door, a small nightclub in Georgetown. Only now he was called Rick. I decided to go say hello to prove that childhood dreams could come true. The owner was a friend of mine and helped me time my arrival to be between the 7:30 and 9:30 shows.
Still in a tennis skirt from a game I had played earlier, I ran in breathless and said, “I wanted to meet you in order to prove that childhood dreams can come true.”
“Thanks,” said Rick. “Are you staying for the show?”
God, it never occurred to me to stay for the show; I had moved on. “Gee, I’m sorry I can’t,” I answered and hurried away.
I still can’t believe he’s dead.
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