In 1977, when other kids were discovering The Sex Pistols, I was discovering The Love Boat. I stayed at my grandparents’ house on most weekends, so on Saturday nights at 8 p.m., I’d settle down on the sofa with the two of them to watch Aaron Spelling’s marine masterpiece. This column is my attempt to reclaim the wonder of those weekends.
What’s this? An episode of The Love Boat without three intersecting narratives? Apparently, making all the guest stars literally intersect with each other was the idea behind this truly memorable episode.
Curt Stansell (played by Dick Gautier and his luscious head of hair) is kind of a caveman, even by The Love Boat’s standards. He takes the cruise with his fiancée Didi Donnelly (the gorgeous, voluptuous Barbara Rhoads), who he refers to as his “chick,” a.k.a. “the finest animal I’ve ever owned.” She is displeased by his boorish bluster and it doesn’t take long before she decides she’s going to find another cabin.
Out of the frying pan and into… Doc’s bed. Good old lecherous Doc! When he puts the moves on her, she exclaims, “What kind of a girl do you think I am?” Doc goes to sleep in Julie’s bathtub. But Kurt isn’t done. He shows up later and basically molests Didi, who tells him to get lost. I am assuming he was thinking he was going to get some on this cruise in advance of the honeymoon? Just ew.
Meanwhile Julie shares a bottle of Irish whiskey with none other than Paul Williams, um, I mean Nelson Hoag. Nelson has the peculiar habit of asking every woman he sees to marry him. But this is only because he’s about to turn 25 (pretty neat trick for an actor who was born in 1940) and he’ll be disinherited from his grandfather’s will if he’s not married by then.
All of this cabin switching provides juicy fodder for Ms. O’ Roarke (Marcia Wallace, The Simpsons) who wants to write an expose on all the orgies that apparently happen on The Love Boat, prefiguring VICE by a few decades.
Then there’s Irenie Germain (Michele Lee, who loves being on this show), the would-be celebrity who, in reality is a widowed housewife named Irene Funston from Pacoima. She has convinced her sister to call the boat and send telegrams from a variety of Hollywood heavyweights (Marlon, Warren, Al, even Rudolph Nureyev) so that she can create a certain glamorous image and mystique. It definitely works for Captain Stubing who uses his “husky Captain Stubing” voice whenever she’s around.
They go on a tour of the boat and then, Stubing’s cabin. Things get hot and heavy and Stubing excuses himself to put on a lovely cranberry velvet smoking jacket. He catches Irene on the phone begging someone to page her. She confesses her real identity but he is still smitten, calling her a “magnificent woman.”
She runs off to cry alone on deck and sees Kurt crying, too. They comfort each other while trying not to use up all the Kleenex on board.
Didi still doesn’t have a place to stay and runs into a pretty tipsy Nelson at the bar. He shows her a picture of his pet rabbit Benjamin and asks if she wants to see his scrapbook (not a prelude for sex!) and she agrees. Back in his cabin, he passes out before too long and the next day brings her a tray with tea and pastries. Thrilled that he’s such a doll, she asks HIM to marry HER. He is overjoyed and then she is even more so when she finds out about the $3 million he’s going to inherit.
Pretty soon everyone is celebrating in Nelson’s cabin: the crew, Irene and Kurt, and even Gopher. Stubing asks him to fetch champagne and he runs into O’Roarke and suggests they go back to his cabin instead.
The next day, Didi and Nelson leave together, Kurt and Irene leave together, and Gopher tells O’Roarke the truth behind all the hook-ups she supposedly saw. Turns out that she and Gopher were the only two who actually got some. Whomp whomp whomp.
The Business of Love / Crash Diet Crush / I’ll Never Fall in Love Again
Jill Williams (Caren Kaye, My Tutor) and her basket of oranges are trying to start over. Her friend is sad that she’ll be leaving “the business” (a.k.a. prostitution) but Jill is determined to start a new life for herself and 14-year-old son Ricky.
Less enthused is a rather morose Annette Funicello as Roberta Roberts, a woman who seems utterly lost. Soon, she comes across fellow passenger Nate Jordan, whose wife recently passed away. As it turns out Robert’s fiancée was killed in a test flight for the military. They have more in common, though, like a love of Planter’s Punch and Agatha Christie. They spend a lot of time being emo together and avoiding loudmouth couple Moe and Dotty Price (“Price’s Ice is Nice!”) played by Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I mean, the Prices mean well, but they are a bit annoying.
Another older couple on board is Ray and Myrna Foster (Jack Carter and Jayne Meadows Allen). Ray comes across as kind of a jerk. It’s not long until Myrna finds her own cabin and Ray is pissed. But guess what? Ray is a former client of Jill’s and shows up at her cabin, threatening to blackmail her with that info. It’s actually pretty gross and rapey. Jill has started a romance with another passenger, a nice gentleman named Bill Wainwright, and she’s terribly upset by Ray’s decision. Yet, when the time comes, Ray lies and says he knows Jill from old real estate deals. He admits that Myrna has left him and Jill, who is a classy lady, says he needs to try and reconcile with his wife. Which he does and they seem happier than ever.
The biggest thrill of this cruise is the appearance of Jocelyn Hyatt Matthews (Jessica Walters, Arrested Development). She was a cheerleader at Captain Stubing’s high school, back when he was nicknamed “Stringbean” and was a member of the track team. He’s always had a crush on her but is terribly self-conscious about his balding head and expanded midsection. He tries to go on a crash diet and the resulting bouts of hangry drive the crew insane. So Gopher schemes to not only let out Stubing’s pants but also futz with his scale so that he thinks he’s lost 15 pounds.
It works! He charms the pants off of Jocelyn (literally) with some seriously steamy language that he must have been saving up since he wasn’t able to seal the deal with Irene Funston. The next day he tries to convince Jocelyn to embark on a relationship, but she just wants to savor the memories instead. Poor Merrill.
On a happier note, Roberta and Nate end up sharing a taxi home, so perhaps love will blossom for these two sad sacks after all.
Until next week, remember to let it flow, because it always floats back to you.
Fun Fact: Jayne Meadows Allen and Jack Carter both had long careers careers in Hollywood (she was in the 1946 film Undercurrent; his first film role was in 1939’s The Devil’s Daughter) and both passed away earlier this year (at the ages of 93 and 95, respectively).