Bad Keanu in Paula Abdul’s 1991 Rush Rush Video

Amid our ever-growing adoration, does anyone remember that Keanu Reeves was the misfit lover boy in Paula Abdul’s 1991 Rush Rush Video? When only a few people were buying pricy compact discs in The Wherehouse aisles, I had a pocket-sized single cassette that I bought with a few crumpled dollars, stuffed in my Guess denim, and played alone in my room, dreaming of the boy I shared my paste pot with at school. But even those hushed moments cannot compare to that sepia-toned music video that got quite the rotation on MTV. I remember my chola cousin waiting for the most opportune moment to record it on her VHS. He is soooo fine, she would say. I concurred.

A lush homage to Rebel Without the Cause, Keanu is a wee out of place with his long skater boy-like hair over the eye. He’s pensive and stoic most of the time, and Paula is coy in her knee-length pencil skirt and ponytail wrapped in a ribbon that looks like my cousin’s Scrunchie. Paula hangs around with what looks like a group of the supposed to be cool kids with pocket knives. Paula’s man flicks one up menacingly at our hero Keanu and then slashes his tires. These scenes look like the strange leftovers of a late 1980s mean kid-nice kid movie. But maybe Keanu’s character is up to no good after all. Death makes way for love, or love makes way for death. Keanu street races Paula’s boyfriend. Paula uses her black and white checkerboard scarf to start the race, running after the cars in her Marilyn-style halter dress. Why does she look so happy? Hmmm. And then her man’s car drives over a cliff. A sweet prelude to his forthcoming action film prowess, Keanu manages to escape from his vehicle in time. Le sigh. And all this time, we are blessed with shots of Paula dancing and dancing and hugging herself, staring all up in the camera, decked out in a bustier and long black frou-frou feather-trimmed gloves. 

And even though her man just drove over a cliff, Paula can’t help but flurry off with the quiet, kind, and ever-understanding Keanu. Somehow we knew that he would make it through this roundabout after all. The next thing we know, we see our Keanu using a carafe to cool off his beautiful forehead. He’s been through a lot, and this love is a fevered kind of love. In his sanguine red shirt, he talks with Paula about true love and the world’s loneliness. They sprint off together and chance upon an empty mansion, sans beast. Standing over her in the mirror, he lights drippy white candles and watches her blow them out.

Monique Quintana is a Xicana from Fresno, CA, and the author of Cenote City (Clash Books, 2019) and the chapbook My Favorite Sancho and Other Fairy Tales (Sword and Kettle Press, 2021). Her work has appeared in Pank, Wildness, Winter Tangerine, and other publications. You can find her book reviews and artist interviews at Luna Luna Magazine, where she is a contributing editor. Her writing has been supported by Yaddo, the Sundress Academy of the Arts, the Community of Writers, and the Open Mouth Poetry Retreat. You can find her on Twitter at @quintanadarkling and

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