This week’s column:
A few weeks ago, “guilty pleasures” was the theme of a “Dancing with the Stars” episode.
Understand that “Dancing with the Stars” itself is somewhat of a guilty pleasure, a show I started watching out of the corner of my eye because my wife is a fan. I was probably reading Proust or Mickey Mouse or something equally high brow at the time, but soon became enamored by the various wannabe celebrities who are either on their way up or on their way down the publicity pecking order and are willing to exploit themselves with skimpy costumes and funky-fresh dance moves.
On “guilty pleasures” night, contestants gyrated to such deathless hits as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” (which in some circles is known as “Don’t Stop Dry Heaving”), Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” (even when my love is a frozen Popsicle at the bottom of the Atlantic) and Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (about which the less said the better).
The experience got me thinking about various guilty pleasures in my personal pop-culture pantheon, both musically and beyond. Here are a few things I devote far too much of my too-limited free time to enjoying:
n I’m a big fan of “Flash Gordon,” the glitzy 1980 version of the classic comic strip character, directed by Dino De Laurentiis (grandfather of cooking show cutie Giada De Laurentiis, another guilty pleasure who can blow hot air into any man’s soufflé). The movie is so very bad on almost every level imaginable — from campy dialogue to goofy hawkmen with giant feathered wings — that people look at me weirdly when I tell them how many dozens of times I’ve watched it. But I always cleanse my palette with a screening of “Citizen Kane,” I promise.
n Another guilty pleasure from the same era is 1983’s “Twilight Zone: The Movie.” I confess to a fondness for anthology films in general, probably because very little holds my attention for longer than 20 minutes anyway. This one has four segments patterned after the classic TV show, with Burgess Meredith providing the Rod Serling-esque narration. The last one, a brilliant retelling of Richard Matheson’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” is my favorite, but they’re all equally wacky and charming. I list this as a guilty pleasure both because veteran actor Vic Morrow and two extras died during an on-set accident and because it doesn’t hold a candle to the original, even though I still think it’s fun.
n Every month, I don a pair of sunglasses and a trench coat, enter a local drug store and buy a copy of Life With Archie magazine. I make a point of telling the cashier it’s for my (non-existent) 11-year-old daughter because the cover is filled with blurbs about Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and “Twilight.” Sandwiched between these bubblegum features are two great comic book stories that explore what would happen if Archie Andrews had married Betty and Veronica. (Not at the same time, of course, which would be more interesting, but in different “What If?” scenarios.) The answer: He would be swamped with all kinds of adult problems and be very unhappy in a soap opera sort of way. I love ‘em, even if I leave with the magazine in a plain brown wrapper.
n Despite a middle-aged paunch and a hairline that has receded to my vertebrae, I have not matured musically much further than a typical 15-year-old male. I love obnoxiously loud metal guitar and raspy-voiced, antisocial lead singers, even when I can’t tell what they’re singing — maybe especially when I can’t tell what they’re singing. So my 2002 Neon is filled with the melodic strains of artists like Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne and a host of ’80s hair-bands too terrifically terrible to mention by name. (Call them the Too-Guilty-for-Prime-Time Players.) At red lights, I make sure to turn down the volume or slip in some Mozart to make it appear that I’m a quiet, unassuming English teacher, but when I hit the open road, I spiritually revert to acne-pocked teenager mode. Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.
So now that I’ve bared my soul, it’s your turn. Send me your own guilty pleasures, indicate if I can or cannot publish your name, and maybe if I get enough, I can dedicate a future column to sharing.
After all, another of my guilty pleasures is laziness, and if I can fill a column with reader responses, it means less work for me.