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By Leslie Nipkow

Randolph Mantooth has owed me a dollar since 1974.

At age eleven, my life was transformed by the discovery of Emergency!, the show about a pair of young paramedics in '70s Los Angeles. I had a weekly assignation with Johnny Gage, fiery but earnest half of Squad 51, played by actor Randy Mantooth. He rearranged my molecules, and not just because I disregarded my father's warnings about radiation and sat too close to the TV screen. Through our family's solid state "wood"-paneled RCA, Randy/Johnny orchestrated my sexual awakening.

It wasn't just the confident way he said "Clear" before slapping paddles on some poor schmoe's chest as the actor portraying the schmoe did his best defibrillation interpretation. Johnny Gage was the '70s equivalent of the Baywatch lifeguard -- hot, fit and trained in the Heimlich Maneuver. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing more appealing than lying limp and lovely in the arms of a professional lifesaver. "One amp of epi" was paramedic for orgasm, a word I loosely understood thanks to rainy afternoons spent with my mother's copy of The Sensuous Woman by "J."

Tucked between Valley of the Dolls and QB VII in my parents' study, I discovered the thin paperback volume that picked up where Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret left off. The fact that the author wanted to be connected to this material only by an initial indicated that this was explosive stuff. I used my Get Smart smarts, "casually" going for Wite-Out or rubber bands, only to emerge with "J" tucked inside the waistband of my shorts (apply directly to affected area).

I became the mysterious "J"'s youngest and most devoted acolyte, training for the day when fate would bring me and Johnny together. "J" described herself as "a lady in the living room" and "a marvelous bitch in bed," and that's what I wanted to be. Through observation of my mother's bridge club, I deduced that ladies wore control top L'eggs, pencil skirts and white heels (before Labor Day), while they drank gin and smoked Winstons. Too uncomfortable. I was not cut for lady-hood. I could, however, see becoming the epitome of the "marvelous bitch," dressed in Pucci maxi-dresses, Greek sandals, and Jackie O shades, washing down Mother's Little Helpers with a snifter of Drambuie. Armed with "J"'s book, I had all the tools I needed to become a counterculture sexpot.

"J" described herself as having "heavy thighs, lumpy hips, protruding teeth, a ski jump nose, poor posture, flat feet, and uneven ears." I had perfect ears, a dancer's posture and plenty of time for braces; what I didn't have was a clue. But by following "J"'s Sensuous Woman Program, I could get one. And so, as Johnny earned his stripes in the paramedic world, I worked diligently toward my womanhood badge.

I sped through Sensuality Exercises One through Three which involved (1) blindfolding yourself and touching things (feathers, saltines, and the "unexpected firmness of velveteen," not yourself); (2) closing your eyes, taking off your shirt and rubbing the aforementioned items "all over," and: (3) something that involved clean sheets and an "icy pool" of hand lotion. "J" warned about the dangers of becoming a narcissist. Translation: "Don't wank too much." No danger of that, as the remaining chapters focused solely on the care and feeding of the penis, and suggested for extracurricular reading: How to Keep Fit After Thirty.

I faithfully "trained like an athlete for the act of love." Never mind that I had no idea what the "act of love" was. I was in sixth grade, and St. Paul's School for Girls didn't teach Sex Ed until seventh, at which point it occupied half of one Science period, the other half being devoted to fetal pig dissection. The lecture focused on "falling off the roof," our teacher Mrs. Booze's euphemism for getting your period, which, being uncomfortable, unsightly, and potentially odiferous, was undeniably terrifying. The penis could only be worse.

I emerged befuddled from Mrs. Booze's birds/bees/vas deferens lecture and turned to my friend, Christine.

"You know, in sex, does he actually, you know, put it in? Or do the -- things, like, swim around till they get to, you know, the place?"

"In. He puts it all the way in."

I sat in sober silence, unsure whether I loved even Mantooth enough to endure anything that disgusting.

Later, I pondered Tiger Beat, worshipping the centerfold of Mantooth reclining on his side, eyes burning with the question, "How much do you really love me?" "Clear!" And my quest to become the "marvelous bitch" was back on track, even if it necessitated being split in two by something I couldn't begin to imagine.

I went to work on Sensuality Exercise Number Five -- tongue stretches -- visualizing Johnny bent over my languid body administering the kiss of life. Upon revival I would slip him the tongue as only the valedictorian of the sensuous woman program could. Tongue doing lip-laps per "J"'s instruction, I paged through the Tiger Beat classifieds.

That's when I noticed it. "Join the Emergency! Fan Club and receive your personally autographed 8x10 photo." I sprung into action, swiping one of Dad's business envelopes and an eight cent stamp, stuck my dollar inside, licked with expert tonguery, and buried the missive in the outgoing mail.

And so began thirty-four years of waiting for the mailman.

I rushed to the mailbox every day in anticipation of Randy's arrival, only to find bills, bank statements and Highlights. I'd been a fool for sending cash in an envelope, my parents had always warned me about that. I should have forged a check. I knew how; St. Paul's had covered check-writing years before the human body.

The yearned-for fan club kit never arrived, and I moved on to new unrequited loves, ranging from Little Joe on Bonanza, to the boy who played Charlie Brown opposite my Lucy in the high school musical. Inevitably, the recurring themes of disappointment and actor-lust led me to move to New York to become an actress, with fans and stalkers of my own. Boys came and went, but the sting of Randy's rejection stayed with me.


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