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Some Walk By Night: Tales of a Preteen “Moonlighting” Fiend

My childhood resume of accomplishments is somewhat similar to that of “Rushmore’s” Max Fischer. I founded a literary society, captained the dance team, and ranked in the honor society. I was a state-champion turkey caller, organized a neighborhood circus day, made my own movies and was a published writer. Yet, my favorite activity of my formative years was something unfit for a college application. From age 10 onward, I became cuckoo-bananas obsessed with a television show called “Moonlighting.”

It’s a childhood phase that I’ve luckily left behind, but I’m regularly reminded of it when I peruse my bookshelf. The most important relic of this time is a disturbingly detailed scrapbook I created out of my dedication to the show. Its non-archival pages are filled with faded newspaper clippings, photos and other small souvenirs. To an observer it might have appeared like, “Whoa, that girl needs therapy. She’s crazy in the coconuts.” To this, I respond, “Do bears bear. Do bees be.” I admit I was strange. But at least I was dedicated.

For those of you out there that missed this gem of the 1980s prime-time detective drama genre (it turned 25 years old yesterday), “Moonlighting” featured a pre-“Die Hard” Bruce Willis, a pre-menopausal Cybill Shepherd and some damned fine writing. Willis and Shepherd portrayed ex-model Maddie Hays and wise-ass David Addison, two unlikely characters thrust together by circumstance and stuck in an endless whirlwind of witty banter. They had this little thing; maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called sexual chemistry and it BLEW MY MIND!

I was alone, a 10-year-old trapped in an adult world of pale pink satin business suits with obscenely large shoulder pads and references to e. e. cummings. In this alternate reality I discovered William Shakespeare, Billie Holiday, screwball comedy and loads of other things little girls aren’t supposed to understand. My coming-of-age story arc was shaped by a prime time television show. My pre-teen world was one where people spoke quickly and slammed doors and had access to things like culture (except David, who thought culture was dark beer).

I barely know how it started. Perhaps it was the Bruce Willis poster I received from my godfather. I guess he didn’t realize that young girls were not attracted to middle-aged semi-balding men. (Thanks to this, 99% of my romantic relationships have been with balding men, including my current boyfriend. He said that he started balding “like Bruce Willis” when he was in the seventh grade. Swoon!) The poster was likely the first baby step that led me down the rabbit hole of sexual innuendo and double entendres.

Let’s not gloss over the scrapbook. It’s a slightly sad, yet impressively detailed summary of childhood spent in a small town library. Like a drug addict, I scavenged the shelves for information. I dove into volumes of the period index to find articles about the show and its cast of stars. The day our local branch got a microfiche machine, I nearly wet myself with joy. It turned out I loved, and was actually good at, research, a skill I later turned into a journalism degree and a decent career in advertising.

I videotaped every episode. I named our family dog Maddie.In one dark moment, I actually stole a book from the library: “Cybill & Bruce: Moonlighting Magic.” And I even wrote a script and forced my sixth-grade classmates to act it out. My best friends from high school, to this day, can mockingly quote the infamous scene in which the main characters finally got horizontal: “Get out. Slap. Get out. Slap. Get out. Slap … psych!” (Jill and Veronica, I’m sorry.)

My coup-de-grace, the moment that equally defined my obsession and killed my soul, was the day I received a letter in the mail from Cybill Shepherd. She responded to my fan mail with two things: A postcard with her signature printed on it, and a response to my letter written on a strip of torn notebook paper and penned by her assistant. The response was one sentence long. It turned out that reality was not as exciting and special as the Blue Moon Detective Agency. Insert picture here of my heart being crushed.

Not long ago I brought this scrapbook to a “Salon of Shame” party — a group of friends sharing our childhood embarrassments with the aid of booze and laughter. One friend, a middle-school teacher, quietly informed me she likely would have had me tested for Asperger’s Syndrome. I only find this mildly disturbing, because I’ve always considered myself “special.” Thank you, David and Maddie.

My fangirl days are not over. I’ve bouted with The “X-Files.” I’ve danced with “Firefly.” I’ve broken up and gotten back together with “Bones.” I’ve semi-successfully tamed my obsessive nature, or at least focused it on new pursuits such as roller derby and burlesque. Still, nothing can compare. “Moonlighting” is the original object of my affection.

Jessica Obrist

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  1. When I got married, my partner and I opted to pick a new last name rather than use either of ours.

    We settled on “Addison.”

    You do the math.

  2. OMG – You didn’t even MENTION your X-Files DIORAMA….or are you saving that for article #2 in the series?

  3. there was also, the phase with northern exposure and the trip to Roslyn to see the set and Seattle which now you call home. but, maybe thats another story.

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