It’s possible that none of you remember the time before.
For you, the skies have always been black. The streets have always echoed with the tread of jackboots. The nights have always been restless with the spilled blood of the dwindling rebellion. I write today of a time where the world was still green and alive. Before the dark time.
Before Lovey Hart.
It’s easy to forget that she was once mortal. Any of the heroes we read about in our youth came from somewhere. A radioactive spider committed a nerd-related hate crime and we got Spider-Man. A rich couple thought it would be fun to take an eight-year-old slumming and we got Batman. An infant was rocketed to earth only to find that the yellow sun granted him enhanced strength, diamond-hard skin and heat vision and we got President Millard Fillmore.
Villains have origins as well. This week’s entry, “Dear Lovey Hart: I Am Desperate…” chronicles the first flirtation with ultimate power of the one we call Lovey Hart, the Butcher of Fresno, Imperiatrix of the Nine Courts and the Dark One. It all began in the offices of a struggling school newspaper at Lincoln High in the Year 12 BL (Before Lovey), also known as 1976 AD. Explaining what a newspaper was might take too much time, as they were dying even before Lovey Hart finally crushed them beneath her iron-shod boots. Suffice to say that there was a time when things that happened were relayed to the populace via flimsy paper and cheap inks. The story begins at the classroom that holds the paper of record for Lincoln High, the Lincoln Log.
The editor is a young man named Skip Custer, a transparent alias. My research leads me to believe that this was Willard “Chip” Carruthers, one of those murdered on the Night of the Chainsaws to the Face, the first of Lovey Hart’s purges. In this first scene, Skip Custer makes a fateful decision, one that would cause the populace at large to curse his forgotten name: he wants to create a teenaged advice column for the lovelorn to save his struggling paper. Picking writer Carrie Wasserman, whose writing he deems “light and lively,” he pitches the column to her. It will be called “Dear Lovey Hart.” That sound you just heard was a crack of thunder echoing across the bones of the slain. At this time, Carrie is merely a sophomore, and getting her own column is quite the coup. Unfortunately for her, Skip explains that for the illusion to be maintained, Carrie’s identity must remain secret. No one can know who Lovey Hart really is. She agrees and Lady Liberty weeps.
For those that have only seen the placards at Lovey Hart’s staged rallies, the sight of the actual girl is somewhat jarring. She looks like a toothier, less attractive version of Amy Adams. This does not explain her insistence at the bizarre half-mask that has become her trademark over the last half-decade. Perhaps the death of Chip Carruthers scarred her physically as well as emotionally. We will never know for certain.
“Dear Lovey Hart” is a hit right out of the gate. Speculation runs rampant throughout the school about Lovey’s identity. This continues at home, where Carrie’s father is upset about Lovey Hart. He is the guidance counselor at Lincoln High, and he is concerned that someone is dispensing advice without the proper credentials. Carrie defends Lovey Hart without revealing that she is the shadowy force behind the sensation, and then invokes the non-aggression pact she has with her father: at school neither of them are to interfere with the affairs of the other. This begs the question, what is her father doing at school? Knowing the depths of Lovey Hart’s love of carnage and pain, I can only imagine that her father’s desires are similarly dark.
One of Carrie’s closest friends at school is basketball meathead Marty. I could find no records of him, though it should be noted that he bears a superficial resemblance to Loktar the Man-Hound, Lovey’s brutal cybernetic enforcer. She describes her relationship with Marty on terms that would later prove chilling: “Kindergarten to grave, friendship for life.” Marty is clearly smitten with Carrie, though she does not share those feelings. In fact, Carrie is untouched by most entanglements. There is a nascent attraction to Skip, but that is likely more because for Lovey Hart, ultimate power is the only aphrodisiac.
Another one of Carrie’s friends, the ridiculously hot Linda, also has a love problem. Elyssa Davalos, mother of the similarly gorgeous Alexa Davalos, plays Linda and her problem is not what one would think, i.e. that she’s dating the basketball team. Not select members of the team, the whole team. No, the beautiful Linda is in love with her English teacher, Mr. Stokes. This would seem to be a bigger problem for Mr. Stokes, since Linda pretty much defines hot ‘70s jailbait. Carrie advises caution, but Linda ignores the advice with the confidence of a girl who has been ogled since she learned about makeup. It is here that Carrie learns the power of a secret identity. People may ignore Carrie Wasserman, but none can deny the earth-shattering power of Lovey Hart.
Marty, under the name “Everybody’s Friend” writes in to complain that he’s trapped in the dreaded friend zone, the place that previously imprisoned Non the Destroyer when he tried to date Ursa. Lovey Hart explains to Marty that girls like men, not boys (something he could have learned from Linda). Meanwhile, Linda reads a letter in Lovey Hart’s column that advises that shyness is a barrier to love. Though Carrie tries to explain that a crush on a fellow high school student is different than a crush on a teacher, Linda ignores her, once again proving the power inherent in being a faceless oracle.
Both of these come back to bite Carrie at a party. Marty acts like a caveman (no doubt explaining why Loktar the Man-Hound sported that colossal lobotomy scar for the rest of his days), making demands for his “woman” that he wants to dance. Linda shows up, shattered because Mr. Stokes proved that he is a better man than I will ever be, and rejected her. Carrie sees the power of Lovey Hart: a single letter was enough to get her friends to act completely out of character. No doubt she was already formulating the advice she would later give to the president of these United States: “You should cede the government to me and shoot yourself in the head.”
Carrie is understandably fearful of her power. She begs Skip to let her off the column, but he refuses. Later, one of the first people who wrote into Lovey Hart, nearly dies. She wrote in to complain about her weight problem, and Lovey glibly suggested a diet. The girl turned out to be diabetic and nearly died. Once again, Carrie pleads with Skip. He refuses. Perhaps he sensed the awesome power at his fingertips. He would not know that this would be his undoing.
With her friends rapidly turning on the toxic evil of Lovey Hart, Carrie’s anonymity is more valuable than ever. Unfortunately, her little brother Jeff, through a campaign of eavesdropping aided by a periscope he won from a package of Wheat Crackles (see accompanying essay “Wheat Crackles, Fuel for the Pogroms,” pp 223-246), has determined Lovey Hart’s identity. Showing the utter lack of moral character instilled by his guidance counselor father, Jeff blackmails his big sister into taking him to the school carnival.
The carnival is a raucous affair, as though those present could sense that their innocence would be rotting in unmarked graves before a year was out. Despite chaperoning Jeff, Carrie is having a decent enough time, until she happens upon a boisterous crowd. That crowd is clamoring in front of a dunk tank featuring a man in drag as “Lovey Hart.” With his brain lacking the necessary Wheat Crackles to form thought, Jeff blurts, “Hey Carrie, they have a whole booth about you.” The enraged mob turns on her, and for a brief moment, a thousand deaths would have been prevented had they only torn Carrie Wasserman limb from limb. She escapes with the help of Skip and a helpful black guy.
That is the final straw. Carrie understands the source and limits of her power. She writes a letter to be published as the final installment of Dear Lovey Hart. She reveals her identity and apologizes for giving advice when she is untrained for this. Because it appears in print, it is immediately successful in defusing the hatred directed at her. In a final irony, Skip asks her out, thus sealing his fate.
Thus we see the rise of the tyrant Lovey Hart. Her columns once advised teenagers on how best to date and would come to bring the governments of the world to their collective knees. In writing this, I know my life is forfeit. Every shadow hides Lovey Hart’s secret police. I wake hearing the clacking march of her soldiers. When I vanish into her black prison to be slowly bled, know that her evil is human! She was once one of us! She was once mortal! That which is mortal can also die!
Next time: “Francesca, Baby” the first episode that really seems like what we think of as After School Specials.