I just go back from Heather Graham's 41st birthday bash (1) and what better time to celebrate her unnerving sexuality? She's 41!? You'd never guess it.
I remember well Graham's 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, doesn't-know-she's-hot kind of gal; second as the shockingly uninhibited porn star Rollergirl in BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997); third as the lass who beats out Natasha Gregson Wagner for the dubious prize of Robert Downey Jr. in TWO GIRLS AND A GUY (1997). By the time she staggered into AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME (1999), as a spy who shags Mike Meyers' disgusting over-latex fat-suited Scotsman badguy, 'Fat Bastard.', Graham's warm-hearted, 'sexually uninhibited like she lived in Europe for a year' kind of nerd fantasy girl persona was locked in. It was like doesn't this poor nymphomaniac persona ever get to, like, shag someone other than doofuses? (Doofi?)
I saw SHAGGED 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 Loew's 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 while she cuddled up to him. 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. Since then she's been a sex worker of one sort or another in everything from THE GURU (2002) to shows like CALIFORNICATION.
From there Graham did other things of a similar bent, like hosting SNL, where she played a babysitter who becomes uncomfortably sidelined in a bitter post-menage a trois argument with the parents. 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 seemed like just the kind of thing the geek male writers could think up when the girl guest was too hot for them to not fall apart over. It was if the lost little girl guilelessness of Marilyn Monroe was wedded to a smart, concerned, awake, lonesome heart-of-gold sex 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 and me stammering some lame excuse and running away... watching in shame as she goes home with some other guy more foul-mouthed and aggressive. That, alone, makes her awesome. She proves 95% of men are all talk. We'd rather be on the chain and barking than off it and have to put up or shut up. She wins the dare.
(more cool photos and celebration at Neil Fulwood's Agitation of the Mind here)
(1): I never said she was there... or even knew about it.