I was 15 when I met a girl from Camp Little Wolf. She must have been 14 or 15 as well. We first met at a rest stop near camp. We flirted a little but I didn't think much of it. That was until she paddled up to my camp in a rowboat and called out my name. I dove into the water to meet her while my friends cheered me on. We flirted some more, she got me drunk, I passed out, and we agreed to rendezvous again after dark. When night came we rowed to a nearby boathouse. There, under the moonlight, we made love on a pile of hay.

Oh wait! That wasn't my memory. That was the adolescent love affair between Matt Dillon and Kristy McNichol in the 1980 movie Little Darlings. I only went to day camp until I was seven so I never had my own camp related coming-of-age experience. As I've always found myself living vicariously through film and TV, Little Darlings has everything I could hope for in summer camp.

For those who haven't seen it, you should. Here's how it goes.  Two 15-year-old girls from opposite sides of the tracks get peer pressured into a contest to see who can lose her virginity first during their summer at camp. Angel "don't let the name fool you," played by Kristy McNichol, is a chain smoking tough girl who's raised by a loose single mom. Ferris, played by Tatum O'Neal, is a proper rich girl whose father is about to divorce her mother.

Tensions arise between the two from the moment they meet on the bus to camp. When Angel won't share her seat with Ferris, a catfight erupts, thus laying the bricks for their relationship. A third girl, Cinder (Krista Erickson), is the bitchy antagonist who immediately pits the two against each other with "the contest." Prize money is anted up and the camp is divided in two: fans of Ferris and fans of Angel.

In between the typical summer camp activities (swimming, archery, the occasional food fight) the girls plan their schemes. First thing: find the right boy to do it with! Ferris finds her mark first in Mr. Callahan the camp counselor (a very hairy Armand Assante). The only question is how to get the two alone? Cinder, the bitchy but kinda hot one, and Sunshine, the hippy girl (a young Cynthia Nixon, formerly of Sex In The City fame), have taken sides with Ferris and devise a plan:

1.) During a poolside exercise session Cinder will push Ferris into the pool.

2.) Once in the pool, Ferris will pretend she can't swim.

3.) Camp counselor Callahan will heroically jump in the pool and save Ferris.

4.) Private swimming lessons between Ferris and Mr. Callahan will lead to "boinking."

The plan goes off without a hitch and the swimming lessons soon begin. While on a joyride (in a school bus Angel hotwired!) the girls inform Angel that Ferris has found her target, so she better hurry up and find hers. They stop at a gas station to steal condoms from the men's room. That's when Angel meets Randy (the ultra-cool Matt Dillon) and through some flirting finds out he's from the boys camp across the lake. Bingo!  Angel later steals a rowboat, paddles to the boys camp, and calls out for Randy. The boys cheer as Randy swims to his Angel. In a very touching scene, Angel and Randy float to the John Lennon song "Oh My Love" and land in a remote wooded area. Angel feeds Randy so much beer he winds up passing out in their would-be "love nest." "You're suppose to get turned on stupid, not pass out." Maybe next time Angel.

Meanwhile, the swimming lessons have begun between Ferris and the very hairy Mr. Callahan. Why a 15-year-old girl would be attracted to such a Sasquatch is beyond me. She and Mr. Callahan bond and she later surprises him at his cabin wearing only her nightgown. Inappropriately, he invites her in and even flirts with her! When she makes her sexual advance, he quickly comes to his senses, lets her down easy and sends her on her way. When she arrives back at her cabin, Cinder the bitch and the other girls press her for details. Ferris, under pressure, deceives the girls by letting them think she and Mr. Callahan indeed did the deed. But the contest isn't over yet! Not until we hear what happened with Angel who is out once again with Randy. And yes, just how my daydream ended from the top of this story, Angel and Randy did go all the way under the moonlight on a pile of hay in the boathouse.

But Angel soon realizes that in her quest to win the contest and the prize, she paid a price—the price of her 15-year-old heart that is! This is where we discover the "moral" of the story. You see, a young girl's virginity is in itself a prize! Sappy huh? When she returns back to the girls cabin she lies and says nothing happened. Ferris wins the contest—sort of.

After that, some other stuff happens. Mr. Callahan loses his job because of the Ferris scandal but then gets it back when Ferris's sadness overcomes her and she comes clean. Cinder the bitch, looking all hot in a mouse costume tells Randy he was only a pawn in a contest and then tries to steal him away from Angel. Sweet little hippy Sunshine finally punches Cinder in the face, allying with Ferris and Angel.

But in the end, through their secrets, Angel and Ferris put their differences aside and become the very best of friends. Roll credits.

I've found that, while considered a chick flick, most males secretly love this film. I can only think of two good reasons for this: Kristy McNichol and Tatum O'Neal. Well maybe a third: Matt Dillon, for the boys who preferred his kind of cool. After all, Matt was pretty slick back then with his bandanna, long flowy hair and ever gazing blank stare. But for the majority of us, it was Kristy and Tatum. Me myself, I've always been a Kristy fan. Even though I was way too young when I first saw the film to understand all the sexual overtones, I was attracted to Kristy. Maybe it was her tomboyish attitude, her feathered hair, or maybe it was the fact that she could hotwire a school bus? I don't know what it was but I do know she made me feel funny inside. I guess you could say it was puppy love.

Sure you got better bathing suit scenes with Tatum but there was something about Kristy. She had that "good girl stuck inside a bad girl body" type of thing going on. And to my 12-year-old (and my present 33-year-old) mind, that was a good thing.  

Twenty-one years later I'm happily married to my beautiful wife, but I still harbor those feelings for Kristy and watch Little Darlings whenever I catch it on cable. At first my wife wasn't wise to why I watched. "This movie again? You're such a girl." But she soon put two and two together. It's hard to hide puppy love, you never do get over it no matter what the grown-ups say. In fact, oddly enough, photos of my wife as a young girl have a striking resemblance to Kristy. Coincidence? See for yourself:

Our Readers' Summer Camp Memories :: My Little Darling :: Summer Camp Fashion Spread :: Photo Essay: The Pines :: Who Says You Can Never Go Back To Camp? Q&A With Author Seth Davis :: Horsing Around in Brooklyn :: Confessions of A 30-Year-Old Camp Counselor :: Tennis Camp, Anyone?

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