heather graham boogie nights

Hail Hail Heather Graham

I just go back from Heather Graham's 41st birthday (1) and what better time to celebrate her unnerving sexuality?

I remember well her big crash into A-list films in the late 1990's -- first as the sweet girl who saves future IRON MAN-director Jon Favreau from chickless despair in SWINGERS (1996), her presence a reminder that even the most self-defeating hep cats were occasionally rewarded with a nice, no BS kind of gal. Then there was her uninhibitedly sexual turn as porn star Rollergirl in BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997), and as the girl who beats out Natasha Gregson Wagner for the dubious prize of Robert Downey Jr. in TWO GIRLS AND A GUY (1997)  and then in AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME (1999) she plays a spy who shags Mike Meyers' disgusting over-latex fat-suited Scotsman badguy, 'Fat Bastard.'

 I saw the latter in the theater during the hot summer of 1999, when my AC was out, and my gratitude for the coolness of the 86th and 3rd Loews was offset by the disturbing sight of Graham's gorgeous body in bed with Meyers' Bastard, his fat fingers and bloated hair prosthetic chest greasy from chowing on a whole roast chicken. Some things you never forget, and the sight of sweet doe-eyed hottie Graham going to such lengths for her job made me shudder in sympathy for young actresses everywhere.

From there Graham did other things like hosting SNL, where she played a babysitter who just had a three-way with her parent clients, who proceed to bicker about it. The Heather impact by then was undeniable: those wide eyes, that horrifically voluptuous body, that golden hair; she was almost too sexy in her ability to be unconscious of being too sexy. It was if the lost little girl guilelessness of Marilyn Monroe was wedded to a smart, concerned, awake, lonesome therapist.

Hers is the kind of allure that perfectly embodies Lacan's objet petit a:  men fantasize about her kind of 'availability' only to run from it when it suddenly makes itself so immediately, alarmingly tangible. I can imagine her (meaning her screen 'persona') coming onto me at a party, my dream girl, and me making lame excuses and running away... watching in shame as she goes home with some other guy more foul-mouthed and aggressive. That, alone, makes her awesome.

Pornography is probably the most clear example of image-based delusion - all the enjoyment is enacted onscreen for the viewer, shut out of the action, and Heather Graham reminds us that the reason is more than our shyness, laziness, ugliness, reticence. It's because our whole identity is split between the imaginary and the real -- we fantasize via the screen and when our fantasy comes true, sans screen, we run back to the shelter of the image. With Heather Graham, we better run fast, as she moves like a serpent zipper.

Lacan writes about the impossibility of desire, and Heather Graham is its fullest expression. She makes us weep with longing and trepidation, with worry and resentment, and redefines what a cinematic goddess can be. Her career needs to flourish now that she's in her 40s! Take that sexuality and finesse it, Heather Graham! You are the sunshine '69. Free love still blazes in your saucer eyes. More's the pity for the world, not you, if all they can do is run from the golden blessings you bestow.

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