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Fetishist Fans, Charter Club Members
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
The Replacements were my favorite band in the 80's, a scruffy, sloppy, post-punk Minneapolis group who always managed to screw it up just as they were about to get famous. Though a few late songs landed on the Modern Rock singles list ("Achin' to Be," "I'll Be You"), the Replacements managed to avoid popular success despite releasing three of the best albums of the 80's (Let It Be, Tim, Pleased to Meet Me.)
Self-destructive clowns have been role models for me, so I was a big fan and saw the band a number of times in concert. I even sent lead singer Paul Westerberg a letter complete with a poem, and in his funny response he told me that I was a better poet than a tree. (It's still my favorite criticism.) When I saw them in Indianapolis in '86, I got there a few hours early and was startled to see them already there, hanging out at the bar, getting liquored up for the show. Though I was a bit embarrassed to approach them, afraid of being seen as obsessive, I did talk to guitarist Bob Stinson and Westerberg, who were both funny and gracious. Very little of the remaining night was I able to remember, for like the band and the audience I thought it was my duty to get obliterated on beer and whiskey.
A few months later I met another Replacements fan in Fort Wayne, which seemed miraculous — the alternative/independent scene in '86 was nothing like it is now, and I figured that this guy was the only other 'Mats fan in the city. Delighted by this find, I expected to become fast friends with him, kindred spirits, but I was dead wrong. After discovering that we had both been to the Indy show, he corrected me on my hazy memory of the set list. He wrote down the set lists for every show he had seen, he said, and he chided me for not remembering that the band performed Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'" in Indy. "They do that at every concert," he snapped. "How could you not know that?"
How indeed. I ended our conversation soon after, realizing that though we shared the same enthusiasm for the band, we were polar opposites in every other respect. He was that creepy social phenomenon, the obsessive, completist aficionado, the guy whose fetishistic attachment to an artist made you actively hate both him and the object of his adoration. Though I still liked the Replacements after that encounter, something died for me then, and I bitterly regretted that I had sent the band a gushing fan letter.
I've noticed this phenomenon a number of times in my life, pop culture figures who engender such fanatical devotion that I can't help but be suspicious of the attraction. Here, then, is a list of the 10 most annoying fan bases of the past 40 years. It's painful for me, because of the 10 listed, I have an authentic reverence/appreciation for 8 of them. But, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I won't belong to a club that would have THEM for a member.
10) Charles Bukowski, poet — It's a great bit of trivia, to know that the best-selling poet in America today is this late LA writer, memorialized by Time magazine as the "laureate of American lowlife." I like Bukowski a great deal, but in college I met too many impressionable young men so infatuated with Bukowski's "bad dude" persona that they'd adopt the pose of the man while ignoring the writer. You'd see it time and again in Bloomington, some squeaky clean kid from Carmel would discover Bukowski in his freshman lit class, and bam, two weeks later he's rolling his own cigarettes, he's drinking out of a paper bag, he's on first name basis with all the hookers in town. And he's developed a very public smoker's hack, though the smoked his first cigarette a month ago and his lungs are as pink as a hog's belly.
9) Bruce Springsteen, singer — Or "Bruuuuuuce!," as he's known by his concert fans. I still play Darkness on the Edge of Town when nobody's looking, but I remain a closeted Springsteen fan, ever since I was at a party and heard a bunch of East Coast meatheads sing along to "Thunder Road," forever ruining the song for me. And besides, all his fans look like New York City cops, with mustaches.
8) Ani DiFranco, singer — "Untouchable Face" is still the greatest kiss-off song of all time, but ever since she became the patron saint of every sexually-conflicted person in their 20's, it's become impossible to talk to her fans without bowing at her feet. And it's worth noting that many of those same fans never forgave her for getting married and having a kid.
7) JFK/"X-Files" conspiracy nuts — I have no doubt that there are dark secrets in the upper reaches of our government, but ever since JFK's death ushered the country into the Age of Conspiracy, I've avoided the pop-eyed lunatics who are convinced that they'll uncover the webs of deceit. "The truth may be out there," all right, but that doesn't mean I want you sweating on me.
6) Stephen Soundheim, composer — I'll agree that Sondheim revolutionized the Broadway musical and that Company and Follies are the great achievements of 20th century American theatre. On the other hand, Sondheim is indirectly responsible for American Idol and the ubiquity of American musical theatre geekdom. Too many middle-schoolers with Jazz Hands these days.
5) Monty Python, comedy troupe — They make the list solely because of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, an admittedly funny movie that has unfortunately been rendered unwatchable because of the countless dorks who've memorized the lines and regurgitate them in bad British accents. ("The Knights who say. . .")
4) Grateful Dead/Phish/Dave Matthews Band, musicians--Purists may howl that I've lumped these bands together, aggrieved that I don't notice the delicate differences between them, but to me they just sound like boring jam bands that don't know when to quit. And the hippie/hemp bracelet audience. . . Here's the joke: What did one Dead fan say to the other after coming down from an acid trip? "This band sucks."
3) Boston Red Sox, baseball team--After the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, writer Bill Simmons published a book whose title encompassed the sentiments of many "Red Sox Nation" fanatics--"Now I Can Die in Peace." To which many non-Red Sox fans probably replied: Good. Die. Red Sox fans are notoriously dreary, gloomy, looking-for-clouds-on-a-sunny-day types whose over-identification with their loser ball club makes them intolerable. And besides, the Patriots won 3 Super Bowls the last decade. Quit crying.
2) Elvis Presley, singer — Elvis' death in 1977 was just the beginning for the insanely devoted lovers of dead celebrity culture. James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, JFK — none of the previous dead and famous ever approached the level of hysterical attention that the King's death unleashed: trips to Graceland, reported sightings, endless fascination with the Last Days and the countless biographies. That Elvis remains more popular in death is a creepy tribute to the morbidity of post-modern America.
1) Star Wars, Star Trek, movies, TV show — Again, lumping the two franchises together is probably enraging to fans, but to those without the collectibles and soundtracks and costumes the two are interchangeable — cheeseball sci-fi with a drip of mysticism. And even if you were raised on Luke, Obi Wan and that walking furball, there's no escaping the fact that the last trilogy of George Lucas' films was impossibly bad. And no, we don't want to hear your Yoda impression.