p. Maybe it would have been different if you hadn’t been the first. They say you never forget your first love, and darned if they’re not right. As cheesy as it sounds, Mr. Kilmer, you hit me in my formative years and I’ve been unable to clamber to my feet since. Can I call you Val? Because, in the words of Drew Barrymore in “Batman Forever,” “You can call me whatever you want.” For you I’d have happily been a child bride. The offer still stands.
p. I think I learned your name before that of any other actor, chiefly because I loved Batman. No other figure has played such a tremendous role in the iconography of my imagination. I ate, slept and breathed Batman. What vivified said hero? Why, your brilliant “Batman Forever,” of course — possibly the first PG-13 movie my parents allowed me to see. No other man can touch your Bruce Wayne, dear; you’re the best. Actually, a poster of you in your purplish cape and cowl hangs over the head of my bed along with a print of you as Doc Holiday in “Tombstone.” So not only were you the face I put on the knight of my dreams, you were the first pop icon that meant anything to me. You catalyzed my coming-of-age. This may seem weird, my dear friend, but you belong on the same short list as the smell of a box of new crayons, the feel of the rough carpet beneath my palms during story time, the satisfaction of breaking the binding on a new “Goosebumps” book, Spice Girls-induced dancing and the cold chill that ran down my back as I watched “Are You Afraid of the Dark.” You’re as familiar to me as Beanie Babies and the smell of Mom’s perfume when she and Dad left for a date. You took up residence in Blockbuster Video — a place that, to this day, reeks of magic and worlds within worlds. Whether an incredibly hot man-muse or the invisible friend I never had, you were there, gently nudging me into teendom. Few things evoke more nostalgia than the slow, sensual voice that comes out of perhaps the most endearingly pouty lips in Hollywood. I’m eager to see you in “Déjà Vu,” because that’s what you give me.
p. As if it weren’t enough to ensnare me when I was young and impressionable, you had to go and be an amazing actor too, ever demanding of the fealty I pledged you so long ago. The unabashedly aloof quirkiness you bring to each role makes you fascinating to watch; there’s an otherworldly humor about you, Val, and I know your life is ruled by it. Directors find you difficult to work with because you care too much about the craft to be cowed. My hero. You’re always a ‘saint’ to me.
p. Watching a Val Kilmer movie takes on a sort of ritualistic air. It’s homage more than entertainment. When I think of the ’80s, I don’t adulterously think of “The Breakfast Club” or “Flashdance” — I think of Chris Knight, the sexy and hilarious teenage brainiac from “Real Genius.” Val, that simmeringly smooth character is the reason that I wear my sunglasses on the back of my shirt. I can’t escape your influence.
p. Now, when I tell you that I like you as a friend, I’m not saying that I don’t like-like you as well. An audio recording of you reading a story can lull me into Elysian slumber and your melancholy eyes set my heart racing. If your whispery portrayal of both Moses and the Burning Bush in “The Prince of Egypt” soothed and inspired me, your booming shouts in “Spartan” and roguish swagger in “Willow” (love that long, dark hair) turned me on in a major way. Mostly, though, I love your calm, quizzical delivery. You single-handedly redeemed “The Island of Dr. Moreau” with your eccentric — and shirtless — portrayal of Montgomery. Your cocky confidence completely crushed poor Tom in “Top Gun.” The Iceman cometh — oh yes, he does. I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip my proverbial hat to your irresistibly charming Doc Holiday. There never was a sweeter scoundrel — and if I had been in that saloon when you were twirling those teacups, I would have surrendered my pistols to you. Also, the real Jim Morrison pales in comparison. You win for utter coolness and smoldering sexiness. Plus, I’m a softy for good bone structure, and God doesn’t sculpt them better than you. Actually, I find myself attracted to men with noses like yours. What can I say? It’s a darn good nose.
p. In conclusion, Val, I want to thank you for being such a great metaphysical companion, ad hoc soul mate and first true crush. Thanks for walking me out of childhood and for fostering my playful approach to life. Seeing you shoot grappling hooks onto the ledges of Gotham City skyscrapers still makes me yearn to do the same. On a practical note, though, I’d be willing to call your New Mexican ranch my home if you decide to remarry.
p. But I’m not obsessed.
p. __Beth Sutherland is a Sophomore at the College. She plans to send her column to Val. Wish her luck.__