My Dinner With Detective Dietrich

Cintra Wilson recently launched a series on what Salon.com calls “entertainment’s underappreciated greats”. Judging the series so far, the criteria for underappreciated greatness seems to be an inexplicable erotic attraction to the subject as well as a compulsion to spew adjectives as if she were the spawn of Chuck Palahniuk and a riot grrl with Tourette’s Syndrome.

But if Cintra can do it, so can I.

So who is my inexplicable erotic attraction?


Steve Landesberg. Or more accurately, Steve Landesberg circa the Barney Miller years.

But before I go on, I have to explain: I’m notorious (at least with my sister) for nursing crushes on odd celebrity objects. At ten I was obsessed with Rex Harrison (I had the My Fair Lady soundtrack perpetually checked out from the Kadena AFB library for two years). At twelve, while my sister and friends were salivating over Bobby Sherman and Donny Osmond, I was secretly lusting over Gene Barry during his Name of the Game hey-day (it was those double-breasted suits). Sure I tried to mask my proclivities by tacking up a few posters of Michael Cole, but it was no use. By high school, I moved on to the hard stuff: Gene Kelly and David Wayne.

Why Steve Landesberg? Because to a geeky seventeen-year old from the Pacific Rim, Steve Landesberg was sexy. New York Cityintelligentsia sexy. The rumpled suit, the Gregory Peck-like voice and laconic banter that screamed Columbia doctoral candidate set my hormones aflame on a weekly basis. And to top it off, he was funny. Cooly funny, not Gallagher funny.

But the key for me was his exoticness–he was my version of jungle fever. He represented a fantasy, a Simon & Garfunkel/brownstone/coffeehouse-and-chunky-sweater dream. And for a girl raised on an island overrun by habu snakes and Bob Hope USO shows, he was crush catnip.

Next Time: L’Affaire with Laurence Harvey.

5 Responses

  1. Tobey
    Tobey April 3, 2004 at 7:21 am | | Reply

    Nice one. Totally agree, though I did have dueling crushes on Dietrich and Wojohowicz (or however his name is spelled).

  2. Eli
    Eli April 7, 2004 at 8:56 am | | Reply

    Is Gene Kelly hardcore? Because I nearly got tossed out of my family for preferring Donald O’Connor to Mr. Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”.

    David Wayne … I grant you, that’s hardcore.

    And as a little girl growing up gang- and crack-plagued South-Central L.A. … I had an appalling interest in nearly-dead English actors. Olivier, Gieguld, Mason … if they did Shakespeare in their 30s and 40s on the screen, I didn’t care if they were near death in real life.

  3. Eli
    Eli April 7, 2004 at 8:56 am | | Reply

    Is Gene Kelly hardcore? Because I nearly got tossed out of my family for preferring Donald O’Connor to Mr. Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”.

    David Wayne … I grant you, that’s hardcore.

    And as a little girl growing up gang- and crack-plagued South-Central L.A. … I had an appalling interest in nearly-dead English actors. Olivier, Gieguld, Mason … if they did Shakespeare in their 30s and 40s on the screen, I didn’t care if they were near death in real life.

  4. Anne
    Anne April 12, 2004 at 11:07 pm | | Reply

    Uh, is Cintra Wilson still around? How sad. Is she still writing completely self-indulgent crap? Because that’s how I remember her. I knew her sort of indirectly. The other thing I remember is that she came from a pretty comfortable home but liked to give the impression she grew up poor, in a rough neighborhood. I could have told her that growing up poor and in a rough neighborhood is a lot less romantic when you’re actually doing it rather than living in Mill Valley. Sorry, tangential, I know.

  5. Kathleen
    Kathleen June 22, 2004 at 8:58 pm | | Reply

    Not only Steve Landesberg–about whom I once wrote a story about himself and me as a couple–but Gene Wilder, Dick Cavett, and Roddy McDowell (none of that Bobby Sherman or David Cassidy for me, either). Gene Kelly was the first man I ever fell in love with (around age 4) and I have never gotten over that. By the way, does anyone remember him starring in a TV version of “Jack and the Beanstalk”?

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