“Remembering an 80s Movie Nobody Remembers: Where the Boys Are 84”

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The category is campy 80s flicks that you’ve never heard of and the answer is Where the Boys Are 84.  Why? Because some movies are so bad, that they’re actually fun to watch. Consider it a guilty pleasure. Not to mention that Liza Minnelli’s little sister is in it, along with the blond, blind girl from Ice Castles.”  (Yeah, “Ice Castles” made me cry too.)

It was a remake of the 1960’s, Metrocolor classic, “Where the Boys Are”—the popular coming-of-age flick that made the Connie Francis’ song, of the same name, legendary. No, really, they actually did make a remake of Where the Boys Are in the 80s.  I should know; I was a “background artist” (extra) in it.  More on that later.

Of course, Liza’s little sister’s name is Lorna Luft, and the “Ice Castles” blond girl is Lynn-Holly Johnson. They were joined in this CinemaScope, cinematic opus by Lisa Hartman of obscure TV fame, and Wendy Schaal of “step-daughter-of-Valerie-Harper” fame. Along for the ride was the hunky Russell Todd, whose claim to fame was getting slaughtered in a wheelchair by Jason in “Friday the 13th Part 2.”  All these actors were playing teenagers; however, most were pushing thirty—or thirty had already caught up with them, in a couple of cases.

Leading this company of talented thespians was executive-producer Allan Carr. Mister Carr had achieved box-office gold in the 70s with the iconic movie, “Grease.” Alas, he also produced “Grease 2” and The Village People’s “Can’t Stop the Music.”  (Both those 80s movies deserve their own articles, by the way). Carr later became infamous for producing the disastrous 1989 Academy Awards.  You know the one—where poor Rob Lowe “sang” with Snow White in an overblown, opening number that made Disney threaten legal action. We’d post the video; however, to this day, it is pulled from YouTube (by Disney?) shortly after it is posted.

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So, you may ask, with that capable cast and producer, what could possibly go wrong?  Well…

The premise was simple enough.  Four virgin coeds from the cold north take a pilgrimage to sunny Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break. They are looking for fun in the sun, not to mention under the sheets. This was the movie’s tag line: “When girls want a vacation filled with fun, sun and romance, they go to Fort Lauderdale…Where all your dreams come true.” Sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, the convoluted script goes in more ludicrous directions than this article.

Where the Boys are '84 Laurie driving everyone down to Florida

And then there was the subplot. Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Roger Ebert took a stab at explaining it in his scathing, one-star review of the film: “There’s also an idiotic subplot out of left field, about a wimpy concert pianist and his domineering mother, and how the whole gang crashes a lawn party at his mother’s waterfront mansion. And the usual “Hot Bod” contests and drunken orgies, all written, acted, and directed at such a plodding pace that Valium seems to be the week’s drug of choice.” I miss Roger Ebert!

My memories of the set are quite vivid after all these years. First of all, the working title of the movie was Where the Boys Are Now and it was actually filmed in 1983.

We shot in a popular Fort Lauderdale nightclub called City Limits. Casting director, Beverly McDermott, filled the joint with photogenic college students—most too young to attend the club in real life. The sweet, cotton candy smell of the fake smoke was intoxicating, and the potato-tasting fake beer was disgusting.

There was that extra special day when a white limousine pulled up, the chauffer ran around to open the backseat door, and out came Allan Carr wearing a moo-moo. Yes, he wore a moo-moo, deal with it.

Likewise memorable, was the sight of Lisa Hartman obsessively checking her golden hair in the hand mirror she clutched throughout the take; quickly hiding it under the table when they called “action.”

Then there was muscle-bound Russell Todd walking around the set shirtless, making the girl extras, and some of the boys, melt with lust.

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The sweet and down-to-earth Lynn-Holly Johnson was memorable as well. Instead of lounging in her trailer like the others, she was on set assisting the choreographer. She wore headphones, stood on a table off-screen, and helped the extras keep the beat—for we had to dance to no music while the actors’ dialogue was recorded.  All lovely remembrances, but the Rockats stole the show.

Perhaps, the best thing in the movie is the rockabilly tunes of Rockats. Take after take, they delivered energetic performances every time.  The cool thing is that they’re still around rock-catting away. Check out their Facebook Page.

In all, it’s a shame that no one remembers this campy, sexy romp of a movie. Watching it is like getting into a psychedelic Dolorean time machine and traveling back to the 80s.  There’s a plethora of nostalgia too—from the big hair, to the rocking music, to the hella cool fashions.  Sure, the script and the acting are atrocious…but that’s the fun of it. And the eye candy isn’t bad either.  Be warned though, the Rockats’ rousing rendition of  “Be-Bop-A-Lula” will stay in your brain for days…and days…and days.

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“Where the Boys Are 84”—it’s more fun than most of the remakes they’re making nowadays.

 

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Author: P.J. Dominicis

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