Tiffany is the mall-bred pop star who enjoyed a short run of hits in the late '80s, and I Think We're Alone Now is the 2008 documentary about the lives of two die-hard Tiffany fans.
Jeff Turner is a 40-something Tiffany fan living in Santa Cruz, CA. Turner opens the movie by proudly displaying the restraining order (and news clippings about the restraining order) taken out against him by Tiffany, chuckling along as if he's displaying love letters. He talks endlessly about the deep love and friendship he shares with Tiffany, but his memory of supporting events is faulty. ("She called me at home and said I'm your best friend mentor and protector!")
Kelly McCormick is a 30-something Tiffany fan from Denver, Colorado, where she lives in a small apartment lined with Tiffany posters and photos. The camera lingers on a magazine ad taped to the wall, showing two women in an erotic embrace. Underneath, Kelly has taped notes with arrows pointing at each of the women, which read "Tiffany!", "Me!", and "This will happen very soon!"
Jeff has Asberger syndrome, and a deep knowledge of secret societies and "radionic psychotronic devices," which he sometimes uses to listen to Tiffany's thoughts. (He was also arrested once for showing up at a Tiffany appearance bearing a samurai sword and five chrysanthemums—"the highest honor ceremonial gift in Japan!," he crows unapologetically.)
Kelly was born intersexed—she refers to herself as a hermaphrodite, and says she has a monthly period "just like every biological woman, including Tiffany." Kelly also seems to be battling a substance abuse problem, consoling herself with bottles of Jaegermeister and speaking in heartbreakingly frank terms about her loneliness. "I'm sick of being pushed out of Tiffany's life when I'm supposed to be in it," says Kelly, before seemingly nodding out against her shrine.
I Think We're Alone Now is dark and depressing and voyeuristic, but it also captures two fascinating human lives I never would've encountered any other way.
Besides being a radionic psychotronic expert with Asberger's and an undying love of Tiffany, Jeff is a church-going Christian with a sweet, goofy nature and an explicit desire to "fight against the fascists!" He describes Tiffany as "the most Christlike person I've ever known!" (He's also on disability, receiving $400 bucks a month from the federal government and getting 3/4ths of his rent paid by HUD.)
Besides being an intersexed Jaeger lover, Kelly is a devoted athlete; in one scene, she proudly shows the filmmakers how fast she can run. (Kelly is also supported by a disability/HUD combo platter.)
But in some ways, the most engrossing figure in all this is Tiffany, the faded pop star who somehow ignited a fire in these two fans that will never go out, no matter how many restraining orders and burly security guards she puts between herself and them. (Why Tiffany? was my ultimate question. Also, if someone like Tiffany gets fans like these, can you imagine the life of someone like Beyonce?)
Ultimately, Jeff and Kelly meet up in Las Vegas, where they share a hotel room and attend a Tiffany concert in what looks like a gay nightclub. The pair's meeting and temporary cohabitation is as itchy as you can imagine, with their initial commiseration over Tiffany curdling into passive-aggressive I-love-her-more competition. But the footage of the Tiffany performance we're shown provides something close to an answer to my above question, "Why Tiffany?" Addressing the crowd at the end of her performance, Tiffany sweetly tells the crowd she hopes she gets to meet every one of 'em at her post-show autograph signing/meet n' greet, and she makes it sound genuine, like a good pop star should. (Not to blame the victim here, but I couldn't help wondering if some perfect storm of Tiffany's professional cordiality and red hair and lyrics about being alone and hearts beating close is what helped inspire Jeff's and Kelly's obsessions.)
The film gets exceedingly dark in its last stretch, as Kelly mumbles semi-coherently for several scenes and Jeff reveals his creepy new obsession: Alyssa Milano, who, unlike Tiffany, is not already married and thus a more feasible love object.
In the end, the film's not so much about Tiffany or her fans as it is about delusion. In scene after scene, we see Jeff and Kelly following road maps for their lives built on facts that exist only in their heads. It's scary and sad and fascinating, and I hope you don't hate me for making you watch it. (Some people see in this movie what I do, others run from what they consider its voyeuristic exploitation of its subjects.) Please weigh in for yourself int he comments.
EXTRA CREDIT INFO: For those who had a rewarding experience with I Think We're Alone Now, I encourage you to rent the DVD, which features two commentary tracks—one by Jeff Turner, one by Kelly McCormick, both of them amazing. (Basically, they just talk about how crazy the other is, and Kelly offers this solid-gold quote: "Jeff Turner straps a bicycle helmet onto his head with all these gizmos on it and he’s supposed to be hearing every thought of Tiffany’s. I mean, hello, that is called invasion of privacy, Jeff. Hello? Are you that dumb?”)