Ladies, if you’re like me, you had a teen idol. Yes, I know. It is a bit embarrassing to admit that any of us “mature adults” once dreamed of meeting Elvis, dancing with Paul McCartney or breathing the same air as Bobby Sherman.
My idol (surprise!) was Peter Noone, Herman of Herman’s Hermits, the group that gave us such ear worms as “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am” and “I’m Into Something Good.” The Hermits’ bouncy, upbeat tunes had MGM Records whistling all the way to the bank, so much so that Herman and the lads outsold the Beatles in 1965. All said Herman’s Hermits scored 10 Top Tens, 20 Top Twenties as one of the top three bands of the British Invasion with more than 60 million records sold worldwide.
In the fall of 1968, when I entered high school, Peter had the audacity to get married. I gave Herman’s Hermits the heave ho, though I kept their albums and posters. After all, you never know when you might need that stuff again
“When” came in 2013, the evening Herman and his new Hermits came to J. E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir. After the band rocked the house, I got in line and had Peter sign several of those old albums, which he politely did as I watched his every move like a giddy 13-year-old.
I emailed my writer friend, Elizabeth Searle, telling her that it really was possible to become a teenager again. She understood because we have this thing about celebrities. I had already written a book, Dining with Robert Redford, and she had penned the script for Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera.
Elizabeth, who lives near Boston, asked me to write a piece for her blog, “Celebrities in Disgrace,” though I assured her that there was nothing disgraceful about meeting Peter other than feeling like a drooling eighth grader.
She agreed that it would be fun to co-edit an anthology about teen idols. What if we asked women writers to write about their teen idol crushes? No such book had ever been published before, and we might as well do it. So we drafted a 42-page proposal and found a literary agent. We contacted female writers we knew or knew of, fingers crossed that A) they had a teen idol and B) they would be willing to admit it in a published essay.
Among our contributors were best-selling authors Ann Hood and B.A. Shapiro, Breena Clarke and some notable North Carolina writers: Jill McCorkle, Judy Goldman, Amy Rogers, Lisa Kline, Marjorie Hudson, Stephanie Powell Watts, Susan Woodring and Marianne Gingher.
Learning the identity of their girlhood crushes was like opening the door in a game of “Mystery Date.” We were ecstatic to nab Elvis through Goldman’s poignant essay about seeing him in 1956 at the Charlotte Coliseum. We reveled in learning about Watts’ love for Barry Manilow. And we were overjoyed to finally land the fourth Beatle, Ringo Starr, thanks to Gingher, who’s now a professor of creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill.
In addition to pop singers, the writers’ idols included some unexpected choices: Raymond Burr, Dick Van Dyke, Peggy Lipton, Chris Evert, Humphrey Bogart and Bobby Orr. The more unusual, the more fun it became.
Along the way we asked Peter Noone to write the Foreword, and he graciously agreed.
As our final copy deadline approached in February, we were unexpectedly put in contact with Ann Moses, former editor of Tiger Beat, a premiere fan magazine in the‘60s and ‘70s. She was eager to write copy for our book cover and we were thrilled to have her endorsement.
Our simple email exchange sparked a book that McFarland & Company expects to be used in courses on women’s studies and pop culture, and, of course, enjoyed by fans far and wide.
You never know what can happen when you wish upon some stars.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Print versions of Idol Talk can be purchased from Barnes & Noble, Amazon and our publisher, McFarland & Company. An eBook version is forthcoming. Discounted copies will be available during these local presentations:
St. Stephens Branch Library in Hickory, 6 pm Monday, July 23
Main Library in Newton, 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 24
Patrick Beaver Memorial Library in Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31
Charlotte Writers Club-North is sponsoring an Idol Talk gala in August at Main Street Books in Davidson. Joining me will be contributors Judy Goldman, Lisa Kline and Amy Rogers. The public is invited.