Wow - what a year it was! A new CD, a TV special, countless TV and magazine interviews, and a concert tour that brought Donna to places she hasn't been in years (if ever). This year also saw two back to back number one dance hits here in the US, a platinum record in Spain and quite possibly the death of "the rumor" in the UK. Could we have asked for more?
The year started appropriately enough in January when we got to present Donna with Pages From The Heart, a collection of memories written by the fans. Some were stories of good times made better by Donna's music. Some were stories about meeting Donna. And some were stories of bad times made more bearable because Donna's music was there. But all were expressions of the love we fans have for our favorite diva.
Soon it was February, and the taping of the VH1 concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Tickets for this show were free and very hard to come by - yet somehow the place was packed with fans. Some (through luck and persistence) won tickets from one of the two radio stations that had some to give away. Others hounded whatever contacts they had, until someone came through. And the best part was that fans who had tickets did their best to get more tickets for those who couldn't get their own. And at the eighth hour the fan club came through with over a dozen more tickets. Fans came in from all over the country to attend the taping, and since Donna fans are crazy enough to show up hours early to ensure a good vantage point - we got the chance to see the people behind the screennames and to get to know each other a bit better.
We also had the chance to see one of the best Donna Summer concerts ever! Donna looked absolutely fabulous, and she was as "on" as I have ever seen her. The one moment in particular that stands out in my mind, is when she came out on stage singing MacArthur Park. The audience went nuts and just at the moment where an audience usually settles in to just listen - we kept right on yelling! At that moment I saw the smile on Donna's face get a little bit bigger and I KNEW it was going to be a great night! Even now when I watch the video, the moment MacArthur Park starts I feel like I'm standing in that ballroom again - surrounded by friends and experiencing the magic.
The only downside to the Hammerstein show was the long wait until we got to see it on TV. Wait, did I say long wait? Sure, when it was February and we were told the show would air in the summertime - that sounded like an eternity. But summer (and Summer) was here long before we knew it. And it was worth the wait. An announcement that the new CD was coming out in June and a few second clip on VH1 was all it took to get everybody all stirred up. Add to that a well timed airing of the VH1 concert, Behind The Music, a few talk shows and a record signing in New York, and you had an epidemic of Summer Fever - an epidemic so bad that when a few promos were released to the general public before the album came out, Live And More Encore became one of the most bootlegged Donna Summer tapes in history. Not that it slowed down sales any - most people I know bought duplicates, triplicates, you name it. I know at least one person who bought 10 copies to give as gifts. (Hey, no one ever accused Donna fans of being frugal! LOL)
With the release of the CD (actually starting shortly before) Donna was EVERYWHERE! Here in New York, I Will Go With You was all over the radio and while other places were not as quick to pick up on the new song, the old songs got plenty of airplay. And before we had a video for I Will Go With You, VH1 ran On The Radio from the Hammerstein show in their normal video rotation. And then there were the numerous television appearances. Tapings for Rosie O'Donnell, The Today Show, The View (twice!), Queen Latifah, and even Oprah became family reunions of sorts, as fans who rarely see each other face to face managed to find their ways to these shows. And a concert tour that started in the spring brought Donna to many different cities, giving more than a few starving fans the chance to see the magic in person. And just as Europe started to get insanely jealous, Donna found her way overseas for a promotional tour where she took over the television airways and the newsstands.
But the year was not just about the music - it was about truth. As many of you know, for the past 15 years or so Donna has been plagued by a vicious rumor. As usual the moment Donna became high profile, the rumor reared its ugly head again. But this time a little light was thrown into that darkness. This time the fans banded together to set the record straight - and we were heard! And our voices were heard loudest in the UK where an activist group had threatened demonstrations unless Donna read a prewritten statement. When the fans spoke, that group backed down. And shortly thereafter, a major British gay magazine set out to tell the truth behind the "urban legend." That plus some positive press in American gay magazines has gone a long way toward ending the rumor forever. Finally!
Unfortunately 1999 was not without its sad moments. This summer we lost one of our own to a tragic drowning accident. Gilbert Prevatte (aka Cbyrd) was, like all of us, a huge Donna fan. He was also a very active Donna fan. He was tireless in his defense of her - in fact, a letter he wrote in Donna's defense has been archived on this site and has been sent out to those who needed to see it several times since his passing. It was also printed in its entirety in BoysUK
- a British gay magazine.
He was also tireless in his crusade to get I Will Go With You played on the radio. While most of us sent endless requests to radio begging them to play the song, Gilbert managed to do it with a sense of humor. One time he called his local radio station and said that he was on the beach with his girlfriend and that she had agreed to remove her bikini top if he could get the station to play I Will Go With You. The story was complete fiction, but it worked! They played it for him!
I unfortunately never got to meet Gilbert face to face, but he and I corresponded by email from time to time. I'll never forget - one time someone posted on the Endless Summer board asking for facts regarding the rumors surrounding Donna. Since I knew that Gilbert had accumulated quite a few, I emailed him and told him to "go get 'em tiger!" The reply I got back simply said "Grrrrrrrrrrrr!" That's the Gilbert I'm always going to remember and miss.
1999 was also the year that the online Donna Summer community really came into its own. With the excitement of the new CD, fans turned to the internet to keep up with the flow of information. Fan sites started springing up everywhere, each with its own specialty - and the online messageboards literally exploded with activity. The Endless Summer messageboard became so active that it's owner, Patrick, had to relocate it to a service that could handle the volume. And the availability of email made it very easy to bombard radio with song requests, to praise media sources who treated Donna well, and to chastise those who didn't. The internet has given Donna fans a strong voice that so far we have not shied away from using! (Hey, no one has even accused Donna fans of being quiet and unassuming! LOL)
Here is it the first day of 2000 and as I look back at 1999 I can't help but smile. It was a great year and I am so happy I was along for the ride. So I would like to thank everyone who contributed so much to the good times. To the AOL posters: you guys gave me my first taste of the online Donna community 3 years ago when I first came online. And for good or bad, many of you have become good friends and I have enjoyed seeing so many of you at the concerts and TV tapings this year. To the Endless Summer posters: you guys are NUTS!!! No wonder I fit in so well! LOL But seriously, you guys are a great bunch - you've kept me in touch with what's going on outside the USA, you've made me smile with your totally insane posts on god knows how many occasions (and some of those times I REALLY needed a good laugh!) and even though I haven't seen many of you face to face, you have still become great friends. To all the people who have emailed me, IMed me, snail mailed me, or chatted with me on or offline: Thank you so much for your information, your support, and all your kind words. Your information is what keeps my site going, and your words are what keep me going. There are days when I read my mail and I feel like a real diva. (And then I go to iMusic and get cut right down to size! LOL) To all the "insiders" I've met along the way (and no, I won't name names because if I do you KNOW I will forget someone, and I really don't need the guilt LOL): You guys are the BEST! You have always made me feel welcome, like I'm part of the team. I have to admit that feels a little surreal at times, but it's still a good feeling. To Donna: What can I say? I thought when I met you in January that would be the high point of my year - but it turned out to be just a beginning. I can't even begin to express what it means to me just that you recognize me. And add to that your generosity - I guess all I can say is THANK YOU! (And believe me I'd like to say more than that - but it's taken me an
hour just to write this much. LOL) Oh wait, there is one more thing I can say - get back to work, I need a new CD to promote! LOL
I wish everyone a very happy 2000!
Back in 1978, I fell in love with an artist named "DONNA SUMMER". Your music was "fresh, exciting, full of life and joy" and it completely captured my heart, soul and mind. At that time, I had no idea I would become a "DONNA SUMMER" die-hard fan forever. At that age, I probably didn't even know what a "fan" was. But your presence and voice captivated me into adoring you and moving me like no other artist had ever done before.
Every new recording brought escalated interest and excitement to my life. Every write up in newspapers, magazines, every appearance on TV and your domination of the airwaves continued to raise my adrenaline. During the peak of your career, I was constantly walking above the clouds. And then in years to follow, during periods of controversy, hiatus and attempted "comebacks", I continued to support and enjoy your artistry, through the "good and bad times".
But 1999 was a special year. A year when you finally CAME HOME! I can't even begin to express how much joy and excitement you have brought back into my "Donna Life". Your dedication to keep on going is more than inspiring. Your music still moves me, your voice has aged into perfection and I still get teary-eyed and goose bumps to hear you sing "MacArthur Park".
I have lost count on how many "DONNA SUMMER" concerts I have attended over the years and how many times I have sat in the audience, "breaking down the walls, to let you know that [I] was there".
But this year was special. I finally got a chance to talk to you several times, got the opportunities to see you in every New York City televised taping, got the opportunity to embrace you with smile and a warm hug. Everywhere you went I tried to be there. The magic and thrills that I had experienced back in 1978/79 seemed to surface all over again in 1999. Even more exciting was for you to recognize me; it was touching to say the least.
In a time when Teenyboppers dominate the pop charts, and the music industry is fierce, I credit and admire your dedication and hard work to keep on going. Regardless of record sales and chart numbers, your contribution to the industry is incomparable. Your VOICE is unmatchable. Your talents supersede the hundreds of wannabes and little "divas in training" and those other legends in your league.
Larry Flick, from BILLBOARD couldn't have said it better, when he said "There are DIVAS and then there is DONNA SUMMER".
You mean so much to me and I want to thank you for the past, present and future.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Happy New Year and I hope that you continue to shine your star on all of us for years to come.
Lots of Love, happiness and success always,
Albert (aka the Fabulous Albert)