I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW
American pop singer Tiffany had a number of hit songs during the 1980s, including “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Could’ve Been.” Although Tiffany’s success was rewarded by fame and platinum records, she has since become another footnote in the transient world of pop music. One aspect of Tiffany’s musical career that has been reliable is a small but devoted fan base that has supported her throughout the years. Two such devotees are Jeff Turner and Kelly McCormick, neither of whom is a typical pop music fan. Sean Donnelly’s film I Think We’re Alone Now (2007) documents both Turner and McCormick’s obsession with Tiffany, and in doing so, sheds light into the most extreme aspects of American celebrity fan culture. Jeff Turner, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, is a man in his 50s. Turner serves as an elder statesman of celebrity stalkers; he has been engaged in a pointless, multi-decade pursuit of Tiffany’s affection. Early in his efforts, Jeff Turner seemed destined to follow in the path of Robert John Bardo, who before murdering actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989, was actively stalking Tiffany. In one famous incident during the late 80s, Turner showed up at Tiffany’s emancipated minor hearing with a gift of a samurai sword and five white chrysanthemums. Turner, however, has never acted out in a violent fashion towards his pop music heroine. Instead, Turner uses his government disability checks to attend to concerts and fan conventions in order to catch a glimpse or snap a photo of his fantasy paramour. In the documentary, Turner gleefully shows off stacks of photos featuring Tiffany and him taken at conventions. Instead of simply viewing the photos as incidental mementos, Turner imbues these photos with hidden meanings and analyzes them for signs of Tiffany’s love for him. He is also shown poring over news articles and restraining orders that clearly reveal him to be a classic stalker but he simply views such documents as evidence of Tiffany’s reciprocation of his love. It eventually becomes apparent that Asperger’s syndrome is not Turner’s only problem, and that Tiffany is not the exclusive object of his love. Kelly McCormick has a different set of problems. McCormick was born as a hermaphrodite, and was raised as a girl by her mother and a boy by his father. McCormick’s life was transformed by a serious bicycle accident. Upon waking awaking from a lengthy coma, one of the first sounds McCormick heard were the Top 40 pop magic of a Tiffany song. This moment initiated a Quixotic quest to meet and build a relationship with the pop star. McCormick’s story represents such a knot of intense, complicated issues that coming up with a frame of reference is a pointless task. Like Turner, Kelly McCormick is obsessed, which is evidenced by the Tiffany images that paper the walls of his barren apartment, and his eerily longing proclamations of his need to united with the pop singer. McCormick’s obsession, however, exists in an entirely different space than Turner’s, and the film digs deep into the back story. I Think We’re Alone Now has a straight forward style without the grandstanding or moralizing that seems to be a part of many current documentaries. The narrative unfolds by slowly revealing key details, which provides a never-ending flow of surprises. Arguably, the only shaky moments in the film occur when Turner and McCormick are put in touch with each other, and the two meet up in Las Vegas, Nevada for a Tiffany concert. The likelihood of such a meeting occurring without the aid of the filmmakers seems slim, which lends an air of reality television to these scenes. Thankfully, the resulting moments between Turner and McCormick are so genuinely uncomfortable (e.g., the possibility of “love connection”) that they atone for what at first comes across as a forced setup. In sum, I Think We’re Alone Now provides a fascinating window into a nebulous zone where fan fever uncomfortably hovers between harmless obsession and dangerous lunacy.