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Intimate Agony. A TV movie about a town ravaged by herpes!
by: -RoG-

I was watching some more old unreleased 80s TV shows the other week, and during one of the commercial breaks they ran an ad for a made-for-TV movie. Normally, I wouldn't even pay much attention to something like that but when I heard one of the characters say, "I have herpes!", I knew I had stumbled onto something amazing. I simply HAD to find a copy of this TV movie, even though there was little hope that it still existed anywhere. Well, believe it or not, one company actually released the movie on one of those slim-case DVDs that you can buy at Walgreens (or any other drug store) in the discount bin for 99 cents. So, I picked up a copy on eBay and now I'm happy to present you with the story of a rich yuppie island resort town that has been ravaged by herpes.

Yes, my friends... this is story of Intimate Agony.

You'll probably never see a re-run of Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous in which Robin Leach visits this little "Paradise Island" getaway. No sir, for this place is infested with the herpes and that's not something snobby vacationers with more money than god are in search of. You see, before AIDS became the big thing on the news, there was a lot of talk going on about herpes back in early 1983. In an attempt to help educate the public about what this STD can do and how you can get it, Intimate Agony was created. It watches like your average soap opera but with slightly higher production values and a handful of recognizable actors. Yes, that IS Judith "Angela" Light from Who's The Boss in the screenshot up there. Why does her lover look so miserable? Well maybe it's because he witnessed the ongoing sexual tension between her and Tony Danza... or maybe it's because he has herpes. I'm sure we'll find out a little bit later on.

So the Dr. Steve Holliston, the town doctor, is going away for a while and has called in Dr. Kyle Richards (Anthony Geary) to come in and take his place until he returns. Who better to take care of your patients than a doctor with a receding hairline that makes him look like a mad scientist and a vacant stare that makes you wonder how many people he's eaten alive to keep the demons at bay. Before he leaves town, Dr. Holliston treats one last patient, Nick Todd, and informs him that he has herpes. Little known fact about herpes: people with two first names are more likely to contract the disease. Nick also lies to the doctor about his name and the fact that he's married. Little known fact about herpes: people with two first names who are also pathological liars are even more likely to contract the disease.

So Dave Fairmont (played by Robert Vaughn) is the leading real estate developer in Paradise Island and he wants to make sure that potential future residents know that this island is clean and pure. What, no mention of herpes in the island's promotional ad campaigns? Bah! And what about the fact that many of the men on the island wear extremely tight, pink-colored shorts? Come on, that's gotta be a major selling point!

Not to go off on a tangent, but I have to say that Robert Vaughn has always been one of my favorite movie bad guys. I'll never forget him as the greedy millionaire, Ross Webster, from Superman III. Oddly enough, in recent years he's been doing a lot of commercials for law firms... good to see he's still sticking with the bad guys, eh?

Meet Tommy (Mark Harmon)... he's the main tennis instructor on the island and man oh man does he love the ladies. Clearly he's tried to model his look after Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I. what with that fantastic moustache 'n all. He also has a thing for wearing short shorts with sweat jackets. The ladies come to him by the truckload for tennis lessons each day and he's more than happy to work with them on their form if you know what I mean. I wonder what's in store for this virile young sports stud? Oh wait, did I say virile? I'm sorry, I meant viral.

Back at the doc's office, he informs Katie (the daughter of Mr. Fairmont) that she too has herpes. A look of horror comes over her face as she learns about how herpes never really goes away. The doctor, emotionless as he may seem, offers to help Katie by meeting her again in the future to talk more about the virus. Poor Katie... how ever is she going to tell her dad about this when he's doing nothing but promoting how clean Paradise Island is? The horror...

Back at home, Nick returns to find that his pregnant wife has prepared a romantic candlelight dinner for him. Yes indeed, Nick, preggy wants some lovin' tonight. Now, at first, I didn't understand why Nick cheated on his wife and now doesn't want to have sex with her since he contracted herpes. However, shortly after he gets home and complains about her buying new plates while they're on vacation, she says the following to him: "Mister Nicholas Todd, you are getting to be an old fuddy duddy! Now, unless you think this lady is too big and fat and pregnant to make love to, why don't you give me a big sloppy kiss?" Fuddy duddy? Forget about the herpes Nick, this is the real problem in your life. You have a pregnant wife who just called you a FUDDY DUDDY. Abandon ship, man... abandon ship!

Elsewhere, Dr. Richards gives a reporter from the local paper an interview and he notices that the doc has been reading up on herpes. Being the sleuth that he is, the reporter puts the pieces together and decides there's a herpes epidemic on this island. Uh oh doc, you're not gonna make the island developers happy if you let the newspaper print an article about a herpes outbreak. Curb thy tongue!

Later on the doc meets Marsha (Judith Light) after being introduced to her by Tommy. Right off the bat, it's clear that these two are infatuated with each other. Why Marsha would be interested in a guy who looks like he wouldn't think twice about murdering her son is beyond me. I guess it's true that women really do love doctors... even the ones that always speak in a monotone voice and are completely devoid emotion.

After her father tells her that she's perfect, Katie goes up to her room and has herself a good cry. She looks at herself in the mirror, slowly reaches out her hand and touches it. She then breaks down and it's waterworks time. Oh how dirty she must feel. Oh how alone she must feel! It's all very emotional. Now are you starting to understand the ramifications one must face when he/she contracts herpes? Good, cuz that's the point of this movie.

After a long walk on the beach with his pregnant wife, during which time many of the girls in bikinis were pointing and laughing at her, Nick decides to have some wine. Then his wife complains about how he no longer wants to make love to her. "Honey, I said I love you." he says. Not satisfied with his response, she days, "Show me. I want you to make love to me." She then starts pulling his arm to get him to go up to the bedroom with her. But before he gets up, he chugs down some more wine to numb the pain.

But wait, you've got the herpes! Don't do it Nick! Think about the baby! Besides, this is the woman who called him "fuddy duddy" not long ago. Do you really want to make love to somebody like that?

The next day, Dave Fairmont goes Dr. Richards' office to confront him about the interview he did in the newspaper. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing? You turned a simple interview into a scare story on VD!" Richards then responds about how a resort island like this is a "damned breeding ground" for herpes. Fairmont then tells him that he has a reputation as a "big mouth"... ooooooooh burned! I sweear, for a brief moment there, Dr. Richards actually looked sad. I'm sure it was just my eyes playing tricks on me, because we all know that man has no soul. Well, whether or not he's dead inside, he has a responsibility as a doctor to tell people about herpes.

Later the night, the doc is on a date with Marsha. She seems very shy and reserved, but there's something else about her. Granted, she's divorced and has a child, but that's not the problem. It's almost as though she's carrying a terrible burden with her. The doc isn't without his problems though. He was apparently blackballed in the medical community for testifying against one of his co-workers in a court of law. Nobody likes a snitch, doc. I told you he had no soul. Believe it or not, even with all the awkwardness between the two of them, they agree to see each other again on a second date.

Next on our list of sad individuals, we come to Tommy. He's sitting by himself, trying to find the answer to his problems in a glass of scotch. His pain and raw emotion is really driven home when he holds the glass to his brow as the somber piano music echoes in the background. But he's not alone.

Nick is also feeling the pressure of living with herpes. He calls up the doc to ask if he's still contagious since his symptoms were all gone. He's obviously worried that he infected his wife, but before the doc can say any more, Nick hangs up on him. He then goes back to the local club and finds the girl who infected him. He grabs her by the arm and tells her, "You gave me herpes!" And her response? "Sorry." Hahahah, well I guess it's all ok now! Nick then yells some more at her about how his wife is wondering why he won't touch her, and she basically laughs in his face about how he wasn't so concerned for his wife the other night. See what happens nick? You screw, then you get screwed. It's the circle of life. It's the circle of herpes.

While most people are keeping their herpes problems to themselves, Katie seems to have snapped under the pressure and she's now ready to tell people about it, starting with her friend Lisa. Lisa keeps trying to set her up on a blind date and Katie finally talks about her last date with some guy named Billy. "Lisa, shut up! Okay! You wanna know? I'll tell you! I went out with him, I went to bed with him and he gave me herpes!" Being the fantastic friend that she is, Lisa actually wipes off her hand on her blouse, clearly worried that she's been infected by Katie simply because she helped her try on a new outfit in the dressing room. Oh Lisa, you fool, you can't contract herpes that way! But that's what this movie is all about - dispelling some of the myths about herpes. Right on.

The doc also has his 2nd date with Marsha, and all seems to be going well until he tells her that he likes her. He likes her "more than a little" in his own words. This makes her panic and she tells him to get out. Good call Marsha, you don't want psycho-doc in your life. If you ask me, you shouldn't have led him on this far to begin with, you crazy dame.

Dr. Holliston returns to town to confront Dr. Richards about the interview he did in the paper wherein he talked about herpes. Richards informs him that he's been doing some detective work and he thinks that his old patient (Nick Todd) gave him a false name and after seeing him in public, is now worried that Nick has spread the virus to his wife. Holliston just wants to ignore the problem, Richards wants to solve it. I guess they're trying to tell us that you can't ignore herpes and hope that it goes away, you must fight it! Fight herpes to the bitter end!

Later on, Katie's dad pays a visit to her in her room. She tries to tell him about what's going on in her life, but when she tells him that she slept with a boy, he becomes too angry to even listen to her speak. As a result, he walks out on Katie and doesn't even allow her the opportunity to tell him that she has herpes. Now she really snaps as she yells "Daddy!" and then begins to tear her room apart... thrashing at the walls, ripping down curtains and destroying shelves and anything else in her way until she finally collapses into a lump a weeping sadness on the floor while crying out "I hate you!" Poor Katie, what's a privileged young teenage girl with herpes to do?

Meanwhile, Tommy has finally mustered up the courage to talk to his friend, the doc, about his problem with genital herpes. Unfortunately, Tommy thinks it's something that can be cured quickly with a single shot or something. When the doc informs him that this simply isn't the case, Tommy sinks even deeper into his world of hopelessness and despair. "You take away my boogie time and I'm nothing but a tennis shoes salesman with a tan." Thank you Tommy. Thank you so very much. From this day forth, whenever I refer to sex, I'm going to refer to it as "boogie time".

After his visit to the doc, Tommy heads back to the tennis court to work out some of his stress. What's awesome about this scene is that this guy who's supposed to be a superb tennis player now can't even hit the ball properly. He's so distraught that he's hitting the balls everywhere but onto the other side of the net. So now we've learned something else about the disease: people with herpes become horrible tennis players.

Next, Lisa shows up at Katie's place and tries to apologize for overreacting to her news about having herpes. Katie then breaks down into tears and says, "I feel so dirty and disgusting! You really hurt me!" Lisa says she's sorry and they embrace, though I'm sure Lisa will take a long shower later on because, you know, she thinks you can contract herpes just by touching somebody who has it.

Back on his boat, Tommy looks at himself in a hand mirror after taking a shower and looking at some of his old tennis trophies. While he says nothing, you can just tell what he's thinking as he mournfully gazes into that mirror. "Look at you. You had it all... A tennis instructor on an island filled with beautiful women, a hell of a good moustache and a lifetime supply of short shorts. And now look at you! A broken man with herpes! What are you gonna do with your life? WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO!?" Trust me, that's exactly what he's thinking.

Later that night, Marsha shows up at the Doc's place and explains why she's so distant.

After her husband left her, she started having a lot of one-night stands. Before she met the doc, she dated a lawyer who may have given her herpes. Kudos to the script writer for that subliminal jab at lawyers there. We're then treated to a flashback of Marsha in bed with her former lover as he breaks the bad news to her. So the reason she's been so distant this whole time is that she doesn't want to infect the doc or anybody else with those wretched herpes.

Fortunately, the doc knows how to deal with herpes and reassures her that he's not gonna let it stand in between their love for each other. He then kisses her and all we can do is stare in horror. She then tells him "I'm sorry, it just can't work!" and proceeds to run out the door. Hey doc, don't feel bad. I'm sure you're not the only bad kisser on the planet... you're probably just the creepiest one.

So Lisa somehow talks Katie into going on a date with some guy at a part who has a crush on her. Things are going just fine on the date when Katie decides to tell the guy straight up, "I have herpes." Way to go Katie, you're a brave young woman! The guy seems more than understanding about her predicament. I think they're trying to suggest that he too has herpes. Well whaddaya know, these two were made for each other! Wish I could say the same for ol' Nick and his wife.

Nick is doing some work when he receives a phone call that his wife has just gone into early labor. Oh no! She doesn't know about the herpes! What about the baby???

Continuing his detective work, the doc finally learns about the true identity of Nick Todd. You see, the doc knows his wife is pregnant and if she's infected with herpes, the baby can still be saved with a c-section. Unfortunately, the doc is too late and the baby was delivered through the birth canal, got infected with herpes and is now on life support. Nick then breaks down into tears. If only he hadn't been such a pansy and told his wife about it before they had sex... er, pardon me... boogie time. You see what your cowardice has done Nick? Not only have you infected your wife, but you've infected your baby and it might not even survive the night. That's what happens when you don't talk about the herpes. For shame!

Naturally, when his wife comes to, she tells him she doesn't want to see him ever again because yes, their baby did in fact die. Nick then goes home and cries over an empty crib to the sounds of somber piano music. Raw emotion here folks. Raw. Well, look at it this way: at least that kid won't grow up and learn to say things like "fuddy duddy".

Marsha and the doc eventually get it on with some boogie time of their own, most likely to show us viewers that you can still live a normal life if you have herpes. Well, normal as in sleeping with a creepy doctor, that is. Let's just move on with the story now because I really don't want to think about the doc being naked for any longer than I have to.

The doc tries putting an ad in the newspaper for a self-help clinic he's running to help educate people about herpes so people learn more about the disease. He doesn't want any more couples to go through what Nick and Connie went through with the death of their baby. Unfortunately, the wealthy people of the town like Dave Fairmont convince the newspaper not to run the ad because of how it would be bad for business. So the doc and Marsha go around town putting flyers on cars instead. You cannot silence herpes!

When Katie hears her father say the herpes outbreak is "probably nothing more than a bunch of sluts from the mainland" she gets upset and is about to storm off again, but her mother tries to stop her. Katie then tells her mother to hold her if she wants her to stay. Her mother knows she has herpes and won't touch her because she's afraid of being infected. You can tell she's pretty horrified by the though of reaching out and holding her daughter's hand. After all, idle hands are the devil's playground, and herpes like 'em too.

Later that night, as the doc prepares for the clinic, Dave Fairmont shows up with a yuppie brute squad of some sort to try and prevent the clinic from happening. His big idea? Make all the cars point at the clinic and turn the headlights on to expose anybody who shows up. Wow, so he's going to expose anybody who shows up to... other people who show up that have herpes. Brilliant thinking there, Dave.

Of course, Dave is shocked to see his daughter show up and now he's forced to listen to what she has to say: "I have herpes, daddy." In your face, Dave! I bet you're feeling like the king of dicks now. 

The self-help herpes clinic does indeed go on and the doc helps everybody by informing them about how they can live normal, healthy, respectable lives. To end things on a super-sappy note, mom shows up at the clinic to stand by her daughter. She even holds her hand. They'll make it through this herpes thing together. Way to go mom, you've finally seen the light. The doc then opens up the room for questions.

And that's what it's all about... that's the lesson here kids. You have to be willing to ask questions and talk about the disease. If you refuse, don't expect to have any more of that hot boogie time in the future.

Click play to watch a dramatic clip from Intimate Agony!

Have any questions or comments about this piece?
Email -RoG-

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