Oscar History

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William Holden in Picnic

"I find Holden has a more earthy sex appeal in his early roles, you could kick your shoes off and put them on his lap and he wouldn't flinch." - Mark

"My mother's favorite actor. His dance with Kim Novak is an unforgettable movie moment." -Jaragon

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Stripper of the Day: "Ricky The Rocket"

While "Magic Mike" is in theaters we're looking back at memorable movie strippers

It's hard to know what possessed Oscar winning director John Avildsen to make the very trashy A Night in Heaven (1983), and less than a decade after his Rocky triumph at that. But make it he did. This one time paycable regular is about a schoolmarm community college professor named Faye (Lesley Ann Warren) who falls for a student named Rick (Christopher Atkins) once she sees, uh, more of him at her local bar's Ladie's Night. It takes place in Florida and considering that this is the only major theatrical motion picture about a male stripper before Magic Mike which also takes place there, does this mean that Florida is the capital of pelvic thrusts and loincloths... or just ceaselessly horny?

By day Rick's cocky glibness irritates Faye in speech class where she flunks him. But by night she discovers that he's "Ricky The Rocket", a star attraction. Ricky The Rocket immediately recognizes her during his space-age routine and in the film's cleverest visual beat, he's temporarily backlit by a halo as he moves toward her. 

His body may be heavenly but Rickie is no angel.  And he's definitely not safe for (Faye's) work...

Rickie's routine doesn't have the dance-like finesse of Magic Mike's best moments but it is certainly choreographed, starting with a fog-machine entrance, stair case bannister humping to music that would be right at home in Showgirls "Goddess" show, costume shedding, and a circular tour of the bar for smutty time with the fans, which is the part that womanizing Rickie likes best.

Gonna blast you up to heaven with a cosmic thrill.
Ricky Rocket!
A galaxy of pleasure! a star spangled delight!! 
He's going to do it to ya baby!
Mission control countdown.
5,4, gimme 3, gimme a 2, gimme a 1... Blast off!
Here comes the silver comet of cum.
He's your outer space love delight.
This man wants only to give you pleasure." 
          -emcee shouting as he dances

Christopher Atkins was no stranger to selling what his mama gave him, having spent his entire star-making feature (The Blue Lagoon, 1980) in next to nothing. His short career as a headliner, which also included shirtless swashbuckling in The Pirate Movie (1982), basically ended with this role and it's easy to see why he took it. Consider it his Fresh Meat Trilogy. But fresh meat always comes with an expiration date.

Lesley Ann Warren, on the other hand, was in a much different career position. Her decision to sign up was a little stranger. After a decade in the trenches of TV guest work with the occassional starring TV movie role, she was hot off her first (and only) Oscar nomination for great comic work in Victor/Victoria and entering her own even briefer time as a headliner (though her career had more mainstream longevity in supporting roles).

She handles her character's erotic flutterings like a pro but Faye is such a lonely housewife/uptight teacher stereotype and her arc so tiny and whiny that it's hard not to want to snatch the dumb roses from her cleavage and slap her. "Snap out of it Lesley!"

 She does snap out of it temporarily after Ricky backs away from their spontaneous makeout to strip yet further and sex up the other patrons. She looks positively mortified ...which is a totally valid reaction when discovering that your new sex idol wears silver diapers!

But Faye's "what have I done?" common married-lady sense rapidly evaporates as she falls under Ricky's spell again. He pursues her hoping for a better grade while she pursues her fondness for horrifically unflattering outfits that scream "I've never had an orgasm!". After Rickie gives her one, the movie gets weirdly judgmental like it suddenly came down with a bad case of the Hays Code. Faye and her husband will be forgiven for their sins and flaws but Ricky must be punished and humiliated as the deviant sexual predator; it's all his fault! (see also: Fatal Attraction)

Bad Ricky, Bad!

previous stripteases

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Reader Comments (11)

As a lifelong resident of Florida, I have to say its most definitely the latter.

July 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonny

The Fresh Meat Trilogy should totally be a box set.

July 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

Derreck - LOL.

Jonny -- the perpetual horniness you mean?

July 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

just out of curiousity i went to imdb to check whatever happened to christopher atkins - he still works a lot, but i've never seen a longer list of titles i have never heard of

i hope lesley ann had this in the can before her oscar nomination, otherwise it was career move of cuba gooding jnr-like proportions

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

Atkins went from this to Dallas, no? He played Christopher (adopted son of Bobby & Pam) Ewing's swim instructor, who naturally had an affair with Pam. Hmm, he should turn up and check on Jesse Metcalfe in the new one...

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrjb

This was such a fun read! 80s movies were so good at being absurd...

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Thanks for drawing attention to this film and, in particular, the spectacular strip/seduction scene between Atkins and Warren.

In what is generally a pretty tawdry, forgettable film, this sequence is a model of directing and editing an important scene in a film with almost no dialogue. Avildsen (who was his own editor) initially sets up a crowded, raucous bar full of women clamoring to touch some guy's butt. Then, as Atkins comes out, works the crowd, and then notices Warren, the scope of the scene closes in until the two of them are framed in such a tight close-up that no one else in the scene is visible. Similarly, the crowd noise drops out, so the scene is just about this thrilling, private moment between these two, set to the throbbing beat of the superior original Michael Des Barres and Holly Knight version of "Obsession," later made famous by Animotion. The range of emotions that flash across Warren's face tell the story of the whole film in miniature. Then, the scene gradually opens back up to the noisy, crowded room again and Warren is just another horny woman among dozens. It's very hypnotic and really impressive.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

@rjb -- I thought he played John Ross' swimming instructor, and had an affair with Sue Ellen.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJR Ewing

Matt -- I totally agree with you on the filmmaking in this sequence. It's really a model of everything working together for the same character and narrative (and uh marketing) goals. If only the rest of the movie was worthy of it...

July 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Christopher Atkins, sigh! I had such a crush on him. Saw "The Blue Lagoon" and "The Pirate Movie" in the cinema when I was, oh, 9 or 10, and then endlessly on HBO. It's a wonder I am attracted to anything BUT blonde haired, blue eyed surfer boys!

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeeingI

thanks for chiming in, SEEING I. I knew there'd have to be somebody around who remembered Christopher Atkins besides me.

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr
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