When the conversation arises as to who my first TV crush was on, I usually answer that it's either Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) or Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Theissen). But after spending some time really thinking about that question, those two lovely ladies are not the correct answers. Going through my incredible brain full of memories, I realized there was a beautiful woman who graced my TV screen eight years prior to meeting Winnie and Kelly. An older woman who probably would have caused me to make a mess in my underoos if I could back in 1982. She actually was the first TV star that I was madly in love with and made me realize at a young age that I wasn't going to be gay. Her name was Erin Gray.
Most people know her as Kate Summers from Silver Spoons, but I first laid eyes on her in the legendary 1982 classic film, Six Pack. This is a forgotten gem that made us see how bad an actor Kenny Rogers, but introduced us to Diane Lane and Anthony Michael-Hall. She played Kenny Rogers' love interest, and she was gorgeous. With that wispy dark hair, and those sweet blue eyes, mama!!! I thought some of the girls in my nursery school class were okay, but they couldn't compete with Erin. I was attracted to a real woman; an older woman; somebody who could portray my mother in a future TV movie about my exciting life.
Erin Gray was also the female lead on Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century with Gil Gerard. She played Wilma Deering, a spunky smart space chick. She was even more smoking hot on this show wearing a skin tight one piece space outfit. Erin Gray has stated in interviews that the outfit was so tight, she had to be sewn into it. If you rewatch old episodes of the show, you might notice that the goofy robot sidekick Tiki was occasionally sporting robotic wood when following Erin around the space station. She also used her fame on Buck Rogers to appear on Battle Of The Network Stars trying to upend Lynda Carter as the hottest competitor. Judge for yourself:
After Buck ended, she landed on one of my favorite sit-coms of all time, Silver Spoons. It always bothered me that Mr. Stratten took such a long damn time to seal the deal with her. Ricky's antics were always fun, and I could deal with Alfonso Ribeiro's dancing, but the best reason to watch Silver Spoons was to see my Erin.
When Silver Spoons ended in 1987, Erin Gray's career pretty much faded. She guest starred on a few TV shows, appeared in a Friday The 13th movie, and did some Lifetime movies. Then she just disappeared from the mainstream. No Playboy pictorials to rejuvenate her career, or B-level reality shows. Erin was happy to put her career on hold to be a mom. Apparently she now has her own casting agency in which he books former science fiction and fantasy stars for conventions. Ironically, I would get the chance to meet her at one of these conventions.
Usually when you attend these pop culture conventions, the guests can sometimes be obnoxious and charge ridiculous prices for an autograph or a photo with them. I met Erin Gray, and we had such a great conversation about her work that I didn't even mind spending five bucks. You didn't read that wrong, it only cost five dollars, and the money was for a good cause (breast cancer research). She was so pleasant and down to earth, and even admitted that she gets star struck from time to time when she appears at these conventions. I of course bombarded her with questions, and she was more than happy to answer them all. Yes, that train did really work on the Silver Spoons set, and the video games were also so real that Ricky Schroeder spent way too much time playing them during breaks. She still kept in touch with Joel Higgins who played Edward Stratten, and ironically ended up appearing in a play with him a few years ago. Kenny Rogers never sang to her on the set of Six Pack, and doesn't think his wife would go for it if he happened to serenade her at a concert with the smash hit from the movie, Turn Your Love Around. Erin Gray was a class act, perhaps one of the nicest celebrities I have ever met. Although she has aged over the years, she still is so attractive as you can see from the photo below. If she only knew that she was my first crush when I was a little boy, because I didn't have the balls to admit that to her, rightfully so. :)