2008 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE! Remember Tiffany? The late ’80s teen sensation who grew to stardom doing mall tours and shot to number one with a cover of ’60s bubblegum hit “I Think We’re Alone Now”? Whose star seemed to drop almost as quickly as it had risen?
Well, she’s still around, playing and recording for a small but loyal group of fans. Not only that, but she is still capable of attracting stalkers, two of which are the subject of a fascinating and often heartbreaking new documentary.
The first stalker is Jeff Turner, a 50 year old man with Asperger’s syndrome (a form of autism) who believes that Tiffany sends him secret psychic messages in her music. He lives in Santa Cruz where he more or less fits in with the local eccentrics and practices radionics, using a modified bike helmet to tune into “energy frequencies” contained in photographs of the singer. He attends church regularly and is praised by his friends for his unfailingly positive attitude. Despite not having had a “physical experience” with a woman since 1992, Jeff seems genuinely upbeat and hopeful about his future. He was the subject of a restraining order in the late ’80s, but despite his frequent diatribes on conspiracy theories he comes across more as harmless and lonely.
The second stalker is Kelly McCormick, a thirty something hermaphrodite currently living as a woman. Kelly’s obsession started after she emerged from a 16 day coma in 1987 after hearing a Tiffany song. She also believes that Tiffany is her soul mate and has plastered her apartment with pictures of the pop star, some of which are curiously worn in the chin and lip region. In some ways Kelly is the more tragic of the two, she talks about a difficult childhood where she was forced to live as different sex on different days of the week while being shuttled between divorced parents and there are also hints at a drinking problem. But as much as we want to feel sorry for her, her willful self-delusion is more frustrating than pitiful.
Both subjects seem to really enjoy the attention they get from the camera, but the filmmakers are careful not to exploit them. Wild claims are never refuted by professionals, instead the director allows the subjects to speak for themselves and the film is more a document of two sad, odd lives, rather than the freak show that some would expect. The film is also quite funny, but seldom at the expense of Jeff or Kelly. It is compassionate, but honest and without judgment.