In June of 2009, I wrote a small article about a woman in her fifties named Frances Eby. Fran makes YouTube videos of herself strumming and singing Morrissey songs. The videos caught my attention because they were performed with a kindness and passion that, to me, revealed a universal truth about fandom. Much like Morrissey, in his youth, was unwaveringly dedicated to his fandom of the New York Dolls, Fran exhibited an attention for detail and love in her videos that I found deeply touching. Her voice was soft yet strong; her heart was exposed yet full.
Shortly after the article was released, it was picked up by a Morrissey news site, which boosted its views and the views of Fran's videos. Fran became a bit of a minor celebrity in the drama-drenched world of Morrissey fandom. She became a beacon of the best parts of being a fan. Free of ill will, pettiness, and snark, she was a symbol of why we become fans in the first place. Fran wrote to me back then to thank me for writing about her. She said I was the first person to acknowledge her videos, and that she was very thankful. I would like to think that the attention she received in 2009 gave her a sense of encouragement to go on and continue to sing with unapologetic clarity and love. We became Facebook friends, and I have always made a point of checking in on Fran, liking some of her photos or updates, and watching her new videos.
Six years and one day later, Fran attended a Morrissey concert. She was with her friends in the front row. As he began to sing "Everyday Is Like Sunday," Morrissey spotted Fran and walked over to her, shook her hand, and said, "I know you." Fran was elated. It's the kind of moment that dedicated fans always dream of and never happens. A wish fulfillment dream, but actually happening in real life. I reached out to Fran via Facebook and asked how it felt to be recognized. "I looked at my friends beside me and said did he just say that? I was wide eyed!" she said.
Morrissey kept singing. Then, when the song was over, Morrissey pointed at Fran and said, "I am now going to embarrass you. I've seen you singing on YouTube." He then handed the microphone to her. Fran paused for a moment and then sang to him.
She sang, "Crash into my arms," a line from Morrissey's standout track "Jack the Ripper." Morrissey then crashed toward her, bowing. There was applause. And Fran adds, "I remember looking around at my friends and other fans around me. They were all smiling at me and my friends were patting me on the back."
I'm in Montreal. It's over 1,000 kilometers to the north of where Fran and Morrissey are and it's almost tomorrow. It's hard for me to express just how much this news affected me. Daily, I spend countless hours on the Internet, bouncing around from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube to think piece, keeping up with the latest public outrage or shaming. I often think about how social media can feel like a supercollider of the worst elements of all of us: pride, jealousy, hate, greed, schadenfreude. How we will like someone's status or favorite someone's tweet while dreading the thought of locking eyes with them on the street. But for tonight, I can't stop thinking about Fran. How special it must have been for Fran to have her hero lock eyes with her and thank her in front of the world. How wonderful to get to sing for your favourite singer. What a perfect reward for having the guts to "sing your life."
Follow Jon Paul Fiorentino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stripmaller