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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Stars. With their Versace gowns, Manolo heels and Creme de la Mer complexions, they're not just like us, no matter what kind of fabricated equalizer those lifestyle glossies try to peddle. But according to Rockville-denizen Mark Kaye, we're all stars. And all stars, he believes, deserve fan mail. So the host of 99.5's radio show "Hot Morning Mess" has set up Yourfanmail.com, a free, subscription-based Web site that e-mails virtual ego strokes to approximately 3,000 people all over the world -- from Capitol Hill to the Land Down Under.

"Most people go to their inbox and get cheap Viagra ads and letters from people in Liberia saying, 'I have 20 million dollars if you just give me your bank account number,' " Kaye says. He wants to counter the annoying side effects of this type of spam -- and, in doing so, pump up people's daily lives with random acts of enthusiasm. (Fueled by exclamation points and all-caps lettering, no less.) "Just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know that YOU ROCK!" begins a typical e-mail. "I hope that one day I can be as cool as you are. Keep up the great work!"

While these warm fuzzies come straight from a can -- they're a compilation of Kaye's own fan letters and favorite quotes, set to an e-mail auto responder with your name on it -- they do manage to be both quirky and fun. After all, who doesn't like a little pure, unadulterated back-patting from time to time? If you're in need of more than a quick note, Kaye also sends out "The 2-Minute Motivator," a newsletter full of off-the-wall maxims such as "Excellence, like cooties, is highly contagious."

What inspired Kaye's spread-the-love concepts? Last fall, he received an e-mail from a 12-year-old fan that said, "I listen to your show every morning, you make me laugh and inspire me and I really want to get into radio." It was signed, "Your Biggest Fan." "Very few people get this kind of instant gratification," he says. "Celebrities get it, and sports heroes get it, and really, they're the least deserving. They have the egos, so they don't need to be stroked." So Kaye decided to set his sights on the kinds of regular Joes he thinks really warrant praise, such as teachers, soldiers and stay-at-home parents.

Despite all of his goodwill, Kaye's fan mail has spurned some hate mail. "One woman didn't know her son signed up, and she saw 18 e-mails from me that say 'You're great,' 'I wish I were you,'" Kaye says. "She wrote back to me asking what kind of a sick person I am, writing to her 12-year-old son!" Whoops. And while everyone deserves fan mail, Kaye realizes that not everyone will want it. So to protect unsuspecting folks from their subscription-happy friends, he requires an e-mail confirmation for every sign-up.

Still, Kaye reports that most people seem to love having their very own fan club. "People write to say getting my messages is the highlight of their day," he says.

Up next? An illustrated motivational book for adults written entirely in rhyme, due out in April. Like all of Kaye's projects, there's more than a touch of, well, personality in "Eddie the Idiot: The Smartest Things I Ever Learned From the Dumbest Man I Ever Knew" (B&B Entertainment, $19.95). No, that's not a working title. "It's about a guy I grew up with who worked at a gas station," Kaye recounts. "He wanted a Corvette but he couldn't afford it, so he knocked over a liquor store . . . very motivational story." Indeed. Rachel Machacek

To sign up for your own personalized fan mail, visit Yourfanmail.com or Markkaye.com.


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