IF YOU CHEER at every game, watch every episode and scream at every concert but still want more -- more commitment, more excitement, more togetherness with other kindred spirits -- maybe you're ready for fandom.
Fan clubs for anyone and anything from Tom Jones to Freddy the Pig are alive and doing well in our area. Club members gather to get the latest scoop on their beloved entertainers, support their favorite TV shows and back their favorite sports teams. While doing this, club members make new friends with similar passions and raise funds for charities. Membership dues can be less than $10 a year. Of course, if you really get into it, there are T-shirts, commemorative coins and keychains to buy, and fandom conventions to attend just about anywhere in the world. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Until a little over a year ago, attorney Mary Debarr of Rockville didn't know anything about the world of fandom. "I had never belonged to any fan club," she says. But then Debarr, who says she rarely watches television, got hooked on "Beauty and the Beast," a show she says reflected her values. So when rumors flew that the show was being canceled, Debarr decided to take action. After making numerous phone calls to such groups as Viewers for Quality Television, she was put in touch with the local "Beauty and the Beast" fan club. Today Debarr is publicity director.
Although the series was canceled, Debarr and other members still meet monthly to discuss different episodes, keep up with the actors' careers and work with other B&B clubs (there are over 60 world-wide) to help promote a possible "Beauty and the Beast" film. And to preserve the ideals the show stood for (such as social responsibility and tolerance of differences), the club devotes much of its energy to raising money for the Prince George's County Literacy Program, the Hospital for Sick Children and the House of Ruth.
Winterfest, a major holiday celebrated by the underground society in "Beauty and the Beast," is a fund-raiser the club holds each January. For weeks prior to the event, the members gather to design sets and make costumes. Lisa Gould of Silver Spring, a health care specialist by day, dons her heavy robes and mask to become Vincent, the beast played by Ron Perlman.
"It's wonderful to know that while we're having fun we're helping others," says Gould. Other upcoming "Beauty and the Beast" events are a cruise and the national convention in Orlando, Fla.
Both woman agree that one of the best parts of the fan club is the friendships they've made. "My present housemate is one of the members of the 'Beauty and Beast' fan club," says Debarr. WASHINGTON CAPITALS FAN CLUB
"Let's go Caps!" That's what Capitals fan club members scream at a game, whether the hockey team is on the way to the Stanley Cup playoffs or fighting its way out of last place. They're always at Capital Centre at Portal 9.
"But there's more to the club than just cheering at games," says club president Barbara Schwartz of Springfield. The fan club is dedicated to fostering interest in the game of hockey, promoting youth hockey and supporting different charities. Through the sale of hockey-related merchandise and raffles of top-priced season tickets, the club has raised money for Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House and My Sister's Place.
Brought together by their love of the sport, the group, which lists 500 members, meets monthly and is also a social club. Ice skating parties, pot luck dinners and trips to Baltimore Skipjack hockey games are frequently organized by the club's activities committee. And the banquet committee spends months coming up with a clever theme for the annual dinner that Capitals players and spouses attend.
For all this, membership is just $15 a year. Schwartz, an original fan club member, has been cheering her team on for 17 seasons. FRIENDS OF FREDDY
"You can't stop just anyone on the street and start talking about Freddy the Pig," says Connie Arnold of Greenbelt, an avid fan of the late author Walter R. Brooks. A collector since the 1970s of the children's book series that includes "Freddy the Politician," "Freddy the Detective" and "Freddy Goes Camping," Arnold was upset that the books were no longer in print. Her desire to rekindle interest in the series led her to contact Brooks's widow, who introduced her to another fan, playwright Dave Carley of Toronto. In 1984 they joined forces to found Friends of Freddy.
The club draws its 225 members from the United States, Canada and England and mostly comprises librarians, writers and teachers. In the Washington area there are 17 members belonging to the club.
"Typical of such organizations, I met a fan who lives right here in Greenbelt through the Friends of Freddy," says Arnold.
The club members, according to the newsletter, are "dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the writings of Walter R. Brooks." To achieve this they lobbied Random House, which holds the rights to Brooks's 26 "Freddy" books, to republish them. So far seven have been reissued.
Fans interested in reading about Freddy and other Brooks characters, including the more famous Mr. Ed the talking horse, can find it all in the Bean Home Newsletter along with information on trading and locating books, learning the latest status of the pro-Freddy lobby and news about the club's convention. Although the national group only meets annually, local members do get together from time to time.
"What makes the club so special is that even though the Friends of Freddy drew us together, we find we have a lot of other common interests," says Arnold. BRIDGE ACROSS THE POND
He's hardly a New Kid on the Block, but to his followers, Tom Jones is and will always be tops. After all, undying loyalty is what makes fan clubs what they are. Just ask Nancy Rosas, founder and president of Bridge Across the Pond.
A fan for over 20 years, Rosas started the club in 1971 at the peak of Jones's career. She wanted to let his English fans know what was happening with him while he was stateside and vice versa.
"But a lot more happened besides keeping track of Tom's career," says Rosas. "I made lifelong friends."
Through the years Rosas developed pen pal fans across the sea and in the United States. "It's been wonderful meeting people who are as crazy about Tom as I am, especially when many think it isn't respectable for a married woman to be so involved in a fan club," she says.
Friends across the pond -- the Atlantic -- is exactly what Rosas found on a pleasure trip to England. "My pen pals, Tom's fans, met me and showed me the sights. I even got to visit with a little boy and his family that our charity work had helped."
With her Tom Jones clan of friends, Rosas has attended over 100 concerts. Sometimes members bring their children, or now their grandchildren, to the shows.
And what about Tom? All you have to do is look through the albums Rosas has compiled over the years or watch her face when she talks about the Welsh singer to know that no matter where his career goes she'll be there to follow it.
"Tom and I are on first-name basis. He knows my daughter and many of the other fan club members' families." HORROR & FANTASY FILM SOCIETY
Spine-tingling movies guaranteed to scare the daylights out of you is what members of the Horror & Fantasy Film Society of Baltimore thrive on.
The group of 20 hard-core film buffs meets monthly to view and discuss films. After watching "The Bride of Frankenstein" or "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," the group can be found debating whether the '30s or the '70s were the best horror film years.
And when they're not analyzing films, the members are busy planning FANEX, the annual Baltimore Horror & Fantasy Expo. Last year, FANEX drew more than 800 horror devotees, with one coming from as far away as Japan.
"Conventions organized by fans rather than by companies are more personal," says Susan Svehla, convention chairperson. She's working on FANEX 5, which will feature Robert Wise, director of "The Haunting," "Curse of the Cat People" and the classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still," as the guest of honor.
To be part of this bone-chilling experience costs $12 in dues and includes four issues of Bits-N-Pieces, the club's quarterly fanzine.
Just how obsessed is this group? The president of the fan club, Gary Svehla, is also editor in chief of Midnight Marquee, a fanzine published twice a year. Gary started the publication, now in its 12th year, with a friend at age 13. Today, what was once a one-page ditto has evolved into a glossy 46-page magazine with a circulation of about 3,000. This not-for-profit publication is truly a labor of love. But what can you do? When the mummy's hand grabs you, you're his forever. FANTASIA
Here are some of the fan clubs headquartered in the Washington area. For information on joining, send a self-addressed stamped envelope.
CHESAPEAKE HELPERS SOCIETY FOR BEAUTY AND THE BEAST -- c/o Marian Wagner, 1534 Newton St. NE, Washington, DC 20017.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS FAN CLUB LTD. -- P.O. Box 306, Lanham, MD 20706.
FRIENDS OF FREDDY -- c/o Connie Arnold, 1-F Northway Rd., Greenbelt, MD 20770.
BRIDGE ACROSS THE POND (TOM JONES) -- c/o Nancy Rosas, 707 Flintlock Dr., Bel Air, MD 21014.
HORROR AND FANTASY FILM SOCIETY OF BALTIMORE -- FANEX, P.O. Box 6220, Baltimore, MD 21206.
BRUCE BOXLEITNER FAN CLUB -- c/o Darla Vasilas, 230 Denfield Dr., Alexandria, VA 22309.
THE MICHAEL DORN APPRECIATION SOCIETY -- P.O. Box 185, Ellicott City, MD 21043.
BRITNY FOX FAN CLUB -- P.O. Box 24851, Baltimore, MD 21220-0851.
DAVID HEDISON FAN CLUB -- c/o Betty Cole, 928 N. Patrick Henry Dr., Arlington, VA 22205.
ENGE THE KING (ENGLEBERT HUMPERDINCK) -- c/o Rose Bruton, Briarwood 8809, Hawthorne Ct., #104, Laurel, MD 20708.
FRANK MABRY FAN CLUB -- c/o June Mabry, 4601 Highboro Ct., Mt. Airy, MD 21771.
MANILOW MANIACS OF MARYLAND -- c/o Shelley Greenburg, 14143 Castle Blvd. #404, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
RIDERS TO THE STARS BARRY MANILOW FAN CLUB -- c/o Karen Palmer, 2706 N. Oakland St., Arlington, VA 22207.
MAD WORLD CAMPAIGN -- c/o Eric K. Federing, 2630 Adams Mill Rd., NW, Washington, DC 20009-2153.
HEAD OF THE MONKEES -- c/o Teresa Jones, 262 Baltimore Ave., Baltimore, MD 21222.
ORSER'S ENDORSERS -- c/o Carol Lee Gilbert, 3634 Ash St., Baltimore, MD 21211.
ELVIS FEVER FAN CLUB -- c/o Anna Meyers, 4014 Keeners Rd., Baltimore, MD 21220.
REDDY FANS UNITED -- P.O. Box 4731, Arlington, VA 22204.
CONNIE STEVENS FAN CLUB -- c/o Betty Moran, 2500 Gaither St. SE, Hillcrest Heights, MD 20031.
STARFLEET -- c/o Cindy Geppi, 1209 Seven Oaks Rd., Arbutus, MD 21227.
STARMAN -- c/o Christine Menefee, Editor of Blue Lights, 600 Water St. SW #8-14, Washington, DC 20024.
STAR TREK ASSOCIATION OF TOWSON -- P.O. Box 6809, Towson, MD 21285-6809.
TUFF FAN CLUB -- P.O. Box 4921, Baltimore, MD 21220.
VIXEN FAN CLUB -- P.O. Box 24822, Baltimore, MD 21220.
SHARON WYATT FAN CLUB -- c/o Alison K. Hood, 8949 Falling Creek Ct., Annandale, VA 22003.
Alice Rindler Shapin last wrote for Weekend about Rose Hill Manor in Frederick, Md.