CW: This newsletter discusses the grooming and child sexual abuse allegations against Horatio Sanz. Please skip it if you need to.
After I wrote about the lawsuit against Horatio Sanz a few days ago, I got an email from someone who used to participate in the same SNL/Jimmy Fallon fandom as the plaintiff. She wanted to let me know that the AOL Instant Messenger screen name attributed to Sanz in the lawsuit, "marblechomper," matched the email address on a business card of his she received ten years ago, when she was in her late teens. Why did she receive Horatio Sanz's business card when she was in her late teens? Because she was one of "#HoratiosKidz," a group of Fallon fans he interacted with on Twitter and eventually "adopted" as his own in the early 2010s. They called him "Dad."
According to this former fan, Sanz sent #HoratiosKidz holidays cards in December 2011. She sent me a picture of the card she received, which included a handwritten note: "Best o luck! XOXO." It also came with a business card listing Sanz's email address, email@example.com, and his Twitter handle.
As we went back and forth, this person sent me a long, illuminating reflection on her time in the SNL/Fallon/Sanz fan-o-sphere. She offered some very sharp insights into the dynamics of fandom—this specific fandom, all fandoms—and I asked for her permission to share them here. I'm grateful she said yes. Her email is below, with a few small redactions.
There's just one part I want to highlight first.
As she describes, in the early 2010s Sanz started a Twitter hashtag called #FFF, which stood for "Free Foot Fridays." Using this hashtag, he encouraged his followers to post images of their nude feet and promised them retweets in return. Sanz's Twitter is currently private, but if you Google "'Free Foot Fridays' Horatio" you'll find cached results of #FFF solicitations from July 2012 and an August 2012 announcement retiring the hashtag.
On Twitter, a search for "Free Foot Fridays" turns up manual retweets of Sanz announcing the occasion in June and July 2012. A search for "@MrHoratioSanz fff" turns up many of his fans participating in the hashtag that summer, some of them calling him "Dad." (I'm not going to share the latter, but they're there if you want to go see for yourself.)
This was in 2012—the year after Sanz started calling fans his "Kidz" and sending them holiday cards with his email address and Twitter handle. And it was 10 years after the events described in the lawsuit, which included allegations that he solicited "revealing," "inappropriate," and "sexually explicit" images from the plaintiff, who ran a Jimmy Fallon fan page.
Below is the former fan's email. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
For whatever reason, Jimmy Fallon's fanbase has always skewed younger. Like, predominantly teenagers and early 20s. His incarnation of Late Night ran from 09-14, and because the show utilized the internet more successfully than most others at the time, Twitter became the hangout place for his fans, the "falpals." (When I say fans, I mean people who have voluntarily watched Taxi more than once.) It was clique-ish; there were the falpals that had been to dozens of tapings because tickets were easy to get, there were the falpals who—like in the lawsuit—ran fanpages and managed to secure in-person interviews with him. (iheartjimmy.com or .net—I think they had both domains—was the big one. The woman who ran that, Lori, was probably in her 30s.) And then everyone else would try to make friends with those more elite falpals because it seemed like they had a bigger chance at access. As I'm typing this, I realize how fucking weird it was. We would livetweet every episode, play the hashtags game, follow all the writers, ask Jimmy to follow us. He did follow most of us, and it was that weird possessive internet thing where, the second a celebrity follows you, you think they're actually your friend and a real part of your life. Especially for the younger demographic. I was close to graduating high school at the time, so I was kind of in the middle of the pack. The people I've kept in touch with were all in their 20s/30s/40s, and everyone else was in their early teens.
I would comfortably say that everyone in that bunch got there because they were SNL fans. No one became a fan of Jimmy because of his role in Almost Famous, let's put it that way. There was one of Horatio's texts from the lawsuit that stuck out to me—something about how he was "stunted." Without getting into the semantics of that word or whether it's the best choice, it's a good shorthand for how we all got to this comedy fanbase. Late Night did some genuinely absurd bits during that time, like "Wheel of Carpet Samples," and that weirdness was a good home for a lot of people, the same way SNL has historically been a magnet for the weirdos and nerds and other folks on the fringes. And I suspect that's what made it so easy and alluring to people like Horatio and Jimmy—their job & the legacy of the network gave them a built-in, endless source of adoration and people who were either immature or just too young to know better. These are celebrities who literally had people sleeping on a sidewalk week after week for a chance at show tickets. That's a dangerously target-rich environment.
But as to Horatio.
I went back on IMDB to see if he was doing anything in the entertainment world at that time [in the early 2010s] and it doesn't look like it, so I'm going to take a guess and say that he was using Twitter as prolifically as he was because he knew that's where we all were, and knew that any fan of Jimmy's would probably find it cool to be friends with him too. I unfollowed him a long time ago, so I can't access his protected account, but he still follows me. He followed pretty much all of us, reliably responded to tweets, visited the standby line when Jimmy hosted SNL in 2011. Somewhere in 2011 he started this "#horatioskidz" hashtag and "adopted" all of us. Again, something that made people feel like he was a real part of our lives. Young teenage girls calling him "dad," etc. It was common for people to tweet to Jimmy or Horatio asking for luck on an upcoming school test, so they knew we were predominantly young. If you pull up the hashtag on Twitter, it's all still there. People put that hashtag on shirts, kept it in their Twitter bio. For Christmas that year, anyone who wanted a Christmas card sent in their addresses (not to him directly I don't think, there was a fan who handled the mailing) and got the card and business card I emailed you previously. He also started #FFF at some point, which stood for "free foot Fridays," where people would send in photos of their feet to him and he would retweet them. People who've been in abusive or questionable relationships always get grilled with "how did you not realize it was wrong?" and this is a perfect example of that. I was booksmart but not as streetsmart at the time (like a lot of people in the SNL fanbase), and despite being in my late teens, never even realized that was a fetish. That's how easy it is to wrangle in a teenage girl. I never experienced anything out of line from him or Jimmy, and I am personally not aware of anyone who has. I asked around & haven't heard anything. But it wouldn't surprise me at all.
A big chunk of that original fanbase drifted away from Jimmy as we got older and realized it wasn't actually that good. But a large percentage of his fanbase today is still really young, and what can only be described as thirsty. It is extremely weird.
As for SNL—you know as well as I do that they've been getting the "it's not as good as it used to be" response for actual decades at this point. But it still has way more power than people realize. Their dedicated fans are fucking insane. They know it, and they love that power. The ticket system is one of the dumbest and most degrading processes I'm aware of, but they keep it because they know people eat it up. I entered the ticket lottery for years and when I finally won, they emailed me on a Wednesday to give me tickets for the show that Saturday. I was an unemployed college kid in [redacted Southern state] at the time and booked a trip that day, along with my +1 who lived in [redacted other Southern state] and did the same thing. We knew we'd never get that chance again. SNL knows they have that mystical image, and they've used it to their gain this whole time.
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