The Chapter Fan Club Era
March 20, 2011 § 2 Comments
After Vegas, I joined the “Official Tom Jones Fan Club.” It was set up by Jones’ management, based in New York, and an official fan club member received a black and white autographed photo, a welcome “Letter from Tom,” and news of where he’d be performing. I hadn’t joined prior to seeing the singer perform because, being isolative, I wasn’t much of a joiner.
As a college student, I could only tolerate a few classes at a large junior college. I tried to focus on my goal of learning and studying journalism, advertising, and public relations, yet I daydreamed about my real goal: MEET TOM JONES. When Los Angeles Times reporter, Robert Hilburn, wrote an article in Westways Magazine pullout section, I responded with a letter to the editor. In the fossil-like, pre-Facebook days when every family was listed in the phone book, I received a lot of positive responses in the form of letters sent to my home.
I heard from a lot of Tom Jones fans, the president of a fan club “chapter” based in Orange County, called Tom’s Boosters, an Engelbert Humperdinck fan, and even my third grade teacher. I discovered the “chapter” fan clubs were made of the hardcore fans consisting of the heart and soul of the singer’s fan base. I learned how important the chapter fan clubs were because the president of Tom’s Boosters sent me a photograph of her and her vice-president standing next to Tom Jones.
So dreams do come true! Suddenly, twirling around in my teenage head I heard those little birdies chirping and a falsetto singing, “Some day my prince will come… Some day when my dreams come true.” (“My Prince Will Come,” song from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney)
I immediately joined the Orange County chapter, Tom’s Boosters. Another favorite chapter was called This is Tom Jones. It was set up like a clipping service, where fans sent clippings from newspaper articles or reviews throughout the country and the chapter president (if I recall correctly, was based in Michigan) compiled, printed, and sent them out to TJ fans all across the US. It kept us all abreast of TJ news in a world that did not yet have Entertainment Tonight and Extra on TV, or People and OK Magazine, let alone the internet.
The women who ran the chapter fan clubs in the 70s were extremely diverse. Most were older than me, many were married with children, and we all came from different walks of life. Everyone was friendly and generous, sharing their knowledge and experiences about where and when Tom was going to perform, photographs, fun Tom stories, etc. (By the way, if you recognize any of your photographs and would like your name credited, please contact me; I do not want to put private names out into the world without permission.)
Today you have the Official Tom Jones website (www.tomjones.com), and newsy fan sites, such as Tom Jones International (www.tomjonesintl.com), Tom Terrific (www.tjfanclub.com), Tom Jones Scandinavian (www.tomjones.dk), and more. You can Google, you can “You Tube”, and it is a far cry from the old days of snail mail communication.
It was surprising how one simple letter to the editor opened my world and began to pave the way to making my teenage dreams come true. It unexpectedly took me into a Tom Jones fan world I didn’t know existed. Even though I was attending school, I had tunnel vision and was in and out without really partaking of the college experience. The fan world opened my closed world just a crack.
We were all obsessed with the object of our affection. We all communicated by letter, so no one knew or cared what anyone looked like, or if you were shy or sensitive or anxious or awkward.
And you heard little stories about the famous pop star that most people never heard, like the time Tom Jones was presented with a crown for being the unofficial “prince” of Wales. Instead of withdrawing and shutting people out of my world, I developed a few pen-pal relationships with a common interest… the singer who saved me.