Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kim Richards was an icon first, especially in Tuff Turf

I've now watched exactly two episodes of Real Housewives (of Beverly Hills) (shoot me--shoot me now) solely for one reason: Kim Richards. WHO? Kim Richards, you dolts. I grew up watching her work it on television and film. As a tiny child she starred Nanny and the Professor where she was cute and earnestly charismatic. Disney recognized this and cast her in multiple projects throughout the years. She then went on to make regular appearances on numerous 70s-era shows until semi-retirement from acting.

So, while I'm not a Kim Richards freak by any means (I'm a Tatum O'Neal girl and always will be--love ya, Tatum!), I had to watch her latest performance on "Real Housewives." It's been a long time and Kim looks a little tired. She has four teen and grown children that she seems to be lax to let go of. She has a younger sister, Kyle, also a former child actress, who alternately helps her and denigrates her. That kind of sister. But especially she has her memories. Memories of child stardom and how it kept her from making friends easily, or doing much of anything easily it seems. Her strange and off-putting story about being snapped by paparazzi while hanging out with her niece Paris Hilton (yes, God help her, Paris Hilton) made me cringe and feel for her. According to Richards, Paris was staring at her and saying, "WHO are YOU?" while the paparazzi clicked away, screaming, "Kim's an icon too!" "Yeah!" explains Kim while yelling at her niece. "I was an icon FIRST!"

But was she? Well, if you count her somehat haunted personification of Tia Malone, an orphan with psychic powers, in Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain (1978), sure. Lots of us kids growing up in the 70s really liked this film combining psychic powers with science fiction. We didn't know she would grow up to be on a shitty Bravo franchise where everyone looks vastly insecure as they attempt to move their Botox'd features into grimaces of fake California-dreamin' pleasure. We just thought this film, and by extension, Kim Richards, were cool.

But it was Tuff Turf that sealed the deal. It's a god-awful 80s teen film, yes. But it's got James Spader as a formerly wealthy badass and Robert Downey Jr. as his seemingly gay rock-drummer cohort--that's heavenly casting right there. Spader must win the love of bad-girl Richards while fending off her psychotically thuggish boyfriend from the bad side of town. Richards looks like a 12-year-old with a switchblade. It's awesome. And this makes Richards a former icon. Because no matter how much annoying crap Paris Hilton flings our way, she'll never be able to say James Spader serenaded her with a love song whilst perched atop grand-piano accompaniment during a crashed yacht-club festivity. Well, maybe she can say that or something close to it, but it wasn't caught on film. "Tuff Turf" was.

Here Richards shows off her dancin' moves and excellent hair, accompanied by Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. It pretty much doesn't get any more 80s than this.

Rock on, Jim Carroll Band. RDJ on the drums, shirtless with bow tie. The combination of moussed hair/garage rock/neon-colored clothing within a warehouse ambiance might be more 80s than the above clip.

What did Carroll make of all this, besides taking home a hefty sum? It's surreal to this day.


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