Friday, May 04, 2007

Sluggo Sleepover

Most people recall their first big crush, even if it was on a movie star or fictional character. I certainly recall mine who serves as a role model to this day – Sluggo. The comic strip Nancy & Sluggo was one of several strips like Blondie, Dondi, Our Boarding House and Gasoline Alley that were set in a netherworld that certainly was not contemporary and seemed somewhat stuck in the 1930s. Most of the styles and characters in those strips gave me the willies with the exception of Sluggo.

There was something so sumptuously rounded about him, and there was that buzz cut head that certainly conjured up images of wanting to run barefoot through it. He usually covered it up with that little red tough guy cap, but when he sometimes let the world see that sensuous bristle noggin of his, my entire body quivered thinking of what it must have felt like to touch. Though I certainly was not like Rollo, Nancy's rich kid friend, I knew that Sluggo came from the wrong side of the tracks and wore wonderful tough guy clothes instead of mine that had gone through two cycles of fabric softener and a light sheen of spray starch administered by our housekeeper. Of course, in my worst nightmare I was Nancy -- a chubby little fuzz head in a too tight skirt and blouse with a pathetic little ribbon on top like a maraschino cherry on an unworthy ice cream dessert.

Besides owning a monkey, one of my recurring pre-middle school fantasies was to have Sluggo over for a sleepover so I could feel that crisp, sandpaper sensual scalp as we snuggled in my bed with my stuffed toys and favorite blankets. From the age of five to about 11, I loved having boys from school for sleepovers, and just when their breathing suggested that they had fallen asleep, I’d haultingly move my hand from my visitor’s stomach to the top of his head to see if he possessed the crown I was in search of. Only once did one wake and mumble, “Hey, what are you doing?”

“Oh, just trying to see if you have Sluggo-worthy hair.”

“Okay. But just don’t try any funny business.”

Alas, I never found a worthy Sluggo surrogate at my school. Most were too equally intrigued with watching Kukla, Fran & Ollie’s International Film Festival or making toll house cookies with me to convince me that they had that Sluggo edge.

Finally I decided that it was because I lived in the wrong part of the country. I sense that Sluggo was probably from Newark or south Boston, the perfect urban animal. When my grandparents took me to Manhattan every October beginning at age eight, I was always on the look out for some little Sluggo hanging out in an alley. I was prepared to be my own Fresh Air Fund of one to sponsor an inner city boy of my exact age, giving him all the great Midwest sunshine and unpolluted air that would strengthen his little lungs. Sadly, most of the other eight year olds attending How Now Dow Jones and George M! were equally overly intense grandsons with doting grandmothers straightening their blazers with faux crests as they meticulously read the “Who’s Who” in the cast from Playbill. “Look Grandma, she was in 70 Girls 70 that we saw last year!”

Looking back at my most passionately adult romantic pursuits, there was always a Sluggo factor in the process. Always a hope that he was from the wrong side of the tracks but would still be interested in me. Several of them wore caps and striped shirts and would look both ways before sneaking a kiss in public.

I once wrote a short story about what happened to the adult Nancy and Sluggo. They ended up in San Francisco in the mid-1980s where Nancy, whose round face and figure were always at the center of her self-esteem crisis, took a very low level job at the Bank of America. She commuted every day from her tiny, overpriced studio in Alameda. The plumbing leaked, and the ceiling was sagging, but she lacked the self-confidence to complain to her landlord.

After first sharing the apartment with her, Sluggo soon went through a series of increasingly wealthy boyfriends until he finally settled with a partner in Noe Valley where they had a quaint garden and a pair of Jack Russell terriers named Chucko and Mimi.

Nancy was driving home from work in her 12-year-old Honda Civic in October 1989 when the expanse to the Bay Bridge collapsed and she died instantly. Sluggo went into a deep depression, repeating: “I always told her to drive across the bridge with at least one window partially rolled down. That way you’ll have a chance to breaking out of the car from the bottom of the bay.”

I wonder if Sluggo is still out there? Maybe I’ll have dinner in Noe Valley tonight after all.

Labels: , , , ,


At 7:53 PM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

This made my day! ;)
My first crush was on Letterman from Electric Company.
I wonder what ever happened to him? Maybe he ended up being one of Sluggo's rich boyfriends...

At 5:54 AM, Blogger Dave said...

Oh my god, I had the hots for Letterman too! There was this one episode where the Spellbinder magically put Letterman in this pond and tried to drown him. The details are sketchy in my brain, but I think it was implied that under the water, Letterman was naked. At six years old, I found that incredibly titillating. I mean, he was no Green Lantern (or Sluggo), but still. Thanks for unearthing that repressed memory.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Gavin Elster said...

Wow.Electric Company! I thought the mute spiderman was sexy but somehow tragic.

Poor Sluggo. Last time I saw him he was drinking orange juice and not eating his graham crackers at the methadone clinic on Van Ness.


Post a Comment

<< Home