My sister and I loved Fantasy Island. Each episode began with Mr. Rourke and Tattoo driving to meet the floatplane in their tricked-out orange station wagon and snappy white suits. As the guest stars stepped onto the dock to be greeted by bikini girls, Mr. Rourke would describe the gist of their fantasy to Tattoo while hinting at an inevitable plot twist. Really great television!
By some odd coincidence this week, two different people have brought up Fantasy Island in random conversations. In both instances my immediate response was, “Do you remember the Jack the Ripper episode?” Well, do you? I sure as hell do.
I remember being scared out of my skull as Jack the Ripper snuck into Mr. Rourke’s office through a white door from the past. I remember his huge crazy eyes and the curved knife blade he gripped tightly in his fist as he stalked the bikini girls. I also remember that I watched the entire episode peering out from behind the couch where I hid until it was over. This may be the most vivid memory I have from all the television I watched as a child.
We recently began subscribing to Netflix and they just so happen to carry the entire series. So, after the second Fantasy Island conversation, I decided I needed to re-watch that one particular program. My Wikipedia research told me it was the sixth episode of season four with an original airdate of November 29, 1980. I was seven.
Ol’ Jack was exactly how I remembered him. His eyes were crazy, his knife was curved, and the bikini girls ran away screaming. I totally see why this scared the crap out of me at the time. There is absolutely no way I’d let my seven year old watch this episode today, it would be totally inappropriate. Not because of the maniacal killer mind you, but because of the gigolos.
You see, each episode of Fantasy Island had two concurrent plots. My young brain had obviously been hijacked by terror and completely blocked out the story that shared screen time with Jack. While one guest had wanted to travel back in time to investigate the Whitechapel murders, the second just wanted to get laid.
Stanley was a self-described goofball who had no luck with the ladies. His meek behavior even had Tattoo rolling his eyes and labeling him a wimp, which in his French accent sounded more like “weemp”. And, as I said, he didn’t just want to become suave and desirable, he wanted to become a professional gigolo.
As sad and pathetic as poor Stanley was, a magical bracelet and a set of flashy duds soon had beautiful women whispering invitations in his ear and slipping room keys in his pocket. Stanley exited the scene triumphantly holding his horde of keys with a very lusty look on his face. He had a long night ahead of him; which lucky lady would be first?
The predictable life lesson came when he began working in tandem with a professional gigolo who volunteered to show him the ropes. This cat charged a cool thousand per day for his company and displayed very questionable ethics as he worked to con a young beautiful heiress. In order to warn her, Stanley had to revert back to his real schlumpy self and ended up winning her heart as well as her trust.
At the top of the show I had hoped the writers were using the term “gigolo” in a sense other than that of male escort for money, but of course they weren’t. I imagined watching this with my seven-year-old and the difficult conversation that would inevitably follow. The thought of trying to responsibly explain the concept made me cringe. I mean, I was blindsided on our last movie night when a cartoon ant asked what someone was “bitching” about.
I then remembered why I was watching the show in the first place. It was because I remembered the scary man, not the slaughtering of prostitutes or the swingers with loose morals in the cocktail lounge. I guess my life lesson courtesy of Mr. Rourke is that I need to chill-out. I’m sure my kids will soon forget all about DreamWorks’ swearing bugs and learn their cursing as God intended, at school.