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Super Fans

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 - 11:23 AM

A Fusion of Fandom: the Parrothead Van

I’ve been thinking about this whole super fan thing. I like a lot of artists and bands – some I like a real lot. But I would never consider myself a super fan; even my favorite artists have songs, or albums, or even whole stretches of albums I don’t like. Then it occurred to me: maybe “super fandom” can only be spotted from outside. I followed David Bowie’s career obsessively as a teenager in the 70s – buying all his albums, going to his tours whenever he came through NY; and because I was stick-thin and red-haired, some people thought I was actually trying to look like him too. (Though my red is natural; Bowie’s came from a bottle. Just so we’re clear.) Does that mean I was a super fan? I don’t think so. Bowie’s super fans got glammed up for his concerts (I almost never did that), and waited for hours by the backstage door. I was just really into his music. But to an outsider, maybe the distinction is immaterial. To some, if you like the Grateful Dead, then you’re a Deadhead. But to me, a Deadhead is something else – a member of a community that rolled, caravan-like, across the country in the band’s wake, selling or swapping Dead memorabilia, sharing bong hits, and hopefully remembering to shower occasionally.

And Jimmy Buffet’s fans, the so-called Parrotheads. Is that anyone who shows up regularly at a Jimmy Buffet concert? Or do you have to be on your third margarita by showtime and still be able to sing all the words to all the songs while dressed in what looks like Don Ho’s old wardrobe? I wonder how many people would like to identify themselves as “super fans” – and how many, maybe even some who genuinely are super fans, who would bristle at the word being applied to them. After all, I’m sure there were lots of Deadheads who thought the whole image of the VW microbus and the hippie clothes, etc., was just a cliché.

Do you consider yourself a super fan? Do you suspect others of considering you a super fan? Leave a comment.

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