They say a man never forgets his first celebrity crush, no matter how many pieces of paper say he needs to stay 100 yards away at all times. The 1980s were filled with plenty of options, too, from Phoebe Cates emerging from her swimming pool to Lea Thompson nonchalantly shaking her ass as she offered to share her bed with an alien duck. But like most of the kids who grew up watching the iconic TGIF block on ABC in the late 80s, my first real crush was born on October 21, 1988, when Danny Tanner was given his own local morning talk show, “Wake Up, San Francisco,” with his co-host Rebecca Donaldson, who was played by Lori Loughlin.
Up to that point, Loughlin’s career had been filled with mostly-forgettable roles, but her work as Aunt Becky would become the stuff of legends in the annals of really attractive family sitcom actresses. Sure, Becky ended up changing the whole dynamic of her character and the show by marrying the cool but sensitive Uncle Jesse Katsopolis, because the hot girl always ended up with the bad boy with a mullet made of feathers in the 80s, but she was still the girl who made a generation of hopeless geeks dream of one day falling in love with the girl next door and raising a family in their own brother-in-law’s attic.
Today, as Loughlin turns 50 years young, I wanted to pay tribute to my first celebrity crush by reminding the world that she was more than just Aunt Becky, the TV personality who sacrificed so much to help provide a responsible female role model for the three Tanner girls, who were otherwise being raised by an obsessive neat freak, rock star and grown man with a giant puppet on his hand. In fact, I’ve always been shocked and disappointed that Loughlin’s career wasn’t filled with considerably better roles, because when you think of all of the terrible actresses to make it out the 80s, she wasn’t that much worse than Drew Barrymore or Alyssa Milano.
She’s still going strong, though, with her Hallmark Channel series When Calls the Heart being renewed for a second season, and the occasional Full House nostalgia drawing her to Jimmy Fallon’s set. So I thought there was no better way to celebrate Loughlin than by going all the way back and cherishing the entire body of work in this love letter to the woman who was my very first celebrity crush so many years ago.
While we are years apart in age and you are presumably happily married to Mossimo Giannulli, whose clothing line was a staple of my mid-90s wardrobe, I couldn’t help but take this chance to wonder what could have been. From the earliest days of your career, you were appearing in roles that really spoke to the matters of my heart, like this commercial for Arby’s:
If my heart was an order of slightly-stale curly fries and a soggy Beef ‘N Cheddar, then you were the Arby’s Sauce that I poured all over it in order to make it all palatable. If you had done a commercial for Taco Bell, I’d probably be shouting at and cursing God and my parents for not creating me years earlier.
But then came your big break and very own Phoebe Cates pool moment in 1985’s Secret Admirer, as you played Toni, the beautiful girl next door in love with Michael, who was in turn in love with Deborah (Kelly Preston), who had a thing for big, dumb bros. Haha, the whole thing was just one massive misunderstanding set to goofy pop music.
Naturally, Michael couldn’t see how good he had things right in his own swimming pool, and he almost lost it all when Toni took off for her study abroad session, but thanks to that sense of 80s romance that caused teenage boys to chase their true loves through airports and, in this case, shipyards, Toni was able to risk her life by leaping into the ocean so she could be with her true love, even if it meant completely blowing off her educational responsibilities. If only that love letter had found its way into my locker.
The prom game changed forever the following year when you starred as Christian Holly in the inspirational BMX film Rad, which featured the greatest high school dance scene in the history of motion picture.
I wasn’t old enough to understand it then, but if I could go back and change everything, I’d have totally rode my old Haro into my senior prom. Sure, I didn’t know any tricks and could barely do a wheelie, and my date probably would have left with one of the pothead jocks by the time I’d even fit my bike into our limo, but I would have done all of that for you, Lori.
In 1987, a year before Full House would start and eventually turn you into a household name, you hitched your wagon to the star power of another generation with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in Back to the Beach. This was one of those movies that HBO played every day during the summer when I was home all day with nothing to do, so I remember this one as vividly as any good movie from the 80s. And yet I wonder if this specific scene isn’t the reason that ska and its pop-punk cousin had such a big presence in the 90s.
I don’t think I’d even know who Fishbone was for several more years, so watching that clip again for the first time in God knows how long is really fascinating. Was Fishbone criticized the same way that the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were when they showed up in Clueless? I may never know the answer to that, but at least I’m the only person on Earth who cares. More importantly, Back to the Beach gave us this guy, and he’s a true hero of 80s cinema:
In early 1988, you changed your image a little by playing Tara in the prom hijinks movie The Night Before, starring Keanu Reeves as Winston, the clueless dolt who gets to take Tara to the prom and somehow ends up selling her to a little person pimp named Tito. You know, Lori, when I think back on all of the great 80s movies about the average dork trying to score a date with the hot girl, only to end up in a series of zany events that involve some serious crimes, it breaks my heart that The Night Before doesn’t rank up there with License to Drive or Sixteen Candles, among others, just because of a silly little thing like truly terrible acting.
Thank goodness for YouTube perverts being able to edit all of the scenes of 24-year old you acting like a teenage girl chained to her bed in her underwear, but what really matters is the bravery that your character Tara showed. Sure, a giant hairy man was about to have his way with you, a high school goody-goody, but Tara knew how to keep her composure in this situation. Other, so-called “real” girls would have freaked out and cried and screamed, but you knew better, Lori. That’s probably why the next role would change your life forever.