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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.