What to Make of a Man Crush

In a shrine in my head, Paul Newman stands alone as favorite actor of all time. In close proximity in ranking are Academy Award-nominee John Travolta, Academy Award winner Yul Brynner, and Academy Award winner Robin Williams.

While most of us can point to one or two favorite actors when pressed, the truth is we have many different layers of favorites. Case in point:

I am a huge fan of many actors that others might classify as “B-list”. For instance: I have been a fan of Richard Grieco ever since his days on 21 Jump Street.

Grieco joined the cast of my then favorite show in 1988. In the weeks leading up the season premier, FOX aired grainy, choppy, black and white teasers promoting the then unknown Grieco. I was hooked from those commercials. I wanted to see who this person was. Was he going to replace Johnny Depp, the current star? Could they co-exist?

21 Jump Street was already my favorite show, so there was not much chance I was going to miss the season premier. Now I had even more reason.

If it sounds like I have a man crush on Richard Grieco, it’s because I probably do. I’m as straight as they come and have no desires for Grieco or any other man. But, Richard Grieco just seems like a really cool guy I’d like to hang out with.

When It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia enters its 15th season this year, it will become the longest-running live-action comedy series in American television history, passing The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. My oldest son encouraged me to try the series out, so I started the series from the beginning, and I watched passively from time to time. I found it to be an enjoyable show.

Then came Season 11, Episode 118 “Dee Made a Smut Film.” This episode guest starred the teen heartthrob I always dreamed of being … you guessed it – Richard Grieco! And at that juncture, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia became one of my favorite shows.

I’m like that. Any show that demonstrates an allegiance to my favorite stars from years gone by becomes a favorite for me. Another case in point:

I recently started watching the NBC series Blindspot. Again, I started with the first episode (that originally aired in 2015). The series is okay, but my interest was starting to lose intensity. Then came guest star Lou Diamond Phillips. Instantly my interest in the series was back on.

Ever since seeing it on the big screen as a child, I have loved the film La Bamba. An unknown actor, Lou Diamond Phillips gave an Oscar-worthy performance as Ritchie Valens. I loved the movie so much that I took to reading interviews with the creators and doing research on Valens. I learned that Phillips looked nothing like the real Valens but he was so good it didn’t matter.

That’s a big hurdle for my acceptance to clear. I hated Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line because the actor looks nothing like the singer. Phoenix is 5’8. Cash was 6’2. The casting just didn’t work. But in La Bamba it did. LDP is that good.

To his credit, Phillips has never stopped working. Like myself, Phillips has had success with a wide variety of hair styles. He sported long hair in Young Guns and its sequel. He went military short for Courage Under Fire. Then he earned a Tony nomination for completely reimagining the role of the King in The King and I on Broadway. Now he does television. I’m looking forward to trying his new series Prodigal Son out.

What is it about these B-list actors that fascinates me so much? It’s because I see myself in them. Or rather, it would be a dream to be mentioned in the same conversation. Let me explain:

I have always known that I’m never going to win an Oscar. In my hay day I had a pretty face, a hard body, and great hair. While I would like to think I have talent, the fact is whether I could act or not during those prime years was hardly a consideration. If I was going to be famous for anything, it would be as a B-list actor. Actors like Richard Grieco, Dolph Lundgren, and Lou Diamond Phillips. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s good company.

I became a fan of Dolph Lundgren when he was training to build his physique to play He-Man in a live-action film adaptation of the cartoon Masters of the Universe. I was just getting into weightlifting and read about Dolph’s workout routine in a body builder magazine. In fact, I kept that issue for years and used Lundgren’s He-Man workout as the basis for my training to play Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Like Phillips, Lundgren has worked steadily. He can be seen in big budget films like Aquaman and Creed II, as well as plenty of straight-to-video features. I watch as many as I can.

I like straight-to-video movies and television series that cast nostalgia stars. And I like that they keep my favorite actors employed for the most part.

I know some people look down on B-movies and their B-list stars. But I don’t see why. I personally would be happy being a B-list star.

So, while I respect brilliantly talented actors like Denzel Washington and Anthony Hopkins, it is the second-tier players that I would surround myself with, given the chance.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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