The Boyfriend of the Week

April 28, 2005

I've been a voracious reader almost my entire life. According to my Mom, I taught myself to read when I was around four and pretty much never stopped devouring the written word from then on. Some of my earliest memories involve reading. For example, I remember a kindergarten teacher who, upon hearing that I already knew how to read, proceeded to humiliate me by handing me a book and asking me to read the title of it out loud. The title contained the word "serendipity," which I had never seen or heard before and, of course, I stumbled over it and felt like an IDIOT in front of an entire class of my five year-old peers.

Now, granted, since the coolest trick most of THEM could do was pick both sides of their nose at the same time or color within the lines (sorta), I really had nothing to be embarrassed about. But still. You'll notice that, over 25 years later, I still remember that word. And subliminally, I think it's why I didn't like the John Cusack movie of the same name. Orrrrr, that might've been because I hate Kate Beckinsale. Hard to know for sure.

Anyway, in my lifetime, there have been a handful or two of books that have had such a tremendous impact on me that I have both never forgotten them AND never forgotten exactly where I was when I read them.

Immediately leaping to mind as examples of this are three books. The first was "Pet Sematery," by Stephen King -- my first horror novel experience -- and I vividly remember reading this book, which had a musty old library smell to it, in a dark, dirty study hall classroom located in the vo-tech building of my high school. The teacher on duty was my geometry teacher, a crazy guy named Mr. Cooney. "Pet Sematery" thrilled the heck out of me and was my induction into the world of horror, a book genre I kind of burned out on after a couple of years, but as you all know, it remains my all-time favorite genre of film. Gimmie a good bad slasher movie over "Citizen Kane" any ol' day of the week.

Second was a book of short stories by Katherine Mansfield, which I read in my dorm room in college at a time when I was going through a bit of an identity crisis. There was a story in there that described a woman's life thusly: "There were glimpses, moments, breathing spaces of calm, but all the rest of the time, it was like living in a house that couldn't be cured of the habit of catching on fire." For some reason, that sentence has stayed with me for ten years, and on the day I read it, I was lying in a puddle of weak sunshine on the huge bed I had made by sewing the room's two twin-sized mattresses together, and it made me cry.

The third book, though, is the one most relevant to today's write-up. It was "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I began this book lying on a futon on the floor of my bedroom in a small, unheated house in Iwakuni, Japan in 1986 (I was in the sixth grade). I was eating these wonderful little caramels that I loved at the time -- they were in the shape of little rectangular bricks and had a metallic wrapper with a stripe in the middle. I want to say they were called something like "Milky" but I might be making that up. Oh man, the Japanese make TERRIFIC candy. There were also these little chocolate BBs I loved, which I think were called "Chocobabies" (a truly inspired name for a candy, and had they been in the shape of actual babies, they would've been that much more fun to eat). And don't even talk to me about Pocky sticks -- I'm still addicted to those chocolate-dipped twigs of goodness.

Anyway, about four pages into "Big Woods," I knew I had stumbled across something major, and the next day I rushed into the school library and took every other book in the series out at the same time. They were due in three weeks and I returned them all on time (a matter of pride with me, of course), which just goes to show you how quickly my little sixth-grade brain whipped through them.

By the way, before I forget, while I was going through a bunch of boxes of stuff the other day, I found a notebook I had been keeping when I was in the sixth grade and in it, a prototype of the Boyfriend of the Week! Check it out! (Interesting to see how many of those guys have shown up here -- Steve McQueen and Yul being disqualified for being dead. And no, I have no idea why Cindy Williams made the list, except that at the time, I was a HUGE fan of "American Graffiti"). I also found a very amusing list of books to look for at the library (these days, I have a whole notebook dedicated to lists of books to look for at the library, by the way -- probably at least 500 titles in it at the moment). Please note that I can spell the word "library" correctly now that I work in one every day. I think it's cute that I was so into horses and ballet, although, that just goes to show you how disgustingly "little girl" I was back then! If it helps with my punk points, I'd like to mention that I had a kick-ass feathered mullet in the sixth grade too, which was a very hip hairdo at the time.

Getting back to the "Little House" books, I was trying to remember whether I had seen the famous television show starring Michael Landon before I read the stories in print. It ran from 1974 to some year or another in the early 80's, but I have no recollection of ever having seen it as a little kid (shows I do remember from elementary school include "Buck Rogers," "Dr. Who," and "Dukes of Hazzard," as well as my favorite Saturday morning cartoons "Dungeons and Dragons" and "The Littles"). Plus, I remember the books seeming thrillingly new. But now, of course, the original TV series is one of my favorite television shows of all time -- I watch at least an episode a week (it's on twice a day on the Hallmark channel) and I am about due to reread all the books again as well.

And this ties in HOW to this week's Boyfriend, Cameron Bancroft? Four words: Wonderful World of Disney.

About a month ago, ABC began a five-part Disney series on Saturday nights called "Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie." Cameron Bancroft played Charles Ingalls, and though I'm sorry to say this because I absolutely adore Michael Landon's super-cheesy Pa, Cam made me look at the part in a whole new way. As in, I totally wanted to smooch Charles Ingalls (whereas previously, I only wanted him to be my dad). Because whoo-whee, that Pa is a hottie! And not just because he's such a great guy, either. So nice, so accepting, so open-minded and fair and balanced. But because, as trivial as this may sound, he just looks SO SEXY with all that stubble! And his eyes, with that little glimmer of mischief and affection in them -- oh, it's just killing me! I'm madly in love with Charles Ingalls and it's throwing my whole world into a tizzy.

Now, last week I mentioned I had a funny story that would explain why I so strongly desire for some geek to figure out a way to wirelessly connect my brain to the IMDb web site. Here's what happened: I saw the first episode of the new series while I was down visiting my parents, and watched it on tape the morning after it aired with my Mom and my sister. We were about five minutes in when my sister and I both started to go out of our MINDS trying to figure out where in the heck we knew Pa from. A few things popped into our heads -- I was picturing him as someone's boyfriend who was super super amazingly NICE. My sister was picturing him as the same, but also as someone really skinny and a little on the scrubby side.

It was driving us BANANAS, so we finally had to stop the tape and run upstairs to try to get on the Internet. Only, my parents still live in 426 B.C. in terms of connectivity, and their dial-up (dial-up!) connection to AOL chose that very moment to refuse to cooperate. Oh, the humanity! Shoot me now!

We attempted to settle back in and watch the show, hoping the answer would suddenly pop into our heads. But five more minutes in, we realized there was just no way we could concentrate on the plot with this niggling question hanging over our heads. So, believe it or not, my sister whipped out her cell phone and dialed up her husband, WHO WAS IN CALIFORNIA, to make him look it up for us. I snorted and said, "Oh, we're shoe-ins for induction into the Pathetic Hall of Fame for THIS one." But when it turned out he wasn't home, it took me only a second to get on the phone to MY husband. And our conversation went a little bit like this:

[phone rings and rings and rings until the machine picks up]

Me: (yelling into phone) SWEETIE! Pick up, pick up, pick up, pick up, THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!

Sweetie: (groggy, this being at 10 in the morning on a Saturday when he's sleeping in) This better be good.

Me: Listen and do not interrupt. I need you, without asking questions, to turn on the computer and follow my instructions. THIS IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH because if we don't figure this out, we're going to shoot ourselves.

Sweetie: Uhhhhh, hokay. What.

Me: Open IE and go to the web site.

Sweetie: (snorts in derision) Are you kidding me?

Me: (interrupting) I SAID NO QUESTIONS!! Now, type the words "Cameron Bancroft" into the query box.

Sweetie: Cameron Who-what?

Me: Bancroft. Spelled like it sounds, doesn't require rocket science.

Sweetie: Okay, I'm there. Now what, nutjob?

Me: Read me everything he's ever been in.

Sweetie: (protesting) It's a LOT of stuff!

Me: Okay, okay, whiner! Just read me the things you've heard of.

Sweetie: Right. . .Wait, I haven't heard of any of it. I'll just start at the bottom. "General Hospital."

Me: No.

Sweetie: "A Family Divided," "To Brave Alaska," "The Cape," "She's No Angel," "MVP 2: Most Vertical. . ." MOST VERTICAL PRIMATE? What kind of loser is this guy?

Me: Shut it. Keep reading.

Sweetie: "Mystery, Alaska"?

Me: Well, maybe. I mean, I've seen that, but it doesn't seem quite right. Look way at the bottom -- any TV stuff?

Sweetie: "Tour of Duty," "Highlander," "Beverly Hi. . ."

Me: (interrupting by yelling to my sister) 90210! It's 90210!


Me: The sports guy who ended up getting sick and, like, DYING or something like that!

My sister: YES!

Me: (to Sweetie) Okay, thanks, see you tomorrow!

Sweetie: YOU. ARE. INSANE. [click]

Now you know why it would be SO NICE if I could just wire the IMDb to my brain. Or else maybe I need a Blackberry or something so I can have it permanently loaded up and at my fingertips at all time? Or else maybe, JUST MAYBE, my parents need to MOVE INTO THE 21ST CENTURY!

Nah, just kidding, Mom! I think it's cute you have dial-up! It's sort of retro chic!

By the way, have I mentioned lately how much my husband totally rules? Because he does.

Now, back to the "Little House" series. If you missed it and you're a fan of the books, you must must MUST try to catch it when it hits DVD. Because not only was it a delight, but it was also a lot better than the original TV show in a number of ways. First and foremost, significantly less cheese. And the cheese it did have was totally low-fat and thus didn't sit like a bomb in your belly, all blurb, blurb, gurgle. Second, it featured a major subplot involving the white man's encroachment on Native American land, which I didn't remember from the books, really, but which I found interesting if only because the way it was presented made you really feel for both sides of the conflict. On the one hand, here is the Ingalls family, struggling to finally make a real life for themselves. And on the other, here are these beautiful, proud people who already live there, and what right did we have to make them leave? Ordinarily, my quick reaction is to condemn us for what we did to the Native Americans (and I still feel that way about the government's course of action back then, which was just total crap). But it sort of gave me a perspective about the settlers themselves that reframed the whole thing a bit in my head.

Anyway, let's not talk historical politics because that's a drag-o-rama. Instead, I wanted to note that another truly wonderful element to the new series was the casting of Gregory Sporleder as Mr. Edwards. I have loved Greg ever since "Renaissance Man" and "Say Anything" and he was just perfectly cast here as the "Wildcat" bachelor Edwards. Watch for him to be a Boyfriend soon for sure.

Anyway, if that 90210 thing is no help for you, you missed "Little House," and you're still trying to figure out how you know Cameron Bancroft, the other place you may have seen him lately is this year's season of "24" with Kiefer Sutherland. To be honest, I myself hadn't noticed him until just last week's episode, but as it turns out, he's been popping up on it periodically since February. He plays one of the CTU guys who is part of the SWAT-like team, so he has really close-cut hair and no stubble, and is often dressed in SWAT-ish gear and a helmet. In last week's episode, he was the guy who went in after Jack when the stupid Vice President's stupid Secret Service agents insisted that they be allowed to arrest our intrepid hero right in the middle of the most important sting operation of all time. Fifty bucks says that VP is modeled after our current P, who does an awful lot of acting without thinking. Anyway, watch for Cam's character over the remaining few episodes because I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him on that show yet.

A little biography on Cameron: he was born May 17, 1967 in Winnepeg, Manitoba (Canadian! Even better!) to parents Glen and Wendy (a lawyer and nurse, respectively). Originally, Cam had dreams of being a professional hockey player, dreams that seemed like they were coming true after he was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers. But an accident (described as a "tragic hiking accident" on one fan site, whatever that means) ended his ability to play professionally, though he did play on the NHL's celebrity hockey team in 1994. After graduating from high school, Cam decided to try for a career in acting, and he promptly moved to LA and enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts, earning his BA in theater there four years later.

His first big break was a bit part in "General Hospital" in the late 1980's, followed by a role in the long-running TV series "The Beachcombers." But it was really in 1995, when he took the role as Joe Bradley in "90210" that he finally started to get serious notice. . . at least from us ladies.

After that came a string of made-for-TV movies, and a few small parts in some motion pictures like "Mystery, Alaska" and "Love & Human Remains."

This year, showing up in both "24" and the critically lauded "Little House" series seems a sure sign that bigger and better things are finally on their way for Cameron. For one thing, raise your hand if you think they ought to keep going with the "Little House" series and do "On the Banks of Plum Creek" next. Me! And raise your hand if you are tired of stupid ol' Michelle on "24" and would like to see Cam's character get promoted to replace her. Me! Ooh, and raise your hand again if you are extra super duper tired of Cameron being married to his wife and would like to see him married to me instead. Me, again!

Up next for Cameron are two TV movies (which may have already come out, but I can't tell from the IMDb site). The first is "I Want to Marry Ryan Banks," a movie starring Jason Priestly as a guy named Ryan whose friend and manager gets him a gig as the bachelor on a reality dating show. The only problem is that as Ryan prepares to propose to the woman who makes it to the show's final round, the friend/manager finds that he's fallen in love with her himself. It sounds like an Oxygen or Family Channel movie, but I love Jason Priestly and it'll be fun to see our two 90210 vets reunited again at last, though it looks like Cam's part is pretty small. Too bad they couldn't get Tori Spelling to join them! Or not!

After that comes a special called "A Beachcombers Christmas," which is obviously one of those little famous-TV-show "reunion" movies. I have no idea what "The Beachcombers" actually was, though, so I have no idea what this will be about. Somebody email me and fill me in on that one? I've never even heard of it, despite the fact it appears it was on television for over a decade!

Anyway, up next for ME is a rereading of all the "Little House" books, which I'm sure are going to come off in an entirely fresh way for me now that I'll be picturing the gorgeous, buff, sweet Cameron Bancroft in the role of Pa. Grrrrrrrrowl! I can hardly wait to get started! And please, do yourself a favor and add the series to your Netflix queue right now -- it's not actually out on DVD yet, but is coming soon (so you can add it to your prequeue). If you had ANY affection for the books or the old TV show, this is a series you just cannot miss. It's hands-down one of the best things I've seen on TV this year, and that includes the current season of "America's Next Top Model" which is just cracking me up like mad every single week (none of them knew what the word "aloof" meant! Or how to pronounce the word "magenta"! I'd like to meet the parents of these idiots, and shake their hands for doing such a tremendous job at NOT educating their children!). Anyway, don't miss it! I swear you'll have Charles Ingalls dreams for weeks!

MacGyver Factor Score: 94.239%. A couple of points off because I found it really hard to do Boyfriend research on Cameron. He just hasn't been in many films, and the ones I COULD track down just ended up being unwatchably bad (the only one I even bothered to make a note of was a Mary Higgins Clark movie called "He Sees You When You're Sleeping," and while I've enjoyed many of the other MHC movies (they often air on PAX), this one was just borrrrrring). But here's hoping that now that everybody's seen him show his gentle side on "Little House" and his kick-arse military badass side on "24," casting agents and producers all over will start jotting down his phone number.

If I could jot it down myself, I certainly would, after all. Hey, Cam! I'm in the book! And I can even pronounce the word "magenta"!

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