Jan 9, 2013

Lance Kerwin

Born in 1960, the sandy-haired, scruffy Lance Kerwin was very busy in the early 1970s playing in After School Specials and "problem of the week" tv moves such as The Loneliest Runner (about a teenager who still wets his bed), The Boy Who Drank Too Much (with Scott Baio) and The Death of Richie (with Robby Benson).

But gay kids took notice when his tv movie James at 15 (1977) began with an extended shot of the teenager getting up in the morning, wearing only white briefs (or maybe they were pajamas).

For the intro to the tv series (1977-79), he wore a t-shirt.  Still, James was a swimming champ, so there were ample swimsuit and locker room scenes to ameliorate the teen-angst plotlines.  Though James becomes the first television teen to openly have sex -- he beds a Swedish exchange student on his sixteenth birthday, whereupon the title of the series changes to James at 16 -- most of the plotlines involve buddy-bonding with his jive-talking best friend Sly.

Critics loved the "realistic depiction of modern high school life," a "welcome change from sitcom hijinks," but teenagers tuned in for the shirtless scenes and then switched the channel to Welcome Back, Kotter.  

After James, Lance starred in a few more teen-angst movies, as well as several movies featuring same-sex romance, including Salem's Lot (1979) and The Mysterious Stranger (1982), with Chris Makepeace.

His transition to adulthood was difficult.  After years of drug and alcohol abuse, arrests, and rehab, he became an evangelical Christian minister.  But that didn't end his problems; in 2010 he was placed on probation for falsifying documents to obtain food stamps.


  1. Lance was my big crush as a teen and a big sign to me that I was gay. If he was in it, I tried to watch it. "P.J and the President's Son", an ABC Afterschool Special, was my favorite because he played look-alikes so there were two of him! It's very sad what has happened to him as he continues to have big screw-ups periodically. Still, those things don't make me dismiss my fond memories.

  2. Huge crush on Lance! When he was shirtless I always looked hard to see if I could see his armpit hair.

  3. Yeah, as a kid growing up in the 70s, I'd find myself enthralled with whatever show I saw him in. Should've known I was gay...duh!

  4. Are you sure he was depicted as sleeping in just his underpants in the film?

    I recently watched the pilot movie and he was wearing pajamas. I've seen the actual tv series in recent years and he also slept in pajamas but in some episodes just wore the bottoms and slept without a shirt.

  5. Not sure, haven't seen it in 30 years. In my memory it's underwear.

  6. Me, too. Lance Kerwin was my HUGE crush as a teen. He's a year younger than me. So, when he was 15 on TV I was 16 in real life and he was my first imaginary BF.

    It's seriously sad what happened to him later in life. He became a fundie Christian, delving deeply into Bronze Age myths and shunning the real world altogether.

    My absolute favorite movie with him in it tho was with Chris Makepeace in 'The Mysterious Stranger'. Lance plays '44' and Chris plays 'August'. There's a scene in the movie where they go to bed together. Sadly, with all their clothing on.

  7. I had seen Lance on TV quite a lot before he was on James at 15, and he never really appealed to to me. When I saw him on James at 15 I fell in love. He was more than a year older than me but the episode where James turned 16 and had sex with a girl actually aired on my 16th birthday. I wasn't fooled- James clearly was gay, and made a great fantasy boyfriend. When NBC canceled James at 16 it broke my heart.


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