So it was shortly after my memoir The Shyster’s Daughter came out and I was excited by some of the attention it was receiving. A woman read an article about me and my book and proceeded to send me several messages a day about how she looked deep into my eyes (from a picture that had been printed in a magazine) and that she knew I needed a friend. Most importantly, I needed her. “You look sad,” she’d write in an email or “I know what you’re thinking…” she’d start and proceed to come up with a page-long delusional rant that made no sense.
Needless to say, I was a little freaked out. I wondered if she lived nearby. I wondered if she knew where I lived. Would she try and do me harm or was she essentially harmless? Would she show up where I taught my creative writing classes? Or appear next to my shopping cart in the produce aisle in the grocery store? Ignoring her and deleting her multitude of emails eventually did the trick and she went away. But for many far bigger public figures, they are not nearly as fortunate.
Perhaps one of the scariest stories about a deranged fan is from the eighties when John Hinkley, Jr. who, in his twisted mind, tried to get actress Jodie Foster’s attention by gunning down President Reagan. Luckily President Reagan survived, though a man from his cabinet got a bullet to the brain and he was permanently in a wheelchair and mentally impaired. His death, even though it occurred decades later, was officially ruled a homicide. That man’s killer was recently set free from a mental institution. Actress Rebecca Schaefer was shot and killed on her front doorstep by a man who’d been stalking her for three years. He’d hired a private investigator who tracked down her home address from the DMV. Tennis great Monica Seles was stabbed in the back during a tennis match by a deranged fan of one of her rivals who sprung up out of the stadium seating and attacked her with a knife.
And while these are extreme cases of fan obsession that turned violent, there are others that are disturbing in their own strange ways. A used water bottle of Justin Bieber’s was bought online by a fan for over six hundred dollars. At a recent concert I personally saw a woman who had covered her arms in tattoos of the faces of the band members in Duran Duran. A woman has reportedly legally changed her name to Mrs. Kanye West.
Social media has become ground central for the obsessed fan. Actress Ashley Tisdale received over 18,000 messages from a man who believed the two of them were in a romantic relationship. In particular I firsthand came across the troubling public posts of a young woman who thinks she is in a romantic relationship with the lead singer of a popular British band. Her Tweets are relentless. They spin a fiction that she has created, that she clearly believes in her own mind to be true. Some of this singer’s fans have tried calling her out on her posts, but this only seems to fuel her irrational interest in him. For she is no fan. She is his stalker.