We love you Ricky, oh yes we do

Move over, Mick: Ricky Martin is a modern Prometheus for the collective penis of pop.

Published May 25, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Nobody's ever been quite able to successfully devise pornography for women.
Playgirl magazine attempted to invent it in the '70s, utilizing the
primitive theory that women got as sweaty and overstimulated by brazen,
naked pictures of the opposite sex as men did, and introduced a magazine
with a hairy, brick-jawed brute in the centerfold, earnestly displaying his
semi-engorged Hollywood Loaf. Of course, the magazine was totally
laughable and not particularly erotic to women, and Playgirl ended up being
patronized more or less exclusively by gay men and sliding into obscurity.
The pop sensation machine has finally found the answer, however, to the
age-old marketing conundrum of What Makes Girls Randy, and now all media
outlets are saturated with bedroom-haired, cologne-marinated,
undergraduate-age dancing boys.

Musician boys are invariably the first big crush of a preteen girl, her
first big sloppy emotional response to the world. The creation of
puppy-lovable teen sensations is now a multinational Moloch, and such
phenomena as N-Sync, The Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys represent a whole
vital stage in the sexual/emotional development of the preteen, i.e. the
kind of biological confusion and obsessive hysteria that causes little
girls to wallpaper their rooms with gratuitous posters of dreamy,
hard-nippled thugs and tarty kinder-whores and throw high-pitched grand-mal
tantrums until albums and T-shirts and concert tickets are bought.

About 20,000 girls all stood outside the MTV window at Times Square in New York and
screamed for teen masturbation-focus the Backstreet Boys last week, and a
few days earlier, another 20,000 girls all stood outside the MTV window and
wailed and wept and beat their breasts for multinational super-pasteurized Hispano-sensation
Ricky Martin. America seemed slightly shocked, as if we expected all that weird screaming
hysteria to die along with the Beatles.

Chick-porn, thy name is Ricky. Ricky wears see-through sweaters and has hips
like a lazy susan. He runs his fingers seductively through his own hair,
with his eyes rapturously closed and his moistened mouth barely parted, like
Rita Hayworth. He is often seen wet, shirtless, open-mouthed kissing and
driving sports cars. Ricky is an emblem of virility and energy and good-guy
ethics, while being a near-perfect fusion of male clichi sexual images: one
part Cary Grant self-amused privilege, one part James Bond
eyebrow raised at the way these birds just seem to tumble into my lap, two
parts Julio Iglesias-cum-Ricardo Montalban-cum-Desi Arnaz-cum-Medellin
drug-cartel-Latino mega-suave and three parts Elvis good-natured nuclear
cock-power, all shrink-wrapped into one silk 'n' leather Milano-pimp outfit.
He is a multicultural young Elvis for the new millennium, with hotter blood:
Ricky, an ethnic minority, has actual traces of humanity. He's a little
smarter than the old Elvis; he's already lived through the whiplash
agony/ecstasy of flash-in-the-pan-ism as a boy who grew too many underarm
hairs to remain in Menudo, so he has a sense of self-preservation and a
healthy arrogance: He's not going to need shock-levels of Demerol and pork
to bolster his comfort level in the end. He knows how to "keep it real," but
in character at the same time. He appears to be a limitless, unstoppable
font of self-enjoyment, professing an Internal Path and a Great Love of
Music and all the other stuff he's doing. He has cracked the mystical code
that makes the young girls cry.

Ricky seems to be a successful boy-band veteran; he was able to take the
faux-conscious pop-veneer of supermarket-accessible eroticism that the
managers of Menudo taught him to radiate before he was old enough to drive
and somehow implant his own adult consciousness behind it. The
efficaciousness of boy-band pseudo-sexuality is nothing to wag a stick at:
Somehow, to the wanton fan of any age, a charismatic stage presence means
that the performer is possessed of a mature, diabolically supercharged
uber-sexuality, and fans respond to the performer as such, even if both
fan and performer are barely over 4 feet tall. New Kids on the Block,
especially, had a peculiar, sexual, Jesus-like sway over the female species:
At the peak of their success, I remember reading an actual newspaper column
about how a 3-year-old girl who had been displaying nothing
but autistic-like behavior for her entire life was watching a New Kids
concert with her older siblings when she suddenly snapped into lucidity,
grabbed her mother by the arm and drawled out her first words, her maiden
voyage into the English language, a fiery demand: "I want Joe."
Joe, of course, being Joe McIntyre, the youngest and shortest of the New
Kids. In the early '90s, he was probably single-handedly responsible for
more fire-hammers of sexual explosion in the 12-and-under crowd than
Elvis and David Cassidy and Mickey Dolenz combined.

Ricky has picked up where that teen nightmare left off, in a lot of ways,
and has also claimed the abandoned scepter of John Travolta's Saturday Night Feverishness
by pulling off a look that has up to now been regarded as either totally homosexual or
ethnically slimy in a sexist way, i.e. get a load of Sergio Valente at the bar over there,
ohmigod, who does he think he is? He has resuscitated obvious male sexiness from the way it
disgraced itself in the '70s, when it wore open Quiana shirts and gold
chains and pants so tight you could see all the veins in its schlong. Young
American boy rock stars got too embarrassed to be sexy after Mick Jagger;
Ricky has brought the sacred man-fire back to the pop stars in a way that
those weepy, drum-beating-in-the-woods, encounter-group guys have been
trying to bring it back to their own soft, gutless bellies for the last
decade or so, and he deserves some kinda credit.


I was all set to make this a pure Ricky Martin puff piece, and speak of his
golden legitimacy and flawless panty-heat, but I just caught a little throwaway
interview with him on MTV. Normally, when Ricky speaks, he's all
chocolatey corporate cheerleading; for example, when he picked up his World
Music Award in Monaco last week: "To all you leaders," he said, presumably
meaning World Leaders, "you should take the music industry as an example --
it's all about creating, not destroying." Dumb, but heartfelt. Maybe forgivable.

This time, on the other hand, he gave two spontaneous answers that made me
think the Golden Ricky might be more hollow than solid. The love-struck
fan-girl interviewer asked him: "Who is your favorite singer and biggest influence?"
"Journey. Steve Perry," said Ricky without a beat of hesitation. Oooch.

"Who is the most important person in the world to you, and why?" asked the

Ricky then got an un-funny, shrapnel gleam in his big puddly eyes and
started mumbling about how he always wanted to invite "his enemies" to
dinner, because he wanted to keep them very close. The most important
people to Ricky are his enemies? Hmmmm. How much Ricky is Ricky and how
much is Memorex? We may never find out, but the Wheel in the Sky Keeps on
Tur-nin'. Wo-oh-oah.

By Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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