On a summer night in 1989, I snuck into my little sister’s room, nabbed her Sony boom box and Peter Gabriel So tape, and phoned my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, asking her to be out back of her house in 15 minutes.
I hopped into my mom’s maroon Chevy Caprice Classic station wagon and went in search of eight D batteries — scoring the last four two-packs at a White Hen Pantry convenience store. Who knew if I’d be so lucky at my next stop.
Moments later, standing in Gwen’s backyard, waiting for her to come out, I was nervous and shaking. I’d messed up, and I knew it. I’d gone to a party and made out with some girl, and Gwen had pretty much broken up with me.
Eventually, she emerged from her family’s brightly lit kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut. She stood there with her arms folded, a shift in her posture seeming to ask, in an annoyed fashion, ”Yes?”
After somewhere between one and a billion seconds passed, I swallowed, lifted the boom box over my head, and pressed play.
”In Your Eyes” rang out over the leafy suburban yards.
Just like in the movie.
When it was released 20 years ago, Say Anything… was not only the promising directorial debut of Cameron Crowe, with an icon-making role for John Cusack — it was also my girlfriend’s favorite movie and, to her, the template for what high school romance should be. When I fell a little short of her ideals, Gwen turned away from me, and toward Lloyd Dobler. Not knowing what else to do, so did I.
Though a relative disappointment at the box office (it eventually grossed about $20 million), the James Brooks-backed coming-of-age flick flourished on home video — first on VHS, then DVD (a 20th-anniversary Blu-ray edition is due Nov. 3). Say Anything‘s key scene — in which Cusack’s brokenhearted Lloyd Dobler stands outside the bedroom window of Ione Skye’s Diane Court, with a boom box extended overhead blasting ”In Your Eyes” — is as memorable as any moment from The Graduate or Gone With the Wind. It’s also been parodied often, in the likes of Date Movie, The Simpsons, and South Park. Given all this, one would imagine Crowe and Co. have heard endless personal stories of lovelorn guys reenacting the scene.
”This could be the first time that I’ve actually spoken to the person who did it,” Crowe says, seeming genuinely surprised by my life-imitating-Lloyd moment. ”I’ve heard of it happening, but never have I had no degrees of separation.”
Peter Gabriel says he thinks ”one or two people” have told him stories like mine.
Diane, not surprisingly, has been courted over the years by her fair share of Lloyds. ”I’ve had people hold up boom boxes — at the beach or something — and be like, ‘Diane!”’ says Skye. ”It’s the one scene that just resonates. People love it.”