Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams Paisley, recently made headlines for being the subjects of a cruel hoax in which an adult fan pretended to be a dying child in order to gain sympathy from -- and telephone access to -- the couple. But the elaborate hoax didn't surprise those who serve as gatekeepers to artists and regularly witness all manner of outrageous behavior from fans.
Big Machine Label Group head of publicity and corporate communications Jake Basden once fielded a call from someone pretending her husband was going to die in 24 hours, claiming her spouse just wanted to speak to a certain artist before he passed.
While she was a publicist at Capitol Records in the late 1990s, JEM Media principal Judy McDonough recalls, the publicity department got a call every few months from a die-hard Tanya Tucker fan.
“She was quite clever about how she’d start off her call, [saying] she was a journalist at a newspaper or at a radio station, or working with a charity, and she’d get you talking about some artist on the roster,” McDonough says. “The stories for what she’d want would be quite elaborate, and sound very legit.
"A few minutes into the call she’d say, casually, something like, ‘So, what’s up with the other artists at Capitol?’ I’d let her know about any new singles, albums, etc, and she’d say, ‘Uh huh, uh huh -- and anything new from . . . Tanya Tucker?’
"At that point you would realize you’d been deceived, once again, by the Tanya Tucker lady, and she’d be off on her rant about how we’d ruined Tanya’s career by putting out the wrong singles, under-promoting her albums, not making her a top priority, etc., never pausing for breath until you usually just had to hang up on her," McDonough says. “It was amazing that she could control [herself] through the first part of her call, but once she mentioned Tanya’s name, she completely imploded."
Sharon Eaves, who professionally manages scores of artists’ fan clubs through her Nashville-based company, Fan Clubhouse, says her office has received hundreds of phone calls over the last several years from a Gary Allan fan, who always inquires about why Allan didn’t show up for the “date” she had allegedly planned with him the night before.
Fan Clubhouse also manages Scotty McCreery’s club operations, and Eaves says one of his fans routinely sends cards and gifts to her office addressed to the young singer. The woman, in her mid-30s, signs her mail “Mrs. Scotty McCreery.”
More notable is the volume. “She writes Scotty four or five cards every day,” says Eaves. “She probably sent 15 Halloween cards this year.” The gifts, meanwhile, include an assortment of dollar store toys such as plastic bugs and stuffed animals, plus frequent “Toy Story” merchandise, since McCreery once revealed publicly that he enjoyed the film.
Eaves, who also manages artist Bryan White, recalls that early in White’s career, when he was single, a fan took things even further. She showed up at a meet-and-greet in a wedding dress, with her preacher and her parents in tow, and announced that she was there to marry White, whom she’d never met. In her hands was a Bible she’d had inscribed with the words “Mr. and Mrs. Bryan White.”
Some stories are as funny as they are odd. Warner Music Group senior VP of publicity Tree Paine worked with rocker Marilyn Manson earlier in her career. Once she was having lunch with him at an Idaho diner when, she recalls, “One of the cooks came to our table and placed five fish hooks on the table and stared at him. Manson asked what the fishhooks were for and the cook replied, ‘You know.’ After truthfully explaining that he, in fact, did not know, the cook just nodded his head and said, ‘You know,’ and walked away.” Adds Paine, “We had a good laugh afterwards.”