Anyway, I digress. Last night I happened to decide to re-read "Changes", the Sunset Boulevard fic that I infamously sent to one Jeremy Finch. Or rather, I should say, the second SB fic that I sent to him, as initially I'd sent my very first effort, "Tango up on Sunset", to both him and Faith Brown several months before, in time for the UK tour's last show in Birmingham. On that occasion, I failed to find the stage door in time to stalk him, but did ascertain that Faith had read it (and also written to me, but thanks to crappy university post and a bank holiday, it didn't turn up until several days later).
It's kind of odd looking back at this in retrospect now, nearly a decade later. (*stares at that sentence* Good LORD. I didn't realise it had been that long!) I still can't explain quite why it took over my brain like it did, and I can't lay the blame entirely on the UK tour cast because the movie had already planted the seed. But anyway, knowing that Faith had read it, hearing that acknowledgement from her in person, should have been enough. Except it wasn't. TUOS (as it became known) had been written in the wake of my first viewing of the show, over the course of several evenings, and it was based on those portrayals; that's why I sent it to both the leads. I had confirmation from only one of them that my efforts had been received. The Quest was afoot.
As I say, I missed Jeremy leaving the theatre (it transpired he had a habit of running off early, one presumes to avoid the rabid fangirls...) I'd already decided to attend the final night of the UK tour; by that point I would have gone anywhere - Scotland, Ireland, even further - but it transpired it ended in Manchester. It had already been extended by two months and was supposed to renewedly finish in October, two days after my birthday; then it transpired the cast were understandably exhausted, and it ended in late September instead. It didn't particularly matter, as I actually ended up with better seats when Ticketmaster were good enough to refund / rebook everyone's tickets. :)
"Four Go To Manchester" was significant for several reasons aside from the Sunset-insanity, but for the purposes of this entry I shall focus only on that aspect. (I wrote the road trip up at the time and it's probably under a "fandom..." tag. :P) This time I was wholly determined not to let Jeremy escape, if only because my programme had been signed by all the main cast except him at that point and I am a completist. I actually did get to meet him, and at one point if you put his name into a Google image search, a photograph that Sweet took of us would turn up, because it was archived on someone's fansite. (I was recounting the entire fangirl saga to someone once and she did just that; her reaction was: "Did you do that on purpose?!") I'm actually quite intrigued if that's still the case; anyone care to check? ;)
That final night was... I don't really know. Special, in a way. The cast gave it their all and more, and the atmosphere was buzzing because there were members of the message board in the front row. I wasn't quite a part of that group and was sitting further back anyway, but their enthusiasm, love and joy were infectious. I can remember standing up to applaud and some moody woman behind me asking me to sit down because she couldn't see, and I ignored her (seriously, lady, get off your backside and show these amazing performers some appreciation). Faith gave a little speech at the end. I think if nothing else, it proved that it wasn't just me who was so affected by the show.
Unfortunately, because I was so overwhelmed and full of squee, I didn't really... talk much, when Jeremy came out. It was a bit of a blur, to be honest. He ran off quickly, though did make time to speak to people; I think in actual fact he was a bit overwhelmed by the attention, and I was certainly not the only insane besotted fangirl at that stage door (I remember talking to a girl I'd been chatting to on messenger and us both faux-swooning and fanning ourselves after he'd gone. :D) Oddly, despite the complexity of the character, Joe Gillis tends to be a first-time lead role for a lot of young actors who have only done bits and pieces before - though actually, given that Norma is usually played by a famous or longstanding musical theatre diva, it does make sense that Joe is usually an unknown. That's how the character dynamic works. (Now if only Hollywood would realise that and follow suit...)
Argh, tangents. Stoopid fandom, stop making me analyse you.
ANYWAY. Many minutes later Faith emerged to rapturous applause - on a cold September night on a street in Manchester, by at least 30 people, which I think says a lot - and subsequently spent five minutes eyeing me suspiciously before I jogged her memory of Birmingham, four months previous. We had a bit of a general conversation about writing (I think), and then she asked the outwardly-inoccuous question of "Has Jeremy already left?" It didn't properly occur to me until a few months later that she'd asked this, and all I could think was that she was indirectly asking if I'd managed to talk to him about the story. I'm still semi-convinced that's what she was implying, although there is also the possibility that I'm insane.
In essence, my subsequent bankrupting trip to Leeds (twice) to see Little Shop of Horrors and stalk Jeremy Finch until he caved and bloody well talked to me? It was Faith Brown's fault. Apparently she was quite active on her own fan forum and I desperately wanted to just ask her if he'd read it, but cowardice would always win out. I found out about LSOH through another SB message board personage (via AIM), and did not anticipate what would happen next... and I'm not just referring to bankrupting myself.
After the final night in Manchester, I had started writing the then-entitled "Tangofic". This was a Joe-POV interpretation of the New Year's Eve scene(s), from the beginning of Norma's party to the end of Act One. The reason I started it was because I wanted to try and put into words the feeling I'd got from the UK cast's interpretation of that scene; it broke me three times in a row (and subsequently again many years later in London, to a lesser degree :P) and I wanted to articulate it.
That fic became known as "Changes", and the Joe characterisation therein is based, almost entirely, on Jeremy Finch. As it has been ever since, I should add. His interpretation has now been in my head - in my fic-canon - for getting on ten years, and I don't think that's going to change. Probably blasphemy, but I don't care. ;)
Between September 2002 (UK tour final night) and February 2003 (Little Shop...), the TUOS issue had been fermenting and brewing and mulling around in my head. I then had another of my Notoriously Bad Ideas - or NBI's for short - and decided that I would send "Changes" to Jeremy Finch. The only trouble was that I hadn't actually finished it, and the show closed in a week. The resultant mad dash to finish the story meant that I actually did, at least, and in hindsight I realise that's a very good thing indeed. I was up until about 4.00am honing the final details before sending it to my long-suffering beta (at that point), scrawling an explanatory letter and throwing it in the post, C/O West Yorkshire Playhouse...
It got there; I got there, by the skin of my teeth (cheers, National Express), and Jeremy, being a decent bloke, stood and chatted to me in a theatre bar for 15 minutes even though his mates were sitting at a nearby table waiting for him with a well-deserved pint. I consider that a greater achievement than finishing the fic, in some respects, because we had a (reasonably) intelligent conversation and I finally, after however many months of not knowing, discovered he'd read and enjoyed TUOS. I may have said some rather idiotic things, also, but I was not exactly of sound mind (
I don't re-read "Changes" that often. For a long time after LSOH and The Quest being accomplished, I couldn't think about the events of the SB tour and that night (8th February, 2003 - I still remember) without feeling horribly depressed. I can look back now in hindsight to my naive infatuation and brush it off as the result of fandom, fanfiction, being caught in the moment... and because now I'm in An Actual Relationship with An Actual Person, and I can reminisce and go, "WTF, self, he was gay anyway." Whatevs; I knew that at the time and it didn't matter. I effectively went 'cold turkey'; I studiously avoided all the pictures (scanned on my PC and on LJ, and in the programmes) and tried not to think about it. For that reason, I hardly ever went back to either TUOS or "Changes", because they were equally rife with memories.
As it's now been a very long time since my younger self struggled with an impossible infatuation, I can re-read the stories. And finally I reach the point I intended to make about 12 paragraphs ago, of why re-reading "Changes" last night was a good thing.
That Tango Scene. The whole, original purpose of the story was to record it for future reference; I'd seen it three times and the finer details of the tango itself, the facial expressions, the general choreography and chemistry of the Norma/Joe dynamic, were etched into my memory. Naturally, over the years, some of those details had fallen out of my head; so when I re-read the story last night, I remembered with a blinding clarity how amazing the scene was. I had literally noted down all the nuances of the dance, the tones of voice, the sense I got that Joe was struggling not to fall for her. In the absence of any filmed footage (woe and alas; I would seriously kill for it if it existed), my studiously detailed account will have to suffice.
So, I'm glad I wrote it. I'm glad I decided to re-read it. It effectively immortalised the scene for future generations and is always there as a constant reminder of the most emotionally-harrowing piece of musical theatre I've ever sat through (three times), if you exclude bursting into tears at the overture in Phantom. ;) It still doesn't explain the fandom, or why it opens a trapdoor underneath my feet every time it comes back for a visit... but it's one step closer to understanding why it invaded my consciousness like nothing else.
One day I will have a moment of blinding clarity where I pinpoint the reason for this fandom; either that or it will remain forever inexplicable. Until then, I shall continue to engage in Epic Character Study Discussions with like-minded friends and enjoy the rollercoaster while it lasts...
Eni - if I don't respond to your latest email today then it will have to wait until I've got the internet, by which point I will have had More Thoughts upon Thoughts, but I promise it'll be the first thing I do. ;)
F-List - I'm on leave for two weeks as of tomorrow and also possibly going to Paris if we can get cheap flights/hotel last minute, so I shall be appropriately silent until Sky come to install our intarwebs. Don't do anything interesting while I'm gone, 'kay?