I used to smoke.
Yeah, I know. I didn’t even start until I was 24: unfiltered Lucky Strikes. I liked imports but rarely had the money to buy them. But living in Arizona, I was introduced to Delicados, a Mexican cigarette you could pick up cheap in Nogales. Basically a harsher Lucky Strike in rose-scented paper.
I can’t for the life of me explain why I liked these, but I did.
The impact on my health was dramatic. I’d get winded and light-headed at work just pushing boxes. By the time I didn’t drink any more, I was hooked on cigarettes even though I’d only been smoking a couple years. I tried to quit a few times and failed, trying new things each time to lessen the addiction. I ended up switching to American Spirit Lights and cutting the filters in half.
Hey, it was an improvement.
Back then smoking American Spirits was a total pain in the ass. Most places didn’t carry them and pretty much no one had websites yet. By this time I was on the road, so every week I’d be in a new town having to scout around for a place that sold my brand.
If I spent all the time reading that I spent trying to find my brand of cigarettes, I would have finished Gone With the Wind, War and Peace, and everything Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon ever wrote. With comprehensive literary analyses.
I changed tours and my new show had a service truss. Translation: you climbed an 18-foot straight ladder about forty times a day when you were setting up. Believe me, your lungs felt every damn cigarette you’d ever thought about when you got to the top and collapsed on the platform. I was always afraid I’d get too light-headed and pass out while I was still on the ladder.
It was really getting old. I was only 29 for God’s sake.
When I was a little kid, my sister and I were crazy for Shaun Cassidy. We saved our allowances and bought his records. At the top of our birthday lists were Shaun Cassidy posters and T-shirts. We bought every copy of Tiger Beat that mentioned his name (which was all of them).
Shaun’s older brother David starred in The Partridge Family, but my sister and I weren’t taken with him the way we were with Shaun. Shaun was in The Hardy Boys and my sister and I fought for the seat closest to the television every week when it was on. She claimed more rights to the seat: I had the 45 of Hey Deanie but my sister had his whole album.
I had a t-shirt, but somehow she had scored the Shaun Cassidy satin jacket.
She never let me wear it.
Not even once.
So this tour with the service truss that was kicking my lungs’ asses on a daily basis was Aida (the Elton John musical, not the Verdi opera) and we were playing San Francisco. They often did opening night parties for us and while I generally hate parties, I loved not having to go find my own food in a new town the first night.
Our male lead was Patrick Cassidy, another Cassidy brother and an all-around good guy. One of my tasks was to put Patrick’s mic on him every night at the 15 minute call, and check it every intermission.
Standing around at the opening night party in San Francisco, one of the actors came up to me.
Him: Hey, do you have an extra cigarette for Patrick’s brother? You’re one of the only people Patrick knows who smokes.
My heart did a little flutter, and it wasn’t because of the cigarettes.
Me: Which brother? Shaun or David?
Me: Um, let me check.
I pulled an American Spirit out of my pack, grateful that I was smoking something sort of normal now. Nobody ever wants your Lucky Strike or a Delicado.
Me: Can I give it to him myself?
He lead me through the crowd to a little cluster of people standing around Patrick which included a well- dressed, slightly older, slightly fuller Shaun Cassidy.
And so it was that I bummed a cigarette to my very first star crush.
Then called my sister to brag. Something along the lines of “Holy sh*t, Beth! I just bummed a cigarette to Shaun f-ing Cassidy!! Take that, satin jacket!”
I knew I had reached the pinnacle of my smoking career. Nothing else related to cigarettes would ever surpass this moment where I bonded with Shaun Cassidy for 1.4 seconds over an American Spirit Light with the filter cut in half. I was finally able to quit smoking.
The patch helped, but it was really Shaun Cassidy that did it for me.
Who was your first star crush?
I originally wrote pretty much this whole post in a comment on Darla’s blog She’s a Maineac; the day I decided to write it as an actual post Darla also wrote about Shaun Cassidy, so Darla, I think he’s going to do something magical for you too.