A Few Tacos Short of a #4 Combo at Estella’s

Years ago, I was the Production Director of a radio station here in the Tampa Bay Market. We were popular, but by no means #1 or anything. One afternoon, a man came into our office. He was talking to our receptionist, and she buzzed me and asked me to come help her.

“Tom? This is (we’ll call him Frank). Frank is here about the background messages that go out on the station.” Bless her, she said this with a straight face, not breaking out in fear. I played along.

“Oh, dammit. The engineers were supposed to have that fixed. I’m sorry. Is it just during the commercials? Or during music?”

Frank spoke as earnestly as anyone I’ve ever heard. “It’s worse during the commercials. I hear the commercials fine. But the messages in the background? Telling me what to do? Those are what bother me, but they’re behind the songs too, but only some of them.”

“I see. Again, my apologies. I know we had an issue with our transmitter, and they were supposed to have those things stopped.”

By this time our Ops Manager, who had been sitting in the lobby before his show, said, “Frank. I’m Dennis, the Operations Manager. Let’s go back to my office, and I’ll get some more details from you.”

Frank went quietly. Without being asked, the receptionist called the police, who came and gently offered Frank a ride home.

Frank was soft-spoken, polite, and almost apologetic the whole time he was in our offices. He just wanted us to turn off the background messages on our station.

There were none, of course.

What the fuck did I do to deserve this??

What the fuck did I do to deserve this??

I just watched a documentary on Netflix called “I Think We’re Alone Now.” If you recall, the teenaged sensation, Tiffany, had a hit with that song back in 1987, or thereabouts. My station in 1987 didn’t play that, but we did play her song “Could’ve Been.” To be honest, I thought “Could’ve Been” was a decent little country ballad, and that Tiffany sang pretty damn well for a 16 year-old in the pre-Auto-Tune days, and before that horrible Mariah Carey swooping up and down for no reason thing started. Tiffany had a nice powerful voice, maybe a little nasal, but not at all a bad singer. I liked playing her record. My life won’t end if I never hear it again.

So the documentary “I Think We’re Alone Now” follows two men whose opinion of Tiffany is a bit more…shit, I’m trying to think of the right word. How about, “Fucking-insane”?

Neither man is dangerous in his obsession over Tiffany. Indeed, they’re just waiting for the chance to marry her. The first one, Jeff, is 50 years old, has Asperger’s, and has been following Tiffany–literally and figuratively–since 1987. People with Asperger’s are not usually violent. They’re not always good with socializing, but they aren’t psychotic or anything. They can also be extremely well organized. Indeed, Jeff has boxes of scrapbooks and Tiffany-related newspaper clippings. He has copies of Tiffany-instigated restraining orders, too, from when he was hanging around her house. Those have been lifted now, because he only hassles her at public appearances. We see Jeff show up to see Tiffany at some trade show of women who do naked stuff (Tiffany posed nude in Playboy). He goes up to her like an old friend. Bless her heart, she let him awkward-hug her, and air-kissed him, then got away as quickly as she could. He brought things for her to sign, and she was patient, as her handlers encouraged him to move on.

In Jeff’s eyes, he and Tiffany are besties. He tells people this–that he is Tiffany’s best friend, and that he talks to her often. He attends a community church regularly, and talked about how Jesus was truly working through Tiffany, and that she was spreading God’s message.

(Fair disclosure: Tiffany DID say, “God bless you all” once at the end of the first concert, and twice at the second. She never seemed to be “spreading” any message, however: just “God bless”ing the crowd, which a lot of artists do)

Kelly has a different background. Kelly is a 31 year-old Intersex, living as a woman. Eventually, he will have breast implants and have his boy parts removed. (She, and her. Sorry) The reason I accidentally alluded to Kelly as “he” and “him” above is that Kelly appears to be very masculine, unlike most Intersex people I’ve seen and known.

Anyway, Kelly was run over on his bicycle several years ago, and was in a coma for eight days. While he was in the coma, he saw himself marrying Tiffany. However–fade-in creepy music–he had never heard of Tiffany before. While he was recovering post-coma, his sister brought him a Walkman, and–HOLY CRAP–there was Tiffany! The girl he married while in the coma!

Both of these folks talk about their close bond with Tiffany guilelessly. They aren’t lying or spouting insanities. They honestly believe in their relationships with Tiffany.

To her credit, Tiffany seems to be nice to everyone. After a big club show, she sits and signs autographs for anyone who wants one. She even suffers the occasional lunatic who’s convinced they’re practically married. She’s been dealing with it most of her life, I guess, and she appears to be a genuinely nice person.

No, I don’t want to marry her or follow her around. In the documentary, she treated everybody really kindly. I’m not going anywhere near her. (Fucking restraining order!!!)

I jest.

This documentary was absolutely fascinating–it’s only an hour long, and streaming on Netflix. Give it a watch. The sincerity of these obsessive people is mind-boggling. Jeff, the Asperger’s guy, is intelligent as hell. He’s read a ton of books, and speaks regularly about the fascists taking over our country. He’s also always smiling, whether discussing fascists or Tiffany. Kelly is an emotional wreck. She was going to see Tiffany in Denver, but couldn’t get into the show. She bought a pint each of Jägermeister and vodka, and went home to numb her grief.

People that sincere and that convinced that their delusion is true…these people fascinate me, as well as scaring me. These two guys are harmless, but if their chemicals were mixed a little differently, things could be different.

As for Frank, our visitor at the radio station, the police drove him “home.” They dropped him off where he asked. He could have walked into a cheap apartment building, or into the woods where lots of homeless folks stay.

The officers came back to our station afterwards, to see if we wanted to press charges. We didn’t, of course–he was never threatening or obnoxious. One of the officers told us that our messages were bad, but the NBC affiliate, Channel 8, was the worst. Whether it was “ER” or “Law & Order,” or even local programming, Channel 8’s transmitter has the messages pumping loud.

One night, Frank was watching the 11 o’clock news, and the female news anchor stopped reading, looked directly at Frank, and said, “I can see your ding-dong.” He’s placed calls to Channel 8, needless to say. Who wants that??

Me? I just don’t watch TV news.

It gets in the way of watching my 19 hour-long Tiffany video collection.

Happy St Patty’s Day


9 Responses to “A Few Tacos Short of a #4 Combo at Estella’s”

  1. *shivering*
    Wow, just wow.
    So many people…on the edge.

  2. I was at the Social Security office on Friday, trying to get some tax business done for my parents, when this woman plunked herself on the bench behind me and began chatting with the person next to her. I found myself thanking providence that she didn’t sit next to me, because her chat became this bizarre ramble about her neighbors taunting her and breaking into her house while she was asleep. “You know what taunting is? T-A-U-N-T? I mean, I need to get out of here. I’m gonna sell my things and move to Florida where they be nice to people.”

    Just thought I should warn you.

    • We used to have a listener–an elderly black woman–who would call and tell us about her neighbors shocking her through her windows “with some device.” I always felt bad for her, just because we had our engineer build the device, and we were actually the ones shocking her. Bwahahaha.

  3. See, now, this is why it’s just as well I never got famous for anything. You have just one short spell of fame, like Tiffany did, and you’re dealing with it for the rest of your life.

    I mean, when you’re famous, more and more people start sending you Messages. Right now I only get Messages from my immediate neighbors, who are using a cosmic radiation beam device pioneered by the Soviets, and I can block up to 57% of those with foil… *adjusts hat*

    • The key is to use both foil AND Saran Wrap. It makes your brain overheat, sure, but it keeps out another 16%. And I know Tiffany likes my Saran Wrap. Because she’s my best friend and all.

  4. I was always more of a Debbie Gibson fan — and by Debbie I mean Deborah, and by fan, I mean stalker.

    I jest.

    Sort of.

    Fortunately, you can see both teen dreams in SyFy Channel crappy monster movies. They even did one where they’re BOTH in the SAME movie!

    • They did come out almost simultaneously, sort of like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. I think Tiffany has the better voice, but props to Debbie/Deborah for writing her own songs. As far as the more recent pair, Britney is clearly the superior vocalist…


      Sorry. I tried to keep a straight face. Christina Aguilera proved herself to me doing “This is a Man’s Man’s World” during the James Brown tribute at the Grammy Awards. And Britney…goodness, the better purposes to which that carbon could’ve been used. Like cookouts. Or making another Christina Aguilera.

      A horror movie with both Deborah Gibson and Tifforah would probably destroy my already tenuous grasp of reality. (Unless there were boobs, of course (and I’m obviously kidding, because that would be sexist and wrong of me 😉 ))

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