Teenage View by Patricia Finney
Unknown UK Magazine, mid-1970s
What makes girls of 12 to 16 willing to buy practically any kind of magazine if it has a certain actor or singer in it?
Why is it a major tragedy if parents decide to watch another TV programme at the same time as the one featuring the beloved?
Why do young teenagers go to airports and happily crush each other to death if there's a chance of seeing or even touching their idols?

I'm not sure, but I did most of these things myself and was very annoyed if anyone said it was a passing fancy.
When I was 14 or 15 I was "madly in love" with Pete Duel who acted Smith in the cowboy programme "Alias Smith and Jones."
I wasn't alone in this. Most of the form I was in at the time divided its love pretty equally between Smith and Jones (played by Ben Murphy) and our classroom was well papered with their smiling faces – with a few pictures of Bible lands relegated to forlorn corners. Our weeks revolved around 8p.m. on Mondays.
All day we'd discuss the coming programme. Would Smith – or Jones fall in love/get arrested/rob a bank/get shot? And would our parents let us watch it?
Next morning we'd come in and say: "Did you see it…?" "Did you see the bit when…?" "Didn't he look gorgeous when…? Wasn't it awful when…?" "You didn't miss it!"

My friends laugh with a certain amount of embarrassment now at the things they did and said when in love with Smith or Jones, but at the time we all lived and breathed Smith (or Jones – never both – that was greedy).
There was never any question of rivalry or jealousy between us. In fact being "madly in love" with the same one gave a wonderful feeling of fellowship and also something to talk about during and between lessons.
We used to compare numbers of photographs pasted on desks and take infinite pains in carving "I luv Pete Duel" or "I love Ben Murphy" all over the tops of desks with compass points.

The mourning that followed the death of Pete Duel was not only universal but completely genuine.
We were all desperately upset and devoured any account or information given in any magazines, no matter how mawkish or inaccurate. A few people transferred allegiance to Ben Murphy, but most stayed faithful to Pete Duel and absolutely everyone hated Roger Davis who we felt had usurped Duel's rightful place.
Tombstones instead of hearts were carved on desk with the inscription "In loving memory of Pete Duel. R.I.P." and nobody at all thought it funny.

We soon grew out of it of course or fell for other actors or singers or even real boys. But it never occurred to me at the time to think of the actors and the boys, who were often spotty anyway, as members of the same species.
The emotions that my friends and I went through were quite genuinely felt and although they were basically sexual, they were never overtly so.

The format and humour of the American Cop show "Starsky and Hutch" is precisely the same as "Alias Smith and Jones." Only the century and which side of the law they are on have changed.
I must confess I rather fancy Hutch but my sister is the one with pictures of him up on her walls and friends "mad on him" at school. It's all very familiar and makes me feel quite old at 18.
When I asked why she liked him (as Pete Duel was to me, he's old enough to be her father) she said "Well he's got to be manly and strong – not soppy. This was referring to the glutinous way he sang a song on "Top Of The Pops" recently.
It's exactly what I would have said if anyone had asked the same question about Pete Duel.

Falling "madly in love" with a man who is far too old for you, quite apart from being on the other side of the Atlantic, is not just "looking for a father-figure" as psychologists would have it.
It's a kind of dress rehearsal for the real emotion of falling in love with a "real" boy – but at a safe distance, with no chance of anything really happening except safely in your fantasy and with the support of all your friends.
As such I don't think there's anything to laugh at or be ashamed of in it, although it shouldn't be too blatantly exploited either.
And I wish good luck to all those people "madly in love" with Starsky, or Hutch – or any other teenage idol, for that matter.

Back to Articles List