It was not my intention to freak out Linda Blair. But there she was, darting away from me as if I were one of those fans. I hardly consider myself a “fan” at all really. I’ve seen her movies, sure, and admittedly have a quirky sort of fondness for her women in prison flops from the 80s, but there’s nothing alarming in my interest, nothing that should make Linda Blair especially uncomfortable.
Even Steven Spielberg stuck around long enough to accept my apology for running him over with my bicycle a few years ago. That, too, was not my intention. I should have known better than to attempt to navigate the trail around the Lake Hollywood reservoir – my bike riding skills are no better than my driving skills. Steven just picked the wrong time to go jogging and wound up the unfortunate obstacle in my unsteady path.
He didn’t seem to be hurt, much. His sunglasses were crumpled under my front tire and my head was tethered to the bike thanks to a tangle of headphone cables, hair and chains, but the only blood spilled was mine. And from my vantage point down there on the pavement, I apologized to the film mogul profusely. He nodded, smiled wearily, and tugged his baseball cap visor over his eyes. As he jogged off, I called out the only thing I could think of: “E.T made me cry!”
I can think of 946 better, or at least, more appropriate things to have said, although they likely would not have been as meaningful. It kills me to admit that one of the first movies to get a rise of me was not from my beloved Walt Disney. Bambi had left me dry-eyed and vaguely bored, but E.T. had me sobbing into my popcorn. I loved that silly hunk of waddling alien, almost as much as I did The Muppets, and I really just wanted Steven Spielberg to know that. I like to think he understood.
I shared similar sentiment with John Stamos as a preteen. He and his hair had recently made their debut on Full House, a show so vapid that even as a ‘tween I knew it wasn’t cool to be caught watching it. John’s face was quickly plastered over all my favorite teen magazines, which, being the geek I was, I actually read for the articles.
And in one tell-all interview, John admitted he had been picked on as a kid. He said that because of it he tried to be nice to everyone, and swore he’d never make fun of a person for being different. It was a lovely sentiment that could have just as easily been pulled out of a fortune cookie, but it rang true to my blossoming, misunderstood heart, so much so that I dashed out a letter to John.
All of my ‘tween frustrations gushed onto two pages of notebook paper. It was just so hard being different, I railed. Why couldn’t more people have the same attitude as him? I pledged to watch Full House regularly from then on, thanked him for being such a nice person, and dotted the “i” in my name with a circle, full of wishful thinking.
The letter went in the mail to his official fan club and my life continued, with Full House added to my regular nighttime routine. Within a few months I’d all but forgotten I’d ever written to “Uncle Jessie,” that is, until the day he wrote me back.
The envelope was handwritten and postmarked from California with no return address. My mother, never a snoop but definitely a curious woman, insisted I tell her who the letter was from. My teen magazines back then were full of ads for pen pals, many of whom were really prisoners soliciting care packages, and I suspect she feared I’d taken up correspondence with Charles Manson.
This particular letter wasn’t from a serial killer; I had another year or two in me before that became a temptation. Instead, I held a handwritten note that was signed “John Stamos.” It referenced my letter specifically, thanking me for sharing my thoughts and telling me to hang in there – being different would get easier when I got older.
His response was mortifying and thrilling at once; I hadn’t expected my letter to actually be read, much less considered and responded to. I never showed the note to any of my friends, I was too terrified they would ask what I had written to him, but I kept it tucked away in a journal that I still have today, some 25 years later. And sure, it was likely some public relations intern at his office who took pity on a flustered young letter-writing girl, but were I to ever see John Stamos in person, I’d still thank him for writing me back.
So no, I don’t consider myself to be any sort of crazed fan or celebrity stalker, but I do have random associations with odd people that, on occasion, manifest themselves in unexpected ways.
Which is why there was no way I could miss Linda Blair’s appearance at a local theatre for a screening of The Exorcist on Halloween.
I waited in line with 30 or so other people, paid my $20 for a photograph, and smiled with mild excitement when I was able to pose for a picture with the woman whose image has plagued more nightmares than I can ever count.
She turned to me then, and before she could pleasantly ask for my name, or my impressions on the movie or her charity as she had done with the others before me, my mouth got the best of my brain and I blurted out, “You ruined my childhood!”
Linda backed away and mumbled something that I think was akin to, “Sorry about that.” She quickly ran to the shelter of her handlers before I could do worse.
My intended affection wasn’t as obvious as I had hoped, and for this I had a pang of disappointment. Through The Exorcist Linda had made an impression on me that I had hoped to better acknowledge.
However, after some mild obsessing and a few drinks, I’ve realized I may have actually paid a better tribute to Linda than I could have planned. Unintentionally or not, I managed to give Linda Blair back a small taste of the clenching fear she once gave me, and that, in my little world at least, is decidedly satisfying. Bizarre and somewhat wrong, admittedly, but satisfying nonetheless.