[Note: Cathy Zymet, née Alter, has been a professional writer for many years. She has contributed to a number of periodicals, including many alternative weeklies, and Might, a defunct magazine. She now lives in Washington, D.C., and among other projects, writes, for a largely juvenile audience, biographies of popular bands and singing groups. These books are available at Wal-Mart and Walgreens. This is the sixth in a series of indeterminate duration, in which Zymet will be chronicling her experiences. Her story is very real.]
EPISODE SIX: FAN MAIL
When folks ask me why I write about teen-scene celebrities, which was exactly the question posed to me last night by a young man who would not look out of place in a Whit Stillman movie, I cite a 1998 poll that gleefully revealed that more adolescents recognized Leonardo DiCaprio than Vice-President Al Gore. While this may imply that a valuable and influential demographic would rather buy one of my books than say, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, it is not my intention to profit from my business. Like Francis Bacon, I “take pleasure in the action itself, and not in the purchase.”
Besides, I’m after something much larger than a $1,250 (flat fee) paycheck.
And while I suppose that documenting flash-in-the-pants boy bands does, on a deeper level, say something about the impermanence of art — like Julian Schnabel’s broken plates or Damien Hirst’s pickled cow halves — what I’m coming to realize as I embark on my latest Latino biography is this: Writing about Enrique Iglesias’ favorite vegetable (lettuce) is meaningful. Just like Howie D.‘s dream to develop condominiums on the East Coast of Florida, LeAnn Rimes’ plans to study speech pathology, and Leo’s musings on celebrity (“Fame is like a VIP pass wherever you want to go”). Somebody out there actually cares about this stuff.
Someone like Lan X. Le.
You came into my life
Like an unexepted hurricane
You filled my life with music
You brought me life and joy
You stole my heart
Yet you don’t realize that I’m here
Standing here, waiting for you.
I love but not love in return
My life is fufilled
But my heart are empty
Come to me now
Make me yours and forever
Embrace me in your arms
We will soar together to place lover never went
I will bring you love like no others
Give me a change to prove my love
Don’t lock me out
Open your heart and let love in
I will be your moon, stars, and sun
I will be your everything
Make me your and forever.
I know of your rejecting love
And it harden your heart
You feel that you could never love again
Babe, I’m not like the others
I will walk a million miles
Just to see your smile and heard your laughter
I will never leave you
Just want to be with you till I die.
Le is pining over Enrique, of course, but she could just as easily be aching for Matt Damon, Carson Daly, or, heaven forbid, Fred Durst. Her behavior is not atypical of today’s youthquake subculture. Dick Hebdige had his punk rockers and teddy boys. I have my boy banders and supergroupies.
Like safety-pinned and pointy-shoed punks, supergroupies have their own expressive forms and rituals. Writing bad poetry is just one example. Other testimonials can be found on a variety of sweetly conceived fansites, virtual bedrooms where dedicated, serious-minded young ladies open up their Hello Kitty diaries for mass public consumption.
Writes Suzi on her Ultimate Enrique site, “I had this dream that I woke up in the morning and went outside to get the newspaper. Much to my surprise, someone had landscaped our front yard overnight. We live in a condo and have a tiny yard, but after the landscaping we had this huge yard with trees, flowers, sculptures, benches, everything! It was beautiful! I was jumping up and down and yelling for Mr. Ultimate Enrique to come look when a black Hummer came speeding down the street, into my newly landscaped yard, over the flowers. When it started driving in circles around the yard I started screaming at the driver. Then the Hummer came up to the porch and stopped, and ENRIQUE popped his head out the window and smiled!! Then I woke up…”
These sites provide an alternate space within the subculture itself to address criticism (whether aimed at the subculture or at their objects of desire), to dispel rumors (Christina Aguilera weights 102 pounds, NOT 110 pounds), or to disseminate time-sensitive, all-points bulletins:
Enrique on TV
All Times Eastern
Friday Nov 24 @ 2:00 PM Family Channel – Teen Choice Awards (repeated tomorrow 11/25 @11:00 AM)
Sunday Nov 26 @3:00 PM VH1 – Sexist Moments in Video
Monday Nov 27 @ 7:30 PM VH1 – Behind The Music 2
Without a doubt, these fansites offer a glimpse into the language of the subculture. Rife with misspellings, glaring typos, and grammatical horrorshows, they leave the overwhelming impression of urgency and total, I mean, total importance.
Moreover, these fan-only zones are a celebrity biographer’s secret weapon. Motherlodes of minutia, the sites document facts and fictions that often slip past Mr. Entertainment’s and E Online’s velvet ropes. When I needed to know when Howie Dorough’s sister succumbed to Lupus, I didn’t consult People Magazine (whose vague obituary had her passing a month prior to the actual event), I visited Tina’s Singapore Backstreet Boys Page.
At the moment, there are only two Enrique Iglesias books on the open market (and one is a slim 3″ × 3″ affair). I am indebted to Enrique’s online community of women for their filler material. Suzie’s unofficial site even provides the transcript from Enrique’s appearance on the Howard Stern show — enabling me to better examine Enrique’s lip-sync defense in my chapter entitled “Beating Down the Backlash.”
Truthfully, visiting Suzie and Lan X. Le is a little like going home. After all, I was the delightful first grader who sent the exact same letter every single day to Osmond headquarters:
I love you.
I was also the slightly agitated tenth grader who wrote poetry in the style of Jim Morrison. And I am now the happily married woman who was still incensed to learn of the dalliance between Beck and Winona Ryder.
Perhaps this identification is also what makes me such a sensitive writer. We are all forever fans. Subcultures spilled over and over and over.