I am a fan of a lot of things. I appreciate those people, organizations and experiences that exceed my own abilities. Sometimes I do so begrudgingly, but as I sat in front of the television watching the three hours of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions for this year, I was impressed by how many of the artists made mention of the fans. In the end, that's what it's all about for a performer. An athlete. An author. A teacher. To make that trip to the Hall of Fame, you've got to have fans. By contrast, when you toil in relative obscurity, you still count the fans and you probably know them all by name. "I wanna thank you all for coming out." Individually. And I think of those stadiums filled with empty seats and a few committed die-hards there to see their team through the lean years. I think of that relationship from the other side, and I consider the number of "followers" I have on Twitter and this blog, and the responsibility involved. Please, take a moment to freshen your beverage, won't you? As I continue.
The first time I wanted to be a member of a fan club was after reading the back pages of a Captain America comic book. There was an ad for FOOM - Friends Of Old Marvel. It was the seventies version of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. I was sorely tempted to send my allowance to them and wait six to eight weeks for delivery of my membership card and subscription to the insider's magazine. I confess at that point in my life I was more interested in the stories and pictures in the comics and less in the stories behind them, and so I saved my nickels and dimes for more adventures and less commentary.
Years passed, and inside New Traditionalists was an application for Club Devo. By now I really was intrigued by the business end of show business. I wanted the inside skinny and I looked forward to each issue of The Brainwasher fan magazine. Along with my membership card and an offer to purchase more devolved swag, I received exactly one issue. I waited for months, and then gave up. I didn't stop being a fan. I became a little more jaded.
That's why, when I signed up for Oingo Boingo's Secret Society, my expectations were extremely low. Their membership card was every bit as keen as Devo's, and I could carry them together in my wallet in case I needed more than one form of identification. Their promise of additional surprises never really came to pass, but I was grateful to have the lyric booklet they sent along. Neither of these new wave opportunities gave me a chance at a backstage meet and greet, or access to special fan-only recordings. I was a little bitter.
Which didn't stop me from joining up when, after seeing Pee Wee Herman live at the University of Colorado, I joined up. This time, I was awarded with an invitation to an advance screening of Pee Wee's Big Adventure. At last. A true fan experience. I brought my older brother along, and we had the time of our lives in that shopping mall concrete bunker of a theater. Now I had three forms of identification, in case I needed to cash a check.
And that was about it for my fan club days. I signed my son up for the Denver Broncos' Kids Club, but living in Oakland made it difficult for him to take full advantage of all the activities and personal appearances. When I go to a show, I buy a T-shirt, mostly out of habit. I'm not much of a joiner after that, but in my wallet I still carry those reminders of what it truly means to be a fan.