The inspo for this post came to me eighteen years ago while I was waiting for my discount ‘Mei Mei’ haircut.
It was 2001. I was 16. I wore wide-leg jeans. There may or may not have been cargo pockets. I don’t want to remember.
I wanted long hair. Nothing fancy. Straight, long, black, clean. Just trim my split ends, lady.
Except my mom had this thing about getting her $12 worth and that meant chopping, snipping, bobbing and all the horrors one can do to a 16-year-old girl who just wanted to maintain her long hair.
I was sulking in the corner of our local Vietnamese salon, breathing in nail polish fumes and flipping through a tattered copy of Seventeen, when I read a ‘letter to the editor’ from a girl obsessed with Lord of the Rings…
As in she couldn’t stop watching Lord of the Rings. We’re talking exhausting her VHS copy, ten re-watches in a week…madness!
Was this obsession normal?
I got her.
I’ve worn out my share of VHS tapes and scratched a few DVDs in my day. Looking back, I’ve had a few choice episodes of obsession.
Do I need to mention The Witch of Blackbird Pond after writing so lustfully about it in this post? Writing about it here would be like beating a dead horse and I have a feeling you’ll want to beat me!
So no more pining over The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
Can I just add…
I have dreams about Kit & Nat’s future, some of which were spicier than you would expect for Puritan novel. But that’s my gift, no? Seeing spice where no spice exists.
Now that I’ve set the tone for this post (and future blog posts), allow me to regal you with tales of my weirdest VHS obsessions: we’re talking movies and strangely specific musicals that I have stuck on repeat.
In the early 90’s, there was a brief period when I owned 3 VHS tapes: Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid Sing Along. I would’ve preferred owning the actual Little Mermaid if not for that goddamn vault.
So three movies… which I loved and played over and over again.
That was small fries compared to my love for Anastasia.
In 8th grade, I took Anastasia to a whole new level of obsession.
We’re talking multiple viewings.
We’re talking printing out screen caps via my HP ink-jet printer (wait, did I say my printer? My uncle’s printer! Ink was expensive) and creating a Dimitri + Anya collage for my binder inserts. Other girls had Backstreet Boys or NSYNC collages, but me? I’ve always had a thing for fictional guys. Or dead guys (see young Ernest Hemingway). What does this say about me?
The chemistry between Anya and Dimitri was the blueprint for my eternal love of romance novels and rom coms.
There’s bickering and score keeping, waltzing and dreamy music.
My inner anime fangirl is nose-bleeding as we speak.
And don’t get me started on Dimitri and his debonair body movements. Maybe I should freeze frame Dimitri waving his newsboy cap on a streetcar in the Rumor in St. Petersburg number?
I know he’s not real, but gah, just look at his teal vest and swishy ‘90’s teen idol hair.
What is this hair style called, exactly?
Personally, I call it the ‘Leo in Titanic,’ but then I did some internet sleuthing and found the answer!
You may swoon now.
Okay, it’s not most appealing hairstyle description so I will refrain from describing anymore.
On a sliding scale of sexy animated leading men, Dimitri is an 11 and if you’ve missed Anastasia in your youth, my eyes mist over in pity for you.
Is a youth without crushing over a cartoon with a Middle Parted Bowl Cut squandered?
I think so…
Gormenghast, the 2000 BBC Mini Series
What a shame.
I caught Gormenghast on YouTube earlier this year and am devastated to report that it didn’t age well. It was a green screen mess. The actors were slightly annoying as in ‘do you really need to shout that line?’ Worse, it wasn’t doing anything for me. I felt nothing.
Alas, there was a time when Gormenghast was my summer obsession.
I recorded it from PBS.
I PRINTED out a pixelated picture of a pre-Tudors Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ sinister face on green computer paper.
Then I affixed this printout to my VHS tape.
That’s what we did in 2001: taped programs on TV and printed out labels on super slow HP printers. Ancient times, ya’ll.
Also, when I say ‘programs’ I sound like I’m 80.
What’s Gormenghast about?
Just so you know: I hate summaries. If you met me at a party and ask me to summarize my own books, you’ll get a half-ass “so there’s monster hunters…and they fall in love. They sleep with each other, but not at the same time.” I will change the subject because I hate summaries.
Unlike Anastasia, Gormenghast is a story that is not self-explanatory so I will attempt to summarize.
So there’s this fantasy kingdom…
And a cast of eccentric characters who roam around a crumbling stone kingdom, lost in their eccentricities.
A kitchen boy decides he doesn’t want to work in the kitchens anymore.
He would much rather sit on the throne.
Then serious shit happens.
Defenestrating (that’s where you toss someone out of a window). Hold on… Have I ever tossed someone out of a window in my books? I don’t believe so…but it’s a good idea!
The kitchen boy swaps his rags for all black.
At some point, he acquires a sword. Or was it a cane? Whatever it was, sixteen-year-old me was like “Fuck yeah!”
That kitchen boy is Steerpike (no last name). The coolest people never have a last name.
When I was sixteen, this homicidal maniac was my hero and literary crush, which doesn’t speak well of my values but if you’ve read Black Heart, Red Ruby, you’ll wonder about me.
Steerpike was my introduction to an anti-hero.
His ambition spoke to me.
His rags to riches story arch touched me.
There’s a scene when he’s climbing out of the bowels of the kitchens and up to the castle roofs where he plots and dreams.
His quest for kingdom domination would later corrupt him, but at that moment, he was just trying to escape from a bad place.
That scene left a lasting impression on my budding author brain. I wrote my first and only poem about it. It’s not good poem, but it rhymes and rhyming takes effort.
I vowed that someday I’ll write a book about a metaphorical climb from hell to heaven and an ambition so ruthless (and desperate) that it could only lead to bloodshed.
Black Heart, Red Ruby has Gormenghast to thank for its existence.
But one climb is not enough.
Someday…time and motivation permitting, I will write the sweeping fantasy to end all fantasies and perfectly nail my homage to Steerpike.
Also, I plan to toss a character out of a window. How or why? I’ll leave those details for later.
Les Miserables, the 1995 Royal Albert Hall Concert
My friends put up with a lot.
Notice that I didn’t list just ‘Les Miserables.’
I have very peculiar needs.
I didn’t care for the movie.
I didn’t care for the 25th anniversary concert with Nick Jonas as Marius and his constipated facial expressions.
Notice that I specifically said the 1995 Royal Albert Hall Concert because this cast sings the songs just the way I like it. Not that I have theater critic aspirations, but if I did… I demand a specific type of emoting. I want my facial and vocal nuances just so.
This concert has everything I want. Except sets. It doesn’t have sets, but that is besides the point.
The point is…
Give me a minute.
In college, I invited a friend over for lunch.
He thought he was getting a free sandwich, maybe a bowl of mediocre soup.
What he got was a forced viewing of 1995 Les Miserables concert.
He didn’t even know what Les Miserables was. I thought it was self-explanatory. Doesn’t everyone listen to Broadway cast recordings for the hell of it?
My friends put up with a lot.
I don’t have tons of friends. Do you want to be my friend? Actually… Don’t do it.
Unless you want to watch a very specific musical under duress… RUN!
Phantom of the Opera, the 25th Anniversary Royal Albert Hall Concert
See what I did again?
Speaking of specific editions of musicals, the 25th Royal Albert Hall Concert is the ultimate.
The movie? Meh.
The original Broadway cast with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman? Not doing it for me.
It’s all about the 25th anniversary concert with Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo.
Oh man, this version…
I was so obsessed.
Ramin’s Phantom touched me. In my soul. My soul.
His hand gestures were the best hand gestures. And I’ve studied theatrical hand gestures. His finger curls are the creme de la creme of finger curls.
And his voice: I gaave you my muuuusic. Made your song taaaake wing…
So tortured. Heartbreaking. Earth shattering. Just let me curl up into a fetal ball because if you’ve heard him sing you will be ruined.
Your legs will turn to jelly.
You won’t be able to stand.
You’ll spend your life crawling around the floor because of this beautiful fucking voice…much like the Phantom crawled after Christine.
Toward the end of the musical, the Phantom was literally crawling on the stage and I just wanted to hug him and give him a bowl of my mediocre soup. Maybe make him watch Les Miserables 1995.
This version of Phantom sparked the great Phantom craze of my late 20s.
I consumed Susan Kay’s Phantom, a massive 1,000-page book about Erik’s life, love, music, and where he got his mechanical monkey. I wept so hard.
I had a Phantom of the Opera themed birthday party.
At my wedding, I walked down the aisle to ‘Think of Me.’
In Love in a Time of Monsters, I burned Liam’s face and made him wear a mask.
Oh Phantom, I’m still not over you. I’m still crawling on the floor because your yearning vibrato shook me to my very core.
My current work in progress is a modern day retelling of Phantom of the Opera, except my Phantom is an EDM DJ/producer… but that is a conversation for another day.
I’ve poured my heart out to you about my passion for masked men, homicidal kitchen boys, and communist con artists with a middle parted bowl cut. I think we are now friends.
Throw me a freaking bone here and share some of your fictional obsessions so I won’t feel like a weirdo.
Can we watch Ramin’s Phantom together so I can show you how his capable organ-playing fingers curl just so…?
Have I frightened you?
Do you want to watch Les Miserables (1995)… *shakes virtual fist*… together?
*There are Amazon affiliate links in this post. If you click and buy something you don’t need, I earn a few cents to spend in the candy store.