Surfing the TV again late last night I came across a screening of American Gigolo. I reckon I’ve only watched it in its entirety once, which was when it came out in 1980. I remember well going to see it with a mate. I was living in Sydney then and we probably ended up in a cinema in George or Pitt street. We were kids, and probably seduced by the premise of the movie. Gotta see this H, it’s about a gigolo!
I watched for a little bit last night intrigued by the memory and curious to re-visit the movie. Richard Gere seemed so young and pretty on-screen, and much different from the silver-haired movie veteran he has become. Much of the movie seemed dated, and some of the dialogue just stupid. The fashion, the music, the whole feel of the time portrayed seemed distant. I had to think hard to realise I had lived through that time myself, albeit as a teenager. It would not have seemed foreign to me then. That’s how fashions go. What seems perfectly normal now one day presents as a curiosity, and often an ugly curiosity. I wonder what they’ll say of this era in years to come?
I was full of juice then. Every adolescent boy is. Whenever I wasn’t off doing something else my mind returned to the girls I knew, and the women I wanted to know. Girls were always on my mind, travelling to school on the bus or boredly doodling in class. I had a rich fantasy life that filled me with fantastic notions of romantic and heroic acts. Often my thoughts were much less fantastic, if not downright crude. I remember still that jolting feeling of sexual adrenaline I would feel whenever one of the pretty girls in class inadvertently exposed her knickers to view. What treasures lay beyond that thin fabric? What would it feel like to peel them away from her lithe body? What would she say? What would she do? What would I feel? Sitting there looking out the classroom window I had a fair idea.
Not everything was about sex, though it all eventually came back to it. The lurid fantasies of teenage boys are about discovery as much as anything else, and anticipation. They’re like ancient explorers who looked upon the blank spots on the map and yearned to explore what was yet unknown. It feels like a quest when you’re that age, a holy grail you yearn to attain. Truth is that once you ‘attain’ it you never stop wanting to attain it, because it is both addictive and always new.
It was some of that fervour that took me and my schoolmate to see American Gigolo that long ago day. We’d have felt a giddy thrill at just the thought of being a gigolo – back then it seemed a reasonable and desirable career choice. For me anyway.
I think the reality watching the movie probably fell short of our expectations, but doubtless we caught the train home that night keenly discussing the ins and outs of the movie, and silently anticipating the day that we would be in that world as men – when anything was possible and legitimate, when we move in the adult world as fully fledged members of it. What an intoxicating idea! So to home I would have gone, to a family waiting for me and my room with old model airplanes on the shelves. I’d have slept that night, the future full in me, one day…