Randolph Mantooth has owed me a dollar since 1974.
At age eleven, my life was transformed by the discovery of Emergency!,
the show about a pair of young paramedics in '70s Los Angeles. I
had a weekly assignation with Johnny Gage, fiery but earnest half
of Squad 51, played by actor Randy Mantooth. He rearranged my molecules,
and not just because I disregarded my father's warnings about radiation
and sat too close to the TV screen. Through our family's solid state
"wood"-paneled RCA, Randy/Johnny orchestrated my sexual
It wasn't just the confident way he said "Clear" before
slapping paddles on some poor schmoe's chest as the actor portraying
the schmoe did his best defibrillation interpretation. Johnny Gage
was the '70s equivalent of the Baywatch lifeguard -- hot,
fit and trained in the Heimlich Maneuver. As far as I was concerned,
there was nothing more appealing than lying limp and lovely in the
arms of a professional lifesaver. "One amp of epi" was
paramedic for orgasm, a word I loosely understood thanks to rainy
afternoons spent with my mother's copy of The Sensuous Woman
Tucked between Valley of the Dolls and QB VII in my
parents' study, I discovered the thin paperback volume that picked
up where Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret left off. The
fact that the author wanted to be connected to this material only
by an initial indicated that this was explosive stuff. I used my
Get Smart smarts, "casually" going for Wite-Out
or rubber bands, only to emerge with "J" tucked inside
the waistband of my shorts (apply directly to affected area).
I became the mysterious "J"'s youngest and most devoted
acolyte, training for the day when fate would bring me and Johnny
together. "J" described herself as "a lady in the
living room" and "a marvelous bitch in bed," and
that's what I wanted to be. Through observation of my mother's bridge
club, I deduced that ladies wore control top L'eggs, pencil skirts
and white heels (before Labor Day), while they drank gin and smoked
Winstons. Too uncomfortable. I was not cut for lady-hood. I could,
however, see becoming the epitome of the "marvelous bitch,"
dressed in Pucci maxi-dresses, Greek sandals, and Jackie O shades,
washing down Mother's Little Helpers with a snifter of Drambuie.
Armed with "J"'s book, I had all the tools I needed to
become a counterculture sexpot.
"J" described herself as having "heavy thighs, lumpy
hips, protruding teeth, a ski jump nose, poor posture, flat feet,
and uneven ears." I had perfect ears, a dancer's posture and
plenty of time for braces; what I didn't have was a clue. But by
following "J"'s Sensuous Woman Program, I could
get one. And so, as Johnny earned his stripes in the paramedic world,
I worked diligently toward my womanhood badge.
I sped through Sensuality Exercises One through Three which involved
(1) blindfolding yourself and touching things (feathers, saltines,
and the "unexpected firmness of velveteen," not yourself);
(2) closing your eyes, taking off your shirt and rubbing the aforementioned
items "all over," and: (3) something that involved clean
sheets and an "icy pool" of hand lotion. "J"
warned about the dangers of becoming a narcissist. Translation:
"Don't wank too much." No danger of that, as the remaining
chapters focused solely on the care and feeding of the penis, and
suggested for extracurricular reading: How to Keep Fit After
I faithfully "trained like an athlete for the act of love."
Never mind that I had no idea what the "act of love" was.
I was in sixth grade, and St. Paul's School for Girls didn't teach
Sex Ed until seventh, at which point it occupied half of one Science
period, the other half being devoted to fetal pig dissection. The
lecture focused on "falling off the roof," our teacher
Mrs. Booze's euphemism for getting your period, which, being uncomfortable,
unsightly, and potentially odiferous, was undeniably terrifying.
The penis could only be worse.
I emerged befuddled from Mrs. Booze's birds/bees/vas deferens lecture
and turned to my friend, Christine.
"You know, in sex, does he actually, you know, put it in? Or
do the -- things, like, swim around till they get to, you know,
"In. He puts it all the way in."
I sat in sober silence, unsure whether I loved even Mantooth enough
to endure anything that disgusting.
Later, I pondered Tiger Beat, worshipping the centerfold
of Mantooth reclining on his side, eyes burning with the question,
"How much do you really love me?" "Clear!" And
my quest to become the "marvelous bitch" was back on track,
even if it necessitated being split in two by something I couldn't
begin to imagine.
I went to work on Sensuality Exercise Number Five -- tongue stretches
-- visualizing Johnny bent over my languid body administering the
kiss of life. Upon revival I would slip him the tongue as only the
valedictorian of the sensuous woman program could. Tongue doing
lip-laps per "J"'s instruction, I paged through the Tiger
That's when I noticed it. "Join the Emergency! Fan Club
and receive your personally autographed 8x10 photo." I sprung
into action, swiping one of Dad's business envelopes and an eight
cent stamp, stuck my dollar inside, licked with expert tonguery,
and buried the missive in the outgoing mail.
so began thirty-four years of waiting for the mailman.
I rushed to the mailbox every day in anticipation of Randy's arrival,
only to find bills, bank statements and Highlights. I'd been
a fool for sending cash in an envelope, my parents had always warned
me about that. I should have forged a check. I knew how; St. Paul's
had covered check-writing years before the human body.
The yearned-for fan club kit never arrived, and I moved on to new
unrequited loves, ranging from Little Joe on Bonanza, to
the boy who played Charlie Brown opposite my Lucy in the high school
musical. Inevitably, the recurring themes of disappointment and
actor-lust led me to move to New York to become an actress, with
fans and stalkers of my own. Boys came and went, but the sting of
Randy's rejection stayed with me.
PAGE 1 2
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission|