So my handy dandy calendar reminded me that October 12 is the 4th anniversary of the day when nearly grinned my teeth right out of my head while I petted Mr. Alfred Matthew Yankovic’s hair like a bunny backstage after a concert. This action may not sound like the achievement of a lifelong goal to some, but believe me, gentle readers, it was MAGICAL. Remembering that enchanted evening made me happy this morning, so I thought I’d share a timeline with some of my favorite pictures and memories of my stalking years/fandom:
1980s: My childhood and tween years. Listened to Weird Al on vinyl and cassette as played by my oldest brother, who was 13 the year Al released his first studio album. Strongest memories: making up vigorous dances to accompany “That Boy Can Dance,” “Dare to Be Stupid,” “Yoda,” “I Lost on Jeopardy,” and “Eat It.” I recall lying on my middle brother’s red bedspread on his side of their shared room, looking up at the shelves upon shelves of Star Wars toys and laughing at the handfart noises on “Girls Just Wanna Have Lunch” very vividly, too.
1990s: Realized Al was a parodist. I turned 13 in 1991, so bear in mind that I didn’t quite grasp that Al was anything more than a guy who sang funny songs before this because I didn’t pay attention to the real radio at all. My folks were very anti-MTV, so my listening world consisted of ’60s and ’70s magic like Helen Reddy, Captain and Tenille, and other lite rock played on “WGLO…glow…95.” To give you even more perspective, the first music I personally owned was on cassette tapes by Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Wilson Phillips, and Whitney Houston, played on my bumblebee-yellow Walkman Sport that was a gift for my 8th grade graduation. So it’s easy to see why I had my mind blown when Al released “Off The Deep End” and I got it for the first time. I recognized “Smells Like Nirvana” and “Taco Grande,” and since I had been enamored by Milli Vanilli before the lip-sync scandal, I especially appreciated “The Plumbing Song” (which included “Blame It on the Drain” – genius!).
mid ’90s: I started college in 1995 and had a rough couple of years away from home, followed by a rough couple of years trying to fit in when I transferred schools and moved back home. I appreciated “Amish Paradise” when Bad Hair Day came out, and often sorta-karaoked to Coolio’s version during Midnight Bowling when I was out with old high-school friends (yes, with the black lights and neon and all), but that was all the more attention I paid.
August 1996: I saw an ad for a Weird Al Bad Hair Day tour concert at our local civic center on TV, and my brothers mentioned that they wanted to go, so I asked for tickets for my birthday as well. I asked a friend from college to go with me and we had a good time, but it was nothing compared to what was to come.
Summer 1999: Running With Scissors was released, along with the hounds of my affection for Al. I was 22 and living at home, and life kind of sucked. I was going through a very rough time of anxiety, depression, and loneliness while trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life, finishing up a degree in a field of study I was sure I could do nothing with in the real world (English Literature), and still having not found a solid group of friends during my college career. One evening while my oldest brother was home for a visit, we happened upon one of Al’s many, many, many VH1 appearances while flipping through the channels of my parents’ TV, and there stood Al, on a golf course with Alice Cooper, of all people, sporting his new look – frizzy hair now long and luxurious, creepy mustache morphed into a fetching goatee, and luscious brown eyes unfettered by the geeky glasses of old. And he was FUNNY. And smart. And sweet in interviews. And did I mention FUNNY? Then they played the concert video, particularly Al’s emotive performance of “Germs.” I fell — legitimately, boy-band, hand-flapping, giggly girl, scream-and-throw-your-bra-at-the-stage type fell — head over heels for this new, ridiculously sexy “Weird Al” Yankovic.
My brothers both found my hardcore crush on their childhood idol disturbing, to a circuit-frying intensity for my middle brother. My oldest brother had an easier time with it and often enabled me by watching the TV appearances with me that summer and listening to the older albums (that I now bought on CD for myself) with me as well. I taped all of Al’s VH1 appearances that year and watched them over and over on my old VHS player. VH1 played an edited version of Al’s Touring With Scissors concert, and I wore the tape through playing that one every night as I went to sleep. I dreamed about being married to Weird Al and raising kids with him (a boy named Nathaniel and a girl named Superfly, as specified in the song “Albuquerque”). To this day, I cannot hear the song “Smooth” by Santana/Rob Thomas, which was played ad nauseum on VH1 during this time, without remembering a particularly frisky dream about dancing with a tank-top-clad smoldering accordion player in a grungy alley. No joke, I poured every ounce of crazy that I couldn’t figure out what to do with into my fandom for this man.
And you know what? It helped! It gave me a focus, and it spurred me into action out of the depressed funk I was in. Maybe I didn’t have a job I liked, but I could get it done and then go home and write down my Al dreams or make up other crazy crap for my Weird Al fan website. It got me writing again at a time when I was so burned out from explicating literature that I couldn’t stand to read or write for pleasure anymore. It gained me access to an entirely new group of friends called the Al-Gals, comprised of other women of all ages and walks of life who similarly worshipped Al in hilarious ways. We mostly met online, but it was deep human contact with like-minded people — the first I’d had in years — and it was a lifeline for me.
September 1999: I roped a local friend of mine into going on an epic road trip in which we attended 2 Touring with Scissors concerts hours away from home, following Al up the state of IL as he toured – and I stayed in a hotel room on my own for the first time that year, which was a major feat for a near-agoraphobe. We met and got autographs from bassist Steve Jay and guitarist Jim West that trip, plus waved at drummer Bermuda Schwartz and patted keyboardist Ruben Valtierra on the back as he ran by outside after the concert. Al came out and waved on his way to the bus, but the meet and greets were all scheduled, so he was kept out of my reach, much to my dismay.
Thus started my quest to touch Weird Al Yankovic. He would be mine…oh yes, he would be mine.
2000: I spent an ungodly amount of time writing fan fiction and dream records for my Weird Al fan site, as well as combing the relatively-new internet for any and all information and photographs I could find on my heartthrob. I bought the DVD versions of his live concert and his music videos, as well as his 1989 movie/theatrical masterpiece “UHF” on VHS from eBay and played them all to death. During these years I went back to school to get my Master’s Degree in the same field I wasn’t using already because it was safer than being a grown-up, and I even wrote a major project in a web design course using lyrics from Al’s songs to illustrate how hyperlinks could be used in an educational setting to enhance and illuminate a text by linking all the pop references to articles or examples online. It was a fixation and an obsession, but it did the job of keeping me in one piece.
2001: Weird Al and I got married! Well, it’s more accurate to say that Weird Al got married in February of 2001 — sadly, not to me. I was crushed, but still followed him and still stayed active with the Al-Gals online, even though it was harder to gush over his sexiness now that he had a wife. (I still have tiny framed photographs of his wedding that I printed off his website hanging on a bulletin board in my study to this day, so it was a relatively amicable breakup after all.) That summer, despite the raging anxiety that was keeping me almost housebound, I drove to Ohio to meet up with fellow Al-Gals in person at Gal-Con Midwest and made some of the lifelong friends I’d been wishing for since leaving high school.
In September of 2001, terrorists flew airplanes into skyscrapers in New York, I realized life was too short to waste trying to fit a mold I wasn’t meant for, and two weeks later, I met the man who would become my husband on a blind date. I knew that night I wanted to marry him, in large part because he and I both started singing Weird Al’s parody lyrics to a song that came on the radio at the same time. (I wish I could remember what song it was, but I can’t.) It also helped that he knew who Brak from Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Cartoon Planet was, but it was mainly Al that cinched it for us. Immediately deciding that we were ready to be “independent together,” a la Rudolph and Hermie, we got married in December of the same year.
Summer 2002: My husband and I (and our barely-conceived kid) visited the Biggest Ball of Twine in Darwin, MN in homage to Al’s UHF album song. The docent of the museum began to launch into the history of the train depot nearby, noticed our Weird Al t-shirts, and quietly resigned herself to give up, pointing us toward a newspaper clipping of Al’s visit on the wall, the stack of postcards by the door, and the twineball outside.
February 2003: Weird Al and I finally had babies together! To clarify, I had a baby with my husband on Feb. 5 and Al had a baby with his wife on Feb. 13. But still…quite the coincidence!
May 2003: Our 3-month-old son and I bought the new Poodle Hat CD at K-Mart and took it to my husband’s workplace to have a release-day listening party during his lunch break. Much to-do was had over my son’s fandom at such an early age by coworkers. When the kid was particularly fussy, I could calm him down by playing “Hardware Store” and walking him around the living room. I also misheard the line “kiss upside down in the rain” for “piss upside down in the rain” and still sing that when listening to “Ode To A Superhero.”
April 2004: My husband and I went to our first Weird Al concert together on the Poodle Hat tour. I was a little concerned about how he would react to my going full-out raving Al-Gal at the venue, but he handled both it and the wearing of our literal Poodle Hats (beanie babies sewn onto ball caps) with great aplomb. Earlier that same year, I contributed a scrapbook page to a project celebrating Nina Yankovic’s first birthday, including a photo of our son as her “birthday buddy.” My husband was highly impressed that Weird Al knew who his kid was. I did not achieve my goal of touching Al, but that point in our relationship, my mate agreed that if I ever was able to hook up with Al, it would be perfectly all right by him because then he, by extension, would also have hooked up with Weird Al. Lord, I love that man (both of them).
September 2006: Straight Outta Lynwood dropped. “White and Nerdy” became our family anthem.
August 2008: We took our now 5-year-old son to see Weird Al at his first concert experience ever – at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, IL. We sat way back in the grandstand, held him on our laps, and covered his ears with Winchester noise dampeners to get through it, but his little body still petered out just before the end of the concert. We heard Al striking up “Albuquerque” as we carried his sleeping form out of the arena and headed for the car – the sacrifices of parenthood!
@2011: Weird Al and my husband both had their gallbladders out within weeks of each other. Why I know this is a quandary to myself as well, but it happened.
October 12, 2013: Nervously took my husband and son with me to the Rialto Theatre in Joliet, IL to a reunion of Gal-Con Midwest. Saw online friends I’d just recently gotten back into contact with and I’d not seen in person for over 10 years – was pleasantly relieved when it felt like going home. At the reunion dinner, I mentioned that I’d never gotten to meet Al in all the years I’d been following him. Later at the venue, a friend walked up to me with three backstage passes she’d wrangled from other better-connected gals who wouldn’t be using them that night – then she disappeared into the crowd just like that. That was hands-down the best concert I’ve ever been to: first time I’d been to a show with other Al-Gals, first time I’d had my son at a show he was old enough to enjoy, and first time going backstage! Met and chatted with Bermuda Schwartz (drummer) and Steve Jay (bassist) while standing in the autograph line. When it was our turn to meet Al, I know I babbled something about how my husband and I knew it was okay to get married because he was on the radio (thank you, English Major, for the gift of words under pressure), and then I started petting his hair vigorously (mid-back against his broad, broad shoulders; not top-of-head, at least) as we stood there to get our picture taken. My photographing friend helpfully reminded me to pet his hair, knowing I might forget in my ecstasy of meeting him, to which Al responded patiently, “Oh, she did…” My husband still snorts at that memory, and I can’t help but beam and girl-giggle all over again.
Summer 2014: Mandatory Fun was released and climbed to number 1 on the Billboard charts – the WORLD went crazy for Weird Al that summer, and it was so exciting to see him lifted up and recognized as the hardworking and talented artist he is in so many mainstream media outlets. We listened to the CD on repeat as we traveled on several mini-vacations that summer and my son particularly fell in love with “Sports Song,” “Tacky,” and “With My Own Eyes.”
May 26, 2015: Went to the Mandatory Tour in Bloomington, IL, and attended the pre-show party packaged with the premium tickets that tour. First show I attended with my middle brother since 1996 – and he brought his wife and then 7-year-old son as well. My trio made elaborate tin-foil hats in honor of “Foil” and were well received by our fellow Al fans there. Our son, now 12, participated in a Weird Al Polka Dance-Off, we all 3 joined in the Lip Sync Battle (we actually comprised the entire Lip Sync battle), singing “Sports Song,” “One More Minute,” and “CNR,” for which my husband won a special-edition keychain as champion. He reported at the time that his 12-year-old past self was very proud of him. We got to spin the Wheel O’Fish from UHF and have lots of fun photo ops with props and read the museum-quality timeline of Al’s life and career in the venue space as well. Very well done production, and that was even before the very well done concert!
July 3, 2016: Finally got to see Weird Al in Merrillville, IN with an Al-Gal who has become one of my closest friends in the world over the past 15 years. And our now 13-year-old son enjoyed this show the most of any because he really gets the humor in the parody as well as the humor of the songs – and thus the torch is firmly passed to the next generation.
And now I’m looking forward to the next phase of Al’s career – as I type this, Al is announcing his latest tour, a much smaller, more intimate experience in which he performs more original songs and is probably closer to the crowd for easier touching. Can’t wait – hope he conditions that hair for me!