When Celebrity Ideologues Break Your Heart


No matter what your feelings were about Scott Baio before last week, the revelation that he and his wife are nasty right-leaning name callers who look down on “lesbian shitasses” was a bit of a heartbreak for 80s nostalgia.

As much as the Baios’ outbursts were about the individuals themselves, for many observers the incident also prompted a sort of ruination of those vehicles on which Baio rose to stardom. Knowing what we do now about Baio, could we ever again watch — or even think about — Charles in Charge in the same way? It’d be difficult. But it’s not as if Baio is the first entertainer whose off-screen identity, with the progress of time, comes to destroy our memories of past on-screen glories. It’s a destruction that, in some ways, is more painful than an aging child star’s drug-fueled descent down the hole of fuck-uppery; this is nostalgia’s death by ideology. Because nothing hurts quite like finding your youthful celebrity crush grew up to be unpleasant. And it’s happened, time and time again, to old-school crushes of every ilk. Herewith, a sampling of some of the men (and women) who retroactively broke young liberal hearts.

Kirk Cameron
I can still sing every word of the Growing Pains theme song, and that has everything to do with Mike Seaver. He was so cute! So cool! So hijink-y! But then, years later, I saw Kirk Cameron starring in that really crazy Left Behind movie, and I realized that he was into a totally different sort of rapture than what I’d been thinking of. Though, to be fair, I’d been questioning my feelings ever since the episode where Mike wrote the answers to his exam on the bottom of his shoe — I have issues with cheaters.

Ricky Schroeder
He was an adorable, weepy little thing in The Champ. He was a perfect teen idol on Silver Spoons. Now he’s a Republican. Which, okay, fine, but he supported George W. Bush in 2000 (he spoke at the RNC) and 2004, plus McCain in 2008. And he’s a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my thing. And these sort of childhood crushes are predicated on the fact that you have everything in common with your dream boy, right down to your matching Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers.

Mel Gibson
Where to begin with this? Hot in Gallipoli, iconic in Mad Max and Lethal Weapon, a little scary behind the camera in The Passion, and a batshit anti-Semite when pulled over for drunk driving. After that, sobbing during Braveheart was never quite the same.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas
During those halcyon days of Home Improvement, glowy little JTT was like an arrow to my Tiger Beat-ing heart. Then he became an outspoken pro-life supporter, going so far to do the voice of an unborn fetus in a pro-life campaign. Out the door went my pre-teen fantasies of having unprotected sex with him.

Dennis Miller
In the 90’s, Miller was known for his jaded, left-leaning sense of humor. I was too young to understand half of his rants during the earlier years of his HBO show, but I always thought he was pretty damn cute for a grown-up. Then those planes crashed into those towers, and Miller became a hawk, made jokes about Hispanics, and secured himself a spot in the O’Reilly Factor rotation. Fox News is like salt on an open wound.

Tom Cruise
This one probably requires no explanation whatsoever, but watch Risky Business and tell me you don’t get a little welled up for what once was. Then watch his notorious Scientology Cackle Video, and tell me you could actually sit through Risky Business ever again. And if you think you could, rewatch him jumping on Oprah’s couch, and get back to me later.

Pat Sajak
The level of heartbreak here depends on how much your grandmother made you watch Wheel of Fortune. In addition to being a significant donor to the Reagan presidential library (there are worse sins), Sajak also has a history of snide conservative commentary on his personal website, including stabs at Ted Kennedy for his weight and snarky remarks about global warming. Just spin your wheel, Pat, and leave our goddamn ozone layer alone.

Tom Selleck
I used to think Magnum P.I. was such a sexy grown-up show — I’m not even sure I was supposed to be watching it, but whenever I think of it I have an automatic emotional recall of naughtiness. At any rate, that naughty feeling was hot like the tickle of a mustache — until I learned Selleck was BFF with Charlton Heston and a proud rifle-toting NRA die-hard.

Mary Lou Retton
My first girl crush. The gymnast — whom I basically wanted to be when I was practicing on the uneven bars as a kid — spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Not a huge deal — I shouldn’t judge, and imaginary friendships should exist above and beyond the realm of politics. But it was never the same after that. Actually, I kind of had the same feeling upon learning this weekend Kerri Strug married a guy with whom she bonded over their shared conservative beliefs. How could I ever trust these women to spot my back tucks if I can’t trust them to stand up for my reproductive freedom? Sometimes I just watch Retton’s vault on a loop, and cry myself to sleep.

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