Fan Mail: Thorny Issue for Celebrities

By Diane Werts 1996, Newsday | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 17, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Fan Mail: Thorny Issue for Celebrities

Diane Werts 1996, Newsday, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

YOU LIKE a star, you love a show.

You send a card to tell them so.

But will they see the note you wrote?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

It can break your heart to write a letter to a celebrity you adore - and not get a response. Did you touch them in some way? Did they appreciate the information you passed on? Did they ignore the sentiments you slaved over in your note?

Or did they even see it?

Ah, the 32-cent question.

Fan mail is a thorny issue for stars. And how to deal with this consequence of fame varies widely, depending on the recipient. We broached precisely that subject during the fall-season TV press tour, when stars from all the networks gathered to promote their shows with entertainment writers from around the country.

Stars know fan letters are personal efforts from people who feel strongly enough to take the time to sit down and carefully compose expressions to famous people they feel they know very well, thanks to their show-biz appearances.

Yet, while celebrities may be thrilled to see tangible proof they're touching the lives of so many viewers, it's also true they don't know us the way we know them. Fan mail comes from strangers - perhaps potentially threatening strangers, at that. Even the flattering sentiments expressed inthese letters often can be tediously repetitive ("I love you so much! You can visit me anytime. Can I have your autograph?"). And the sheer volume of mail - hundreds or even thousands of letters a week - precludes truly personal responses. If stars sat down and answered every piece of fan mail themselves, they wouldn't have time left to do whatever made them stars in the first place.

"You do the best you can when you get 8,000 to 10,000 letters a week," says "Beverly Hills 90210's" Jason Priestley. "There aren't enough hours in the day."

"I get so much fan mail that I physically can't answer all of it personally now," says Jane Seymour of CBS' family-friendly "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" series.

Like Priestley and many other stars, Seymour forwards all her mail to a Hollywood fan-mail service, which ensures that each letter gets some sort of reply, usually a mass-produced photo with a printed "autograph." While this may not be the handwritten response fans are seeking, at least it shows the letter hasn't been ignored. "And I do get to see them all," Seymour says. "They send me every single piece (of mail)."

Stars sometimes recruit their secretaries, relatives and fan-club members to give replies more of an individual touch than the large mail services can offer.

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