History of Fan Mail

written by Barry L. Kramer

Issues to date

Fan Mail #15, 35 pages, December 1993 (gloss printed)
Fan Mail #14, 19 pages, January 1992
Fan Mail #13
, 17 pages, July 1991
Fan Mail #12
, 11 pages, April 1991
Fan Mail #11
, 44 pages, December 1990
Fan Mail #10
, 26 pages, June 1990
Fan Mail #9
, 7 pages, March 1990
Fan Mail #8
, 14 pages, January 1990
Fan Mail #7
, 9 pages, November 1989
Fan Mail #6
, 4 pages, October 1989
Fan Mail #5
, 4 pages, July 1989
Fan Mail #4
, 5 pages, April 1989
Fan Mail #3
, 9 pages, January 1989
Fan Mail #2
, 4 pages, July 1988
Fan Mail #1
, 4 pages, February 1988

Unfortunately, back issues except #15 are not available at this time.

The Fan Mail newsletter was created primarily as a means of archiving historical knowledge about Debbie Harry. Since the concept of a collector's organization had been in my mind for several years before I created the DHCS in 1987, much of what I've printed actually represents information that I just didn't know where else to put! I have a bunch of computer files, but information of a timely nature just didn't belong in any of them. So basically what it was, I was (at the dates indicated) typing much of this stuff into text files. In late 1987, I started actively putting it into newsletter format with the intention of release. Most of it was released on time to people I dealt with in correspondence. In 1988, I decided to release it in its current format, and it took a couple months to get the copying and printing done to my satisfaction. A significant amount of my circulation is outside the U.S. (and since then, I've found some very reliable distributors and friends to help out). I never pushed the people on my mailing list to contribute, and early on, no one did, and that's the reason there wasn't much feedback until recently. What feedback I did get was just notes on things [in letters], rather than complete articles. Because there is always delay between issues of Fan Mail, the Deborah Harry Archive Report has been created to supplement it. These are very short, and contain timely items and have a more "underground" nature, characteristic of the other Debbie Harry fanzines, some of which have come and gone. One of my current projects is to have the Archive Reports include collectors offering or seeking items but this is still in the implementation stage.

Debbie and Chris first became aware of Fan Mail in late 1989. I met them in June 1990 (How I did it and what it was like) and they both enjoyed my text greatly. In 1991, I asked Debbie herself as well as her management at the time, Overland Productions, for permission to expand the newsletter (which I received). Since then, I've also become good friends with Chris (who provides some information), and have been allowed the privilege of handling Debbie's mail that arrives at the venues she plays at. Neither Debbie, Chris, nor their management or record companies have any additional involvement in the affairs of the D.H.C.S. or its newsletter, nor do they provide any financial help. It functions almost entirely from the support of its members, who graciously send me news and information. In many ways, this makes us superior to any fan club, because the D.H.C.S. is receptive to the needs and desires of its membership, and everyone can participate to the level they choose. At the moment, I'm looking for a few motivated people (especially outside the U.S.) to get more involved with everything, so if you're interested, let me know (especially if you have email!). Also, Fan Mail (except for the photographs) is released to the public domain, so if you want to copy the text and send it to your friends, go right ahead. All in all, I think the whole concept is a unique approach that's been very successful.

The Fan Mail letterhead was an idea of mine which I made by using a Macintosh to generate the ".400 grid" as I named the file. I had one of my best friends draw the words "Fan Mail" on it in the ETTB style (I gave him the LP), which we then cut out with a razor blade. The line and text was done on the computer, and I basically made a 3-layer composite, touched it up, and had a printer replicate it on Hammermill lustre-white paper. For the first 14 issues, I photocopied my printout originals onto this paper or give them to friends who copied them at work. The first 14 issues were written in an incredibly powerful document production system called Scribe, which only runs on mainframes (DEC machines) but unfortunately is no longer available (probably because it lacked any preview capabilities). Scribe was written by Scribe Systems, formerly Unilogic. I requested postscript output and used SendPS on the Macintosh to send output to a Laserwriter 2 NTX, and later printed from unix to an HP Laserjet Series 3. Most recently, I've switched to writing in Emacs on my PC, formatting in Word Perfect 5.1, and printing on my new Hewlett Packard Laserjet 4P printer. As you have no doubt noticed, I have a very technical background. I am an expert computer user, programmer, and designer. This has made me a perfectionist, archiving everything, however insignificant. So, if you ever find a mistake in one of my documents, or would like to elaborate on something, make certain you tell me. If you want to know something, I probably can answer your question or try to find out. I always try to be as accurate as possible, recording everything in painstaking detail, and printing only confirmed facts unless noted.

The most recent issue of Fan Mail, and the first to be professionally printed on gloss paper with photographs, is #15, dated December 1993. The interval from #14 to #15 was unnaturally long, and despite my best efforts at making time to do another, has gotten much worse. Luckily, the electronic distribution of information and our web presence makes me feel marginally less guilty. However, I really do intend to do more issues, as well as a compilation of the past ones.

In its early phase, Fan Mail was originally distributed free to about 45 people, mostly in the U.S., but also in Australia, England, and Canada. Since membership has increased drastically in the past few years, only some of the original membership and current contributors remain on the free mailing list. Others are asked to pay only for printing costs and postage (which due to the varying size of the issues, will change per issue. This is the reason there isn't a fixed subscription rate). The D.H.C.S. is strictly a non-profit organization and operates solely for the purpose of providing support to Debbie Harry and her collectors and fans; we do not engage in merchandising of any sort (except if Debbie Harry or Chris Stein actually request it), although transactions (preferably trades) among collectors are encouraged. "Membership" means your address is in my computer and you correspond with me or receive the newsletter; there are no formal requirements and no fees or dues. Current membership is about 300, not counting the electronic correspondents, with about 15% very serious collectors, and the remainder comprising various levels of fans who mostly read it for entertainment and information. Due to the level of mail which I now receive, it is not unusual for it to take over a month for me to respond to letters, especially around the release of a new issue or during a tour, but I will respond! I try my best to keep up with things, but do not become concerned if it takes that long. If you think I may have forgotten about something, keep reminding me Ä I don't mind in the least and in fact need all the help I can get! I'm literally so busy that it's almost impossible for me to take phone calls, but I respond to email as soon as I can.

See also, History of the DHCS

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