On a dull evening recently, I went searching for entertainment on Youtube, were I found a goldmine of fabulously trashy 80s prime time TV game show episodes hosted by a man I forgot I had a crush on.
Love Connection, where old-fashioned romance meets modern-day technology!
I have watched every available online clip from Chuck Woolery-era Love Connection episodes (1983 – 1992), and I’ve savoured every minute of it. For those unfamiliar with the US show, the “bachelor” or “bachelorette” tries to make a love connection with their choice of three possible dates, then returns to discuss their date with Chuck.
It is an entertaining show, but I have to admit that sometimes I found it difficult to watch (remember the era): really, really bad hair, middle parts, and mullets; enormous shoulder pads, frosted make up, tinted glasses, Members Only jackets, and lots of creepy moustaches. Young people looked so much older then – up to 20 visual years and more! Through it all, the charming and ever-jovial Chuck Woolery remained suave and handsome in his classic suits, collar bars, and fabulous hair.
Watching these episodes again, I was able to re-swoon on Chuck and it made me notice social and sartorial differences between now and a quarter century ago. Many things have changed since Love Connection was in its hey-day, but a few things have remained the same.
Women’s liberation. The biggest change has been the women’s movement and its social, economic, and sexual influence. Lonnie recognized it in his Love Connection segment: “Times have changed and women are really assertive now… it catches me off guard when women pat me on the rear end.” (Does everyone see the irony here?) Women on Love Connection were comfortable putting their foot down as Terry says, “Just because I’m holding his hand doesn’t mean I want to hop in bed with him.”
The vast majority of “bachelorettes” on Love Connection were in control of their own lives and exercised their independence save for one. Kathee’s dream was to be just like her mom: “My mom worked 40 hours a week, came home, cooked dinner, had children, cleaned house on weekends. I want to pamper my husband, I want to pamper my mate. They deserve it.” Kathee was a Love Connection anomaly.
$$. When it came to money, Love Connection shed light on some nasty female behaviour: Andrew explained that while out to dinner with a first date, the woman asked to see his wallet, went through it, counted his money and made a snide comment about how much cash he carried (who does that?). Several men complained about dating materialistic women in California. “Women want to know how much you make and what you do, and it just blows my mind,” Rick says. With women splashing in the economic pool and making their own money, expectations of men have changed and relaxed because women can pay their own way. Surely a relief to you single fellas.
Language. Almost all men referred to women as “girls” on the show (including Chuck), though they were clearly addressing grown women. Milton gives us a bizarre example: he said he wanted someone just like his mom: “My mom is a southern type girl, great cook, good morals, family values, and career-minded also.” Southern type girl? How many of you think of your mother as a girl? It’s like thinking of your father as a boy. Odd.
Women’s bodies. It was socially accepted at that time to be blatantly judgemental of women’s bodies and our friends on Love Connection paint the picture: “Maggie has received compliments on almost all parts of her body,” Eric thinks that “there’s no excuse for a woman to be fat.” Michael’s date started with exercise because “it was a good chance for me to get a good look at her body.’ Donald asked Del to walk in front of him so he could see her butt, thinking that “the face wasn’t working but maybe the booty would,” then explained what she wore on their date: “She was wearing a white, see-through skirt, and her butt is kind of big and you could see straight through the skirt, Chuck, and it was like an eclipse.” Ooh, Donald, it burns!
Men will always love to look at women, so that won’t change, but the way men communicate what they see has changed. The fellas on Love Connection kept no secrets: Rick’s date had a “great body”, Jack noticed Sheila’s “outrageous looking legs”, Jeff notices the bosom first, Lawrence said that his date had “nice legs, great buns”, and Al said Jane “had all the curves in the right places.” I don’t know about you, but listening to these guys talk about women as body parts makes me feel like a quartered chicken.
Women’s minds. The majority of bachelors mentioned women’s bodies but seldomly a woman’s mind. Lee gives us an example: Chuck introduced him as not liking women who are too smart. “If they know more than I do,” Lee says, “then I’m in trouble.” I’m not so sure that anyone on Love Connection was a genius themselves, but smart women get much more respect now and I know many men who love to be intellectually captivated by women.
Women abusing men. Seeing a snapshot of the 1980s through Love Connection sometimes made me shudder. Here are three instances of women physically abusing men: Jacques, at 6’7, told the story of making a girlfriend mad and she turned into a boxer. “She started punching me. I told her it didn’t work but she was killing me.” Rhonda explained stopping her car on the freeway to yell at the tail-gaiting man behind her, then delighted in her description of getting out of the car, shouting at the man, then hitting him. Then there is Ardreda, “known to hit her dates”: “If my man is looking at another woman, I have to let him know what’s going on, so you’ve got to hit him so he knows he’s your man.” Formerly a cute way of showing her hurt, this is now called assault.
Men and women still have trouble communicating. Sometimes miscommunication happens when people don’t listen. Jim demanded that Cindy come and pick him up (which Cindy didn’t like), then after telling him that she was allergic to fish, he decided that they would have lunch in a fish restaurant. She had a Coke. I believe there was a blood sugar issue later in the date.
I noticed that whenever a woman voiced something negative about the guy, or if he seemed somehow threatened by his date, he automatically got defensive, criticized the woman, and in some cases, tried to shoot insults back (to camoflauge his hurt?). Other times there was hostility between both parties. Mulletted Chris remodeled his car to look like the Batmobile and complained about the size of his date’s thighs, her hair, her “kakamayme directions” and the restaurant she chose (“a roach coach”), while his date, Angela, hurled bombs just as nasty, calling his hair “scraggily” and saying he looked like he lived in the van he picked her up in. When we don’t accept ourselves and other people, we get hostile. No change there.
Good dressers, good manners. Some things never change and being well-dressed and good-mannered will always be appreciated. Many Love Connection women said they like a man who dresses well, like Chuck, whose socks usually match his trousers, but don’t take your dressing cues from any of the Love Connection contestants. Flossy-haired Linda insisted that men’s shirts and socks have to match (I remember this as an 80s thing – please leave it there).
I think that Eric summed it up best when he said, “Women love to see manners on a guy… take her to nice places… I’m going to be the best dressed man for her.” That fellas, is the ticket.
Through shows like Love Connection, we can track our social progress, the change in gender roles, and thankfully, the change of the fashion guard. I appreciate you tuning in today and I offer you a delightful parting gift, better than a year supply Lee Sculptured Nails – two Love Connection clips! Enjoy.