I have always wondered what celebrities do with the inordinate amount of mail they receive from fans. As it turns out, so much mail is sent to celebrities that a small industry has sprung up devoted to screening and occasionally replying to various fan requests. Mail Mann Inc. is one such company currently engaged in the fan mail business. They handle the mail coming in for actors and celebrities such as Elijah Wood, Kevin Bacon, Richard Gere, Anna Paquin and Reese Witherspoon. The thousands of handwritten and typed letters that file through the offices of Mail Mann Inc. are all processed according to the individual celebrities’ instructions.
From the movie studios to a garage
During the Golden Age of Hollywood, responding to fan mail was a job that the movie studios undertook. The amount of mail that an actor received was used to determine how in-demand they were. However, by the time the studio system collapsed in the 1960s, box office ticket sales replaced fan mail in determining which stars were “hot.” As such, studios dropped their mail-processing units, leaving the actors themselves to respond to their own mail.
By the early 1980s, a strong need was developing in Hollywood for third-party celebrity mail processing. Mackie Mann, a former child star and TV commercial producer, began to screen the letters of soap opera heartthrob Peter Reckell in her garage. The demand for Mann’s service increased and Mail Mann Inc. was born.
Each celebrity has their own set of protocols that they establish with Mail Mann Inc. Some send a hand signed 5-by-7 photograph while others use a printed signature instead. A few even have a form letter that is sent on personalized stationery, while the number of those who respond by hand is fewer still. Of course, just because the majority of fan letters don’t make it to celebrities, that doesn’t mean none of them do.
Shelley De Angelus, office manager at Mail Mann Inc., told the Wall Street Journal that ever so often a truly inspiring letter will be sent through to the intended addressee. However, this too is at the discretion of the celebrity – some simply do not have the time to read letters from fans.
In her experience, De Angelus has found that almost every letter begins with “I am your number one fan” and ends with “Please send a picture.” It is the middle parts that can sometimes be a bit troubling. With a history in psychotherapy, De Angelus is often tasked with screening letters for threatening content or otherwise worrisome material. These letters are flagged and often kept on file.
While your letter may not make it all the way to your favorite celebrity’s eyes, there is no harm in sending one anyway. Who knows, you might even get an autograph out of it.