We're still livin'. Livin' in the eighties! We still fight! Fight in the eighties!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Great Original Story! The Country Singer Leads to Treasure!

I owe a great part of my '80s anime fandom happiness to Deborah Allen. Never heard of her, huh?  Yeah, I wouldn't expect you to, especially if you're neither over 40 nor a fan of country music.

In just another example of how life comes at you from directions you wouldn't expect, a song on AM radio in 1983 changed my life.  I used to ride with my father to the mobile home outfit we worked at back then and he always had the radio tuned to country music stations.  The song was Baby I Lied, the debut single from the perky C&W singer/songrwriter, produced by her then boyfriend (later hubby) Rafe VanHoy.  As was often the case back then, country singles "crossed over" to the pop charts, and such it was with this one.  I fell in love with it the first time I heard it.  Since she didn't have enough songs put together to make up a full album, the record company released a "mini-album" with six songs. I dunno why, exactly, but it didn't matter to me.  All I knew is that I wanted the damned thing and I wanted it NOW.  Well, I had to wait until the end of the work day, but later that night I was wearing it out on the turntable.  That's "record player" for all of you kids.

By the next morning, I was in love.  Well, okay, more like a potent mixture of lust and admiration, but when I get ahold of a good lookin' woman who can sing and (in the words of Miss Nanci Griffith) "play her own damn rhythm guitar and write her own damn songs" I tend to lose it.  Still holds true today for that matter, but getting into that would make this blog post incredibly long and mostly boring.  In any case, I wanted more.  But, aside from the record itself, there wasn't any more.

Except an address for the official Deborah Allen fan club.

Now, I was 23 years old and the only "fan club" I'd ever joined in my life was the Banana Splits fan club back when I was nine years old.  Hey, don't laugh, those songs were kinda groovy (and if you don't believe me, check out the background music to this.)  And the records (you would NOT believe who wrote and performed some of that shit) they sent played better than the cardboard cut-outs you got on the back of the cereal boxes.  But, again, I'm getting sidetracked.  Gonna have to figure out how to stop doing that.  It's hard when you keep finding new cool crap while googling for old cool crap.  Sigh. Where was I?  Oh, yeah, fan clubs.

Guilty as charged. If it weren't for little shits like me funding Sid&Marty, the world may have been spared the horror that was Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

I was 23 freakin' years old and told myself I had no business joining a fan club.  Heh, right.  Little did I know.  I don't even remember how much it cost to join the "official" Deborah Allen fan club, but I figured it was worth it to get a poster and autograph.  So I sent out my money and went about my business waiting for the package to come in.  And by "business," I meant comic books and anime. At that time, my newfound love of Japanese toons was slowly replacing my old love of American toons because, frankly, American toons had turned to crap.  This was before the advent of cheap VCRs so even the classic Looney Tunes stuff wasn't being marketted and Saturday morning toons were dying.  It really was quite depressing. Houston UHF stations had shown stuff like Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers, but San Antonio was a wasteland at the time. So a good portion of my time was spent playing and running tabletop RPGs (Champions had come out a few years earlier and was a major obsession) and going over to Ben Dunn's house to watch second or third - or worse - generation Japanese toons and wondering how we could possible get more.  Preferably some that we could watch without getting headaches from all the snow and squiggles and without having to adjust the FUCKING TRACKING EVERY TWO MINUTES!!!!!! 

Sorry, had a VCR flashback there.  I'm sure the oldtimers can sympathize. All better now.

Anyway, months passed and the fan club package came in and I was a happy camper for a while.  Deborah released a new album which I enjoyed as much as the first, but didn't get country airplay because she probably got a little TOO much on the pop side of things.  We started getting a few more tapes from sources other than Austin, I joined the EDC in the summer of '84 and started a collection of my own and started hauling it around to area SF and gaming conventions showing this stuff to pretty much anyone showed any interest whatsoever and even a lot of people who didn't.  But as soon as I landed a pretty decent copy of that Golgo-13 feature from the early '80s, it made my job a whole lot easier.  Nothing like a bunch of sex, guns and death to get the attention of the kinds of people who used to frequent cons back then.

Then, sometime in early '85 I got another package from the Deborah Allen fan club and this one included a membership list and a few reprinted fan letters.  Lo and behold (I always wanted to write that), one of the fan letters was from a Mitsuyoshi Yamashita of Osaka Japan.  "Hmm,"  I thought - for all of two seconds - then I grabbed the letter and hiked up to Mike Cogliandro's house because I knew absolutely nil about Japanese names and had no earthly idea if "Mitsuyoshi" was a guy's name or a girl's name.  Really stupid, huh?  Mike's mom, being Japanese, assured me that Mituyoshi was, indeed a guy, and I wasn't going to be committing some unpardonable offense demanding trans-Pacific communicational seppaku by addressing him as such.  I never was much for the whole "to whom it may concern" thing and I worry about dumb crap like that.  Or did.  In any case, I have the internet now so those kinds of silly problems are a thing of the '80s.  Seriously, you young'uns don't EVEN know how much fandom life is easier now.

To make a long story shorter, I wrote Mitsuyoshi a nice simple letter and had to take it down to the post office, where I was given a quick primer on the ins and outs of sending mail to Japan because, well, because I'd never actually sent anything oversees before. Boy, let me tell you, I got to know all the local post office employees by their first names over the next couple years.  Even brought 'em cookies one year. 

Two weeks later, I find a letter sitting in my mailbox from Mitsuyoshi and my life...changes. 

The moral of the story?  

If you want to get a swell friend from Japan (not to mention anime, manga and all sorts of other goodies) - join a freakin' country music fan club!!!!!

The scary thing is that I had most of those albums myself.

Email?  WTF is email?!!!!


  1. C/FO Flashbacks!

    Seriously, great story Robert.

    I'm glad that I'm not the only one who remembers fixing dropouts with an analog tracking wheel - and Deborah Allen!

  2. Thanks for the kind words. More fandom stuff to come. Sadly, until I get my hands on a decent scanner, everyone's gonna have to put up with lousy digital pics of real pictures taken by real photographers. Whatever that means.

    You a C/FO member back in the day? I think I'm gonna put out a call on a future blog to see how many of them will admit it...

    Fuck, I hate, hate, HATE the damned tracking problems. Sometimes a tape that would play perfectly on one machine you couldn't get to play at all on another without dropouts moving from one edge of the screen to the other. I remember having to stop one meeting and polling the members to see if they wanted the damned dropout line on the top of the screen or the bottom. True story. GRRRRRR.

    Like the blog, btw. It should be on the links gadget now...

    RWG (thanks for saying a word about Clokey too)

  3. Heh, yep! I tell ya though, the Kids nowadays wouldn't know a C/FO from C.P.O. Sharkey. Years after the fact I found it funny, as I'd run into old Cali guys at cons out that way who had no idea that there were new chapters popping up east of the Mississippi. . .

    Re: tracking
    As a fan of "weird" music I miss (a little) the tracking problems 'cuz they did such funny things to pitch and timber!