FANatic - The Story|
Elena Bernal was chosen by MTV as the Stevie Nicks fan for their show FANatic. Here is Elena's story in her own words:
When the first promos for FANatic first showed on MTV I was lounging around watching with a friend and my eyes lit up, "What if they do Stevie? I would have to try, but hey, like they would do it or I would even make it?"
On Monday, July 13th I was hanging around my office about 9 p.m. and did my regular check-in with the NicksFix page only to find out FANatic was looking for someone to meet Stevie. I was having a horrible, incredibly lonely night...so I picked up the phone, figuring I'd give it a shot.
I spoke with Victoria who seemed to be interested in my story right away. She asked why I was a fan and how Stevie inspired me. At the end of what was about an hour long talk, she asked me to send a video as soon as possible. The video had to include my inspiration story...this seemed the most important thing to them that I specifically state "Stevie inspired me when..."...as well as some of my memorabilia and friends testifying about my Stevie fanaticism.
I focused a lot on what my experience was being outed in HS. I was outed at my very small, extremely conservative HS, located in Miami, FL...kind of weird sounding isn't it? (My parents chose this school for me.) They searched through the lockers of the seniors while we were away on senior trip. They found notes I wrote-- remember HS?-- where I was discussing my feelings with another lesbian in my class. When I returned from my senior trip, everyone knew about it. Needless to say I lost all my friends...even my closest friends since elementary school. My parents freaked out... they were very angry, sent me to counseling, and took away all my tapes/CDs. My school, a fundamental baptist place, all but through me out. I had to serve all sorts of detention, I was on probation, I had to meet with the pastors weekly, etc. My week was like this...Mon. - counseling with pastor, Tues.- counseling with psychologist, Wed.- prayer service, Thurs.- 2 hour detention, Fri.- youth night outings, and Sun.- Sun. school, morning and evening service. If I missed any of these things I would automatically be expelled...this was 4 mos. before my graduation.
As you can guess I hit a deep depression questioning the meaning of any love in my life. Here I was learning about myself and who I love and simultaneously being torn apart by those I most cared about in my life. I would come home after these things and just go to sleep. I would sleep in order to runaway and not deal with anybody...too painful, but I would get up about 1 or 2 in the morning and play Stevie's music secretly. I managed to get 2 tapes...Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits and Bella Donna. I would listen to her words to help get me through nights I didn't know if I could make it.
Victoria also asked me to speak specifically of songs that had meaning for me. I picked 3: Rhiannon, Sara, and Outside the Rain...
"Rhiannon" because it was a woman's voice describing the temptation of a woman. It gave me a language to talk about what I felt for women.
"Sara" because it is so soothing...especially when she says she'd go anywhere, etc. I was drowning in my feelings and her voice and words were a comfort.
"Outside the Rain" because I was wrestling with love in all senses and feeling tired of trying and wanting to just give up. Was all the hell worth it? The last lines...love is a word that some entertain, if you find it you have won the game...made me feel that once I found love, for myself, a lover, family, friends, etc., it was the most important thing in life, no matter what hell I had to go through.
That first tape was very emotional and hard to make, but I sent it off like I promised Tuesday afternoon. The same day I sent it, I received a call again from Victoria, this time with her supervisor, Michelle. She asked me some of the same questions...she even asked if I had a crush on Stevie. A fun conversation overall...seems they were talking to Hanson fans all day and chatting about Stevie was refreshing! They received the tape on Wednesday and called that evening. Theytold me they liked it a lot but that I had to be more concise and make another tape. On this tape I had to be sure to complete their sentences... I am Stevie Nicks fan because...Stevie inspired me when...etc. So I rounded up all my friends and some memorabilia, posters, etc. and went to my friend's apt. where we taped from 7 p.m. - 4 a.m. I was so nervous because I thought I actually had a chance now. I wanted to be sure the 2nd tape was as good as possible. (If you've seen FANatic, you know they use the home videos at the beginning...on my episode with Stevie you'll see outtakes from my 2nd submission.)
I sent the tape on Thurs. morning. On Thursday night they called with trivia questions...What is Enchanted? What is Silver Springs? What is Landslide? How do you spell Rhiannon? Not in my opinion difficult questions for a Stevie fan...but I really won't complain because I was so nervous I thought I'd forget everything anyway! They also asked me for tour dates...West coast dates...I figured they asked because they were going to have someone meet her sometime during the rest of her tour. They also asked me about songs she played live, differences in any of the shows I had already seen out East, favorite songs from her set, etc.
After that I didn't hear from them again until the following week. On Monday, July 20th, they called and asked for "factoids" about crazy things I had or did to see Stevie, try to meet her, memorabilia, etc. We'll see on Aug. 14th which ones they picked. They also asked me to write 30 questions that I would like to ask Stevie if I was chosen to meet her. On Wednesday I spoke with Victoria, Michelle, and Debbie Norton (exec. producer). They asked similar questions...also they asked me how I thought Stevie would react to meeting me and how I would describe her to others (without referencing her music). Debbie once joked and asked, "Do you ever listen to anything else besides Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac?" We all laughed... They told me that day I had made it to their top 3 choices and did a pre-interview with me. (I heard later that they received about 200 videos and actually chose from 40 at the end. They were focusing on those who had a direct connection to the artist based on their inspiration story.)
HEADING OUT TO PHOENIX
That Wednesday night, July 22, I left town around 3 a.m. with 2 of my friends to drive down to Baltimore and fly out to Phoenix. I had purchased 3 of the $500 tickets to see her then. I bought them when they were first posted on the NicksFix, and I had to drag friends along to share that with me. We went to the event beforehand and met some people, including her parents and the planners @ AHI. We had 5th row center seats at the concert, which in my opinion is the best show I've seen of hers all tour long. Everyone was up dancing and having a great time! Then we went to Vincent's...we sat at the table right by the door, and she ended up sitting right behind me with Don and Mick. I got her to sign the cover of "Rock a Little" for me, and I was just floored that I got the chance to talk to her for that brief moment. In fact, I sat back down (which was right next to the line of people waiting to have her sign things) and just cried my eyes out. She, through her music meant so much to me, and I was reliving all of it by telling MTV about it for over a week. For those of you I saw there, I am sure you remember that I couldn't even talk...just cry.
THE SURPRISE AND THE TRIP TO LAS VEGAS
On Friday, my friend, Stefani, who ended up being the accomplice for the show, had made lunch plans, supposedly..., with 2 friends of hers (she used to live in AZ). So my other friend Mario and myself drove out to this restaurant in Tempe called Macayo's where we were having drinks and waiting for her...she was late...Well, about 10 minutes after we arrived, she comes flying in with MTV crews...something like 2 cameras, mics, etc. and says "Let's go...you're going to meet Stevie in Las Vegas!" I just through my hands up over my mouth and started shaking. They kept asking how do you feel and I had no words at all. At some point I said something on my way out of the restaurant. Then I ended up crying on Stefani's shoulder outside by the limo. We got in the limo and they drove us around for a little bit, of course taping my first reactions. Then we went back to the restaurant and actually had lunch. Afterwards we packed our bags and drove around Phoenix, while being asked questions by Chad...the guy directing the shoot. It was REALLY hot and the AC had to be off so it wouldn't affect the sound. They focused on Stevie and, of course, on my being a lesbian and the whole coming out process.
Once we got to the airport, they filmed some more. I was checking in my bags with Stef and the baggage people started asking me about what was going on...I told them the whole story and one of them started asking about Stevie...where she lived, where she went to HS...all too much fun...Although I was feeling like I can't believe I have to tell all of this to people at the airport that I don't know!!! ;) (Of course now I am telling the country I guess...)
They chased us around the airport with 2 cameras while we were both wearing mics. They would keep asking how I was feeling and people kept staring at us. I would just turn around and say, "Hi, how are you? We are going to Vegas to meet Stevie Nicks!!" I was surprised to see how strict airport people were about allowing filming in there, but they pretty much let MTV do their thing. We got a break for about 10 min. before the flight so we stopped at a bar...I had to have a cigarette! In there we met folks from Vegas and they were so into the story...I can't tell you the number of times we were told, "Yeah, we like her too, back in the seventies we bought Rumours..." I'm sure most fans have heard this before. What was cool was that people were giving things to us...like this guy from Reno gave us 3 drink passes for Southwest Airlines...the plane we flew up there. His friend was talking about going to see the Spice Girls...to which all I could say was "Come on now...the Spice Girls or Stevie...you make the call!" I think that went down on film!
Once we landed in Vegas around 6 p.m. on Friday, we were followed around with cameras some more...getting off the plane, getting in the limo, etc. We drove into town thankfully with little filming in the car, but then we rolled up on the MGM Grand and Chad had us get off. You see, they had Stevie up on a video billboard advertising her concert. So they wanted to film me talking about her on the street while also getting a shot of the billboard. Chad asked me to tell him how I felt knowing that Stevie was in Vegas already, knowing she was going to meet me. All I could reply was that we (me and Stevie) were going along our own paths until they crossed the next night. I spoke a lot about how meeting her would bring the hell I went through full circle for me and that I wanted to thank her personally...we'll see what makes it to tape!
After the outdoor filming, they took us to our hotel...the Hard Rock Hotel...where we were free to spend the night as we wished. They told us they would need us the next day at 5 p.m. Stef was exahausted because she had been talking with them on Friday since 8 a.m. so my friend Mario and I went walking around trying to digest the nature of what had happened to me that day and, of course, what was about to happen.
I just could not even picture what it would be like to be in the same room with Stevie. Certainly not picture that she would be there waiting to talk to me!! I was told she knew the basics of my story and was down for the interview. This was enough to keep me happy...I didn't want her to be surprised by my story or anything once she met me...I didn't want her to think I was just some freak who wanted to meet her. It was much more than that.
So I finally went to bed on Friday around 3 a.m., only to sleep lightly until about 6:30 the next morning...How can you sleep when you know you are about to meet her and talk to her? I just couldn't. So me and Stef got up and eventually met up with Mario. We went to a hotel called Rio, where we had this huge buffet...none of which I could eat, I was too nervous! But I found something to keep me entertained and calm...slots!! Moral of the story...do not start gambling at one of the most nervous times of your life!!! I got so hooked...I was there until 1 p.m. I walked away $50 richer though...it wasn't too bad. :)
Once I got back to the hotel I went to the pool where I met up with my friends and the MTV folks. They were all kicking back and enjoying the weather and Las Vegas...it was soooo hot! I stayed there until about 3:30 and then headed up to my room so I could start getting ready for the night ahead. I called a flower shop also to prepare a dozen white roses so I could give them to her, and then I showered and got dressed and grabbed the things I wanted her to sign...most importantly my copy of Bella Donna.
LEAVING FOR THE INTERVIEW
Me and Stef headed down to the lobby right at 5. The MTV folks were running late so she and I sat around talking. A rep from Atlantic, who was the go between MTV and Stevie for the whole thing, walks up to me and asks if I was Elena. I started looking for cameras because I thought there were more surprises in store. However, Doug just picked me out because how many people do you think there were walking around the Hard Rock Lobby carrying a Stevie Nicks album? By 5:45 they asked me to walk out to the limo...asking me the whole time how I felt that in a few hours I was going to meet Stevie! By that time I was in a zone, and I just wanted it to happen already. Entirely too much suspense!
They took me to the flower shop and filmed me buying her flowers...they also asked me why I was buying them. Then we headed off to dinner. Seems that Chad has a penchant for Mexican food, and we stopped to eat at Cozymel's. They kept telling me I was going to interview her at 8 p.m. before the concert, but after dinner, when I was in the limo they surprised me with front row seats to her concert. I was just off center...seems that David Spade and his people had center. I had never been that close to Stevie live!
While we waited for Stevie to come on (we got there towards the end of Boz Scaggs set), people like her road manager came up and talked with me. She congratulated me and asked me how I got there. A few of the MTV people also told me they talked with Stevie...she was psyched about doing the interview...just worried about how she'd look on camera. Apparently they had talked with her earlier in the day and before the show...then finally Stevie comes out on stage....
She looked beautiful...but I kept thinking I was about to sit down with her after the concert. I have to tell you that that concert was the most emotional for me. When the opening guitar for Twisted began, I started crying. I couldn't believe it. For some reason that was the song I was listening to a lot before I headed out to Vegas. When she sings, "The sun goes down, filling the air with color and winds, that lift you up to God," I felt like I was being lifted up to this other place. Plus the part when she talks about remembering your childhood...I thought I about the crazy years I spent as a teenager and how I view them now...now especially that I can be happy and share this with Stevie. I started to cry, just as hard as I had in Phoenix. What was happening to me over those 2 days was so special. It was destiny bringing my life story full circle and bringing me the opportunity to share it with Stevie. Before that I was one of so many fans, and after that night she would know me and how important her writing and singing was to me. All there was left was actually talking with her.
Soon "Edge of Seventeen" rolled around, and I knew the show was almost over. I let all the fans come up in front of me because I knew they needed their chance to see and touch Stevie...my turn was coming in a short while. We sat around after the lights went down and waited for the MTV people to come get me.
In about 10 min. they came and told me they were setting up and where the interview was to take place backstage. I couldn't go into the room though because they said Stevie was back there. Scott Murphy, a production assistant who was so incredibly nice and took care of my every concern, came and got me and took me outside. I asked him beforehand to please take me to have a cigarette before I went in to meet her. He came out with the flowers I had bought (they were holding on to them during the concert) and took me into a hallway outside where I could smoke with him. I was soooooo nervous...but I was also ready to meet her in a way I hadn't been before. I felt it was finally time to bring this all around. While we were out there, a lot of fans came up to me...most congratulating me and asking me to pass along messages to Stevie. I couldn't pass along the messages...I could barely remember what I wanted to say once I met her! I also told all of them about the NicksFix...most them didn't know. (Special props out to the 3 women from Minnesota...I remember you! They flew out to Vegas to see her!)
So then I was taken back to the backstage entrance where Scott told me to wait outside until they came to get me. They didn't want me backstage so I wouldn't see her. The security asked me some questions...they seemed to be interested in what the big deal was. Although, they were rude as hell to the MTV crew. We kept having to prove who we were. All in a day's work I guess for them, but stressful for me. I waited for about 20 min. and then they came to get me.
Scott and Chad came, and they told me her makeup artist volunteered to fix me up a little. Then they started filming again...how do you feel about meeting Stevie, what are you going to do, etc. I went into her makeup room where her makeup artist...can't spell her name!...touched me up a little in the same chair where Stevie gets her makeup done before the show. She had some feathers and doves up on top of her mirror. Her sister in law was also in the room. They both kept telling me how much I would love Stevie and how nice and sweet she was...I was still nervous but trying to enjoying everything around me. I kept looking down at her brushes and makeup and trying to imagine what she feels like there every night. Her makeup woman eventually told me she was going in to touch Stevie up, wished me luck, and reminded me once again how great she was. Then I started talking to her sister in law who once again told me how great Stevie was, and we talked about her little Yorkie, Sara. She was so cute! Now I am usually a cat type of girl...but she was adorable. Chad came in and told me to count to 10 and come out and walk towards the room Stevie was in. Her sister in law helped me through quick breathing exercises, and I went out the door. Now I knew it was going to happen and that everyone was expecting me to come into the room with Stevie.
GOING INTO THE INTERVIEW
I walked out the door and headed towards the room with my bouquet of roses. I walked into this long room with about 30 people lined up against the walls and Stevie at the end of the room in a chair waiting for me. What I remember most about walking in was Stevie looking at me through the corner of her eye. I never realized how big and expressive her eyes were until that night. I walked up to her and told her what an honor it was to meet her. She said she saw me in the audience and all I could say was that I was so nervous so please bare with me. I sat down and told her what we were going to do and she just kept saying ok. She seemed so calm...it helped me to calm down a little bit.
>From the 30 questions I submitted, they had picked and edited it down to 15...I forgot to ask 2... :( I can't say what they are yet...let's see what makes it to MTV. I can tell you that the favorite question I asked was what her favorite song by Christine and also by Lindsey was and why. I loved her answer to the Lindsey question. I had wanted to ask how it felt to still be asked about Lindsey to this day...but that got cut. I just can't believe that people still want to focus on a relationship that ended a long time ago and always place her in relationship to men, instead of what she herself feels, thinks, etc.
The whole interview, I was just staring into her eyes. I didn't want to take my eyes off of her. I had to glance over at Chad for a little bit because he was cueing me as to when to interject my inspiration story, thank yous, etc. All in all, I got to do what I wanted pretty much. To have her look at me and pay complete attention to me and my questions was amazing. Watching her lips move and her expressions was mesmerizing.
I think I was in the room about 45 min., but it felt like forever. The best was when I was saying my thank you, and she reached out her two hands to mine and thanked me. Her eyes and expressions were so soft and genuine. I totally did not expect that to happen. I think she really felt my story, and that is all I can ask for...that Stevie knows who I am and what she has represented to me in my life. I asked her for a hug and she said "Absolutely, we can do that,..." As we stood up we both got our microphones caught on our chairs and then we hugged. It was a full hug and one I'll never forget. She whispered "thank you" and "this was really cool" to me. Afterwards she said we would watch this forever and 20 years from now say "remember that?". I can't believe she said we...I mean I know I will always watch this and wear tape after tape down but to think she will is beyond words. She'll get a chance to see the whole story on my side of how I got there that night. Unreal...amazing.
After the cameras, she signed the things I brought to her and wished me a safe trip for the rest of my vacation. (I still had to head back to Phoenix and I was driving out to California for a couple of days before heading back to Pennsylvania.) I wished her luck on the rest of her tour and then we took pictures together. It was so cool when we took the picture because she put her arm around me, by my neck, and then she pushed my head next to hers for the picture. (That's the picture that should be with this story.)
I left that night on a total high...I still haven't come down. For the rest of the trip all I could think about was Stevie...in fact, it's still pretty much all I can think about.
Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I felt a sense of guilt that I was chosen because I know she has so many fans...but believe me, you were all there with me and in my heart...especially through all the lovely emails I have received since I have shared my story on line. Once again thank you. I would love to share this with you and answer any questions fans have about this...email@example.com.
I would especially like to thank John and Amy for encouraging me to write this and talking with me after the interview. You both helped me process all of it. It is a once in a lifetime experience. To think that if I ever see her again I can say, "Hey, remember me from FANatic?" and she will know what I am talking about has me completely floored. I only pray that she will never forget me. I know I am a tiny little piece of all she has done in her life, but if even for a minute she remembers....
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