A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

Tangled Webs

By the Spring of 1999, our domestic rituals were fairly well-established. Each morning, over breakfast, or during a walkabout, Dan and I would review what needed to be done that day around the house, gardens, and ranch. Then I’d carry my mug of tea out to the art studio and Dan would take his coffee to his office. 

    I’d programmed his blue and white Power Macintosh to start up with the intro to James Brown’s song, "I Feel Good," and he’d sip his coffee and bob his head to the music while the computer woke up. Logging on to the internet, he would listen to the 56k modem connecting, which, with the old phone lines at the ranch, could go on for a long time. Some days, those space-y sounds were just plain annoying, so Dan would go get more coffee while he waited.

00:00 / 00:41

    When he got into his AOL mail account, he usually heard the magic words, “You’ve got mail!” Most of his mail was from the office in L.A., but sometimes there was a goofy exchange from one of the friends who shared his irreverent sense of humor and love of words. Elliott Delman, Todd Pasquin, Jim Wilson, Jim Photoglo and Robert McEntee all had different writing styles, but each of them made Dan laugh.

    What follows is the tail end of one of those silly exchanges, between Dan and Robert McEntee:


America Online : Gopherhead 


Date: Saturday, May 23, 1998 12:11:42 PM 

From: Gopherhead

Subject: Re: Villanesche, tenors, hypochondria 



O.K.Rolie, you asked for it.


Loki Jorsalfar was the 2nd illegitimate son of Norway's legendary war mongering general Sigurd Jorsalfar (immortalized in Edvard Grieg's stirring orchestral march entitled, of all things, "Sigurd Jorsalfar") Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, Loki was named after the Norse god of hair transplants and even in infancy was known as Loki the Bald. (Of course, the other Norse god of that elusive pantheon was known as Balder, having even LESS hair.) Upon reaching his 12th birthday, after a less than impressive childhood, Loki was shaken by a vision of Steve Guttenberg reciting several of Edward Lear's nonsense verses in a silk kimono while balancing a large mollusk on his head. The Norwegians, not knowing anything, immediately proclaimed the child a willing accomplice and dug him a great furrow in the back yard where he was invited to roost for a time. Loki stayed be-furrowed for nearly 17 hours before realizing he had been betrayed by his own people and, in an act of rare pulchritude, declared himself a moot point.

All along the watchtower, princes chewed their food while all the mimics came and went, bears and serpents too. Striking out on what seemed to be his own, Loki sailed for the new world but being a poor navigator wound up back in his furrow which he sadly believed to be Newport, Rhode Island. This simple act of bravery won for him a lifetime achievement award from the academy which he generously shared with his half- brother, the lovely Sif. By now, the people had grown excessively weary of Loki's babbling and rakish demeanor and in a jarring letter asked him to no longer carry his meager troth in his legendary small basket.

Loki was crushed. In a fit of hypochondria-tic melancholia (so prevalent back in them thar days) he beached himself on a far Northern hunk of public land and commenced writing his famous treatise on "The Emphasis of Fecundity" which, of course, secured forever his place in the minds and hearts of generations of pointless Norwegian bachelor farmers and their few friends.

Now, aren’t you glad you asked?

Rufus T. Flywheel


Robert’s reply two hours later…


Date: Saturday, May 23, 1998 2:14:58 PM 


Subject: Re: The real story??

To: Gopherhead


Arrrgh me Bucko........ That's all fine, (actually rather brilliant! and maybe my liner notes.) but according to rubbings taken from the Dencklat Suite, just unearthed, debatable. I read that "Loki Jorsalfar" was actually the Scandi-fied and shortened version of the full "Loki ørjårs Ifæ - påc lusçkímz s'yeg græm" still a traditional, although now hopelessly archaic Romanian greeting. 


Nonetheless: In the early part of the 11th century when the long arm of Islam was striking terror into the hearts and arses of (then) modern Christendom, in what is now Romania, there appeared in the mountains (Transylvanian Mtns.) a group of armed bandits, or freedom fighters, (depending on your parents). They put up resistance to Caliph by robbing travelers in the steep mountain passes on the road to Vienna, 


These travelers would attempt to hide precious stones, metals, in their underwear* thinking somehow this would fool the "stoopid bandits". It didn't, and after awhile, the travelers stopped hiding precious things in that treacherous valley. 


Thru continued vigilance, the Caliph was eventually brought to his knees so to speak. And outliving his memory survives the heartfelt expression: "£oki ørjårs Ifce (påc lusck imz s'yeg græm)" The saying has survived and flourished in popular Romanian society for centuries. And tho' its source is now largely forgotten, was actually an invitation for the robbers to: "look for yourself" (the second part, translated = "I've no rubies about my groin" was quietly dropped after just a few years) it quickly took on a polite yet somehow familiar tone and gained popularity as a greeting or as a farewell. It is most often used in the Yule season. "£oki ørjårs Ifø (påc lusck imz s'yeg græm)" ! 


It can still bring a twinkle to the eye of any young Romaine......... let us, think so at least. Accompanied by a warm drink of cæss on a winters night it's truly experience from the heart of ancient Romania. And thank Petroslav Denckla of Milwaukee for preserving it for our children's children.


†Mr. Denckla, who arrived in America from Romania in the early part of this century never really left his homeland. "You can take the boy out of Cluj, but you can't take the Cluj out of the boy" - Which frankly strikes me as fairly uncomfortable not to mention illegal in most states (excluding Arkansas, Texas, and Maine)


* this how the expression "the family jewels" came in to the English language.


All the Best,


Bunky Merganser


Dan’s reply, the following morning…


Date: Sunday, May 24, 1998 9:39:22 AM 

From: Gopherhead

Subject: Re: The real story??

To: RBMCENTEE should be ashamed... I am. Be that as it may, you overlooked one small detail which, if I may point out, fills your theory more full of holes than a 600 pound wheel of Swiss cheese, my fine archaic and bat- winged buddy! While all well and good about the family jewels you seem to misinterpret the actual spelling of LOKI which in Romainian is actually spelled LOCHI which is of course the present plu perfect for "Looky!" which many generations of Romain lettuce heads would colorfully yell at the dinner table while opening their gaping mouths with a full compliment of chewed victuals to display to their amused and delighted dining companions. 


Thought you could slip one by on the ol' hornswaggler hisself did ye', laddie buck? Well, you'll have get up mighty early in the mornin' to fill the swagman's dustbin with rocksalt or as the Aussie's say so cleverly..."Screw you, mate!"


In any event , I stand by my story and am prepared to go to court to defend what little honor I still maintain in the face of these ongoing and seemingly unremitting attacks on my personal well being.


Koo koo goo joob,


Ancillary P. Rhinoplasty



    When I moved to the ranch in August of 1998, the World Wide Web was only eight years old. Mosaic, the software that started the internet boom, was five years old. Mosaic was developed by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, thanks to the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, created and introduced by a computer nerd named Al Gore. Tech companies and large corporations had the first websites, but thanks to Mosaic, small businesses were starting to stake their claims on the web.

    Online communities, which came to be known as chat rooms, message boards, and forums, had been around since the 70s. They had evolved from the education system, PLATO, created in 1960 by Donald L. Bitzer at, yes, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. AOL chat rooms went mainstream in the early 90s and became really popular with the public.

    There were plenty of discussion communities dedicated to popular musicians and bands. Most members were looking for concert information and a community of like-minded people. A few of them, though, were what Dan referred to as “the obsessives.” 

    Before the internet, these were the people who would write 17-page (tiny writing, double-sided) letters to Dan. One day he received one of those letters and showed it to me. The woman who wrote it had a husband and two children she mentioned in the letter. Reading it, you would think she and Dan had been lovers for years, but it ended with “…and just think how great it’s going to be when we actually meet!” I imagine those women told themselves they were writing fan letters, but I couldn’t help thinking of the husbands who would be hurt if they discovered that their wives were writing letters like that to another man. Those were sad, but some of them were downright scary.

    Dan kept the more disturbing letters in a file, and if they started going too far, the office in L.A. would send a Cease and Desist notice. If that didn’t work, they’d contact the local sheriff in that town and ask them to have a word.

With the advent of the internet, the obsessives could share their fantasies with the world, while hiding behind an invented screen name with no return address to make them accountable. 

    The early websites created by Dan fans were:,,,,, and Some of them had forums and, at their best, they were places where friendships were formed and music discussed. At their worst, anyone with an opinion could start a discussion thread full of falsehoods about Dan’s private life.

    Deb Jelinek strictly moderated her Living Legacy forum and kept the comments from getting too off-topic and crazy, so Dan authorized his management to give her the latest news. It was a coup for her; her site was the go-to place for current, reliable information about upcoming events and albums. The other webmasters would re-post her info on their own website pages and, for the most part, they all tried to respect Dan’s privacy. 

    The forums were another matter. Dan stayed away from them and recommended I do the same. Of course, that created a Pandora’s Box, and I was unable to resist looking inside. Right away, I came across a comment by a woman who had seen us in a Lake Tahoe casino the day after a concert. She reported seeing me, “...with her split ends and cheap Kmart clothes.” I’d been criticized by people I knew before, often deservedly, but this was the first time I’d had a complete stranger belittle me in such a public arena.

    I told Dan I'd try to remember to trim my hair before tours, and he said it wouldn't matter. "If they don't like you, they'll find something to use against you." If I'd been wearing Chanel and had a $500 haircut, they would have put me down for that.

    The sky-blue chenille sweater I’d worn that day was from a little Santa Fe shop I’d worked at, called Lucille’s. I loved that sweater, but I gave it away not long after seeing the forum. Every time I put it on, those mean-spirited words would pop into my head, overriding the color, softness, and sweet memories of working at Lucille’s. That was enough for me; I followed Dans lead and stayed away from the forums.


    When Anna (the fake therapist from the Finding Captain Nemo chapter) surfaced on the fan forums, all hell broke loose. She first approached them by saying she was a friend of Dan’s who was writing her dissertation on how fans related to celebrities. She asked people to write about what Dan’s music meant to them. In August of 1996, though, she waded into a thread that had started on Dan’s birthday. She owned two llamas, so she used the screen name, Llamaz. 

    At first she appeared to be just another fan, but before long she was posting comments that made it sound like she was Dan. She said she lived in Pagosa Springs. She had a boat called Serenade. Then, as some of the fans were obviously getting excited and asking about upcoming albums and tours, she started getting more explicit, dropping names she had picked up from hanging out at the ranch with Anastasia.

    Two of the forum users weren’t buying it, but the rest were buzzing like bees, asking questions and talking about their favorite songs. No one actually came out and asked “Are you really Dan?” and after she said goodnight, and left the chat room, she probably sat back and watched the discussion that ensued:


Thursday August 15, 1996 

America Online


TPres 40926: Wow, was that great or what?? 

TheKimsta: Unbelievable! 

RWaters: there's no way 

TPres 40926: don't think so RWaters? 

TheKimsta: Why not? 

TBayt: i checked the member profile on Llamaz - it was unavailable 

TheKimsta: that's usual 

TPres 40926: what did it say? 

Thomas 436: Ditto - I checked it too 

RWaters: Too many questions he couldn't answer, and no one as politically correct as DF would say he was "a quart down" on his birthday

CisN: listen, he knew my real name and there's only one way he could

Thomas 436: Might he have been logged on as a guest? 

RWaters: no way 

TAELCAT001: Guys, it's him. He is using a friend's address.

Thomas 436: He said he borrowed the pc didn't he? 

CisN: hey guys he KNEW who I was!! 

TheKimsta: It "felt" like him 

SMOKEY596: I thought he was weird when he came in 

TAELCAT001: You all can believe what you want. I know it's him. I'm going now. 

SMOKEY596: I think it was him  

RWaters: no way 

MartoV: naive as i am, i believe......... 

SMOKEY596: It just felt weird at first...that's why I believe... 

RWD: I'd like to believe 

CisN: I’ll let you know if I DO hear from him, how's that? 

TBayt: CisN, please do 

NLNJ334: Good Night All......I will have a large phone bill after tonight! But it was worth it! 

MartoV: i agree, NLNJ334.............good night 

SMOKEY596: night! 

Thomas 436: Ditto here about the phone bill 

TBayt: bye, NLNJ334... have a good one... 

LBetin: 'nighers 

MartoV: yes, me too............ three hours of long distance.......... 

CisN: It had to be him but he was getting a bit surly with the quart..gotta go.. 

RWD: Yes, even if it isn't, this has been a whole lot of fun tonight 

TheKimsta: Good night all!!!!


    These were people who had established trust and friendships with each other over time, so they were an easy target for an internet con artist. It spiraled from there, with the forum splitting between believers and non-believers, the believers clinging to this wonderful dream come true and the non-believers trying to talk sense to them. Friendships, and one serious relationship, were shattered, and the forum closed. Anna moved on to other forums, sometimes pretending to be Dan, Anastasia, and me, creating little dramas between us.

    Some of the moderators were outraged at what was happening, so they wrote to Dan’s management in L.A. They asked that Dan come to their forums and set the record straight. Living our busy, creative life in the mountains, we were oblivious to all the ruckus. Dan's publicist, Laurie, handled public relations and when she first started working with him, she never could have dreamt that this would one day be a part of her job description. She had to placate forum moderators who felt Dan should wade into the insanity to protect his fans, and webmasters who felt other websites were getting preferential treatment. Gone were the days of 10-person fan clubs in little towns, asking for autographed photos. It was a whole new world.


    Then, in 2005, Anna went too far. Pretending to be a hunky firefighter named Jesse Jubilee James, she started an online relationship with a woman that would result in a lawsuit against her for "defamation, fraudulent misrepresentation; posing as a man and twenty other fake personas, in order to play psychological games on Plaintiff.”

     The story made national headlines and in March of 2011, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled in favor of the woman, saying: ”Viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff], we cannot say that she merely closed her eyes and allowed herself to be deceived. The allegations show an extensive masquerade to deceive, and reliance on the many-faceted and corroborative characters and misrepresentations can be found to be justified."

    Anna appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court which ruled in her favor, saying, "As regrettable as the alleged facts are, we hold that they are not the types of facts upon which a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation may be pled.” 

    It was an important precedent and a reminder that the laws are meant to protect people against fraudulent business practices; they don’t provide recourse for people who’ve had their hearts broken by fakers on the internet.


    When Dan and I learned about what had gone down in the forums, we were appalled. I felt sorry for the people who had believed they were chatting with Dan, but I had to smile, imagining him pecking away with two fingers, trying to keep up with all the questions and comments. I thought of our early emails, when I would type a question and then sit back and wait for his reply:


5/1/97 Instant AOL Message From: Songurl


Songurl: I had a delicious dream about you last night. 

Gopherhead: Did it involve almond danish? 

Songurl: No, no almonds at all. 

Gopherhead: You know when you have your hair in a braid you look more than a little Danish.

Songurl: I think the same thing about you. 

Songurl: How are you feeling this morning? 

Songurl: Did you find your surprise? 

Songurl: Am I sending questions faster than you can type? 

Gopherhead: Or think. 

Songurl: If you want to call me at work sometime, my private line is 3329.

Songurl: I'm heading off to work now. So lovely to start the day chatting with you. Not as lovely as chatting in bed, looking at your rumpled lion's mane, but that's okay. 

Gopherhead: If you want to call me when I'm online the ranch number is 970-264-****. 

Songurl: Okay. 

Gopherhead: I can't type worth a damn! 

Songurl: It's okay, you are excellent in so many other areas. 

Songurl: I have to have something I do better than you. 

Gopherhead: Meet me in the spirit of the homestead. 

Songurl: Alright. Have fun hunting for books. Have a lovely day. 

Gopherhead: You too. 


Gopherhead: Over and out.


    In 1997, Dan agreed to do online chats with Prodigy and AOL. For years, he’d been doing radio and magazine interviews to promote albums and tours; the moderated chats were an extension of those, in a new medium that would enable the fans to interact with him directly. The moderators did all the typing, with Dan giving his answers to them over the phone. He was skeptical at first, after hearing about some of the fan forum catastrophes, but it actually went very well. The fans asked good questions, and he relaxed and enjoyed himself.

    I was learning how to create HTML-based websites and animated landing pages for friends. Before showing them their new website, I would run it by Dan first. I told him what kind of customer he was, then I’d stand behind him as he logged on to the site and tried to find the product or service I told him he was looking for. He often missed links that I thought were completely obvious, so it was very helpful. After I’d designed ten websites, it was only natural that a couple of do-it-yourselfers like us would decide to create one of our own.

    Luckily for us, the domain, had been registered by a fan, and not one of the many domain speculators, or cybersquatters, who were buying up domains like crazy and making millions of dollars selling them to their rightful owners.

    In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, big companies were just beginning to realize the importance of having a website on this new medium, the World Wide Web. Cybersquatters, or cyberpirates, were registering domain names of big companies, in the hopes of later selling (ransoming) them to the legal trademark holders at exorbitant prices. One cybersquatter’s warehouse of domain names included: Rolls-Royce, Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Burger King, McDonald’s, and on and on. In 1999 Congress passed the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), which allows trademark holders to bring federal lawsuits against cybersquatters for what is, basically, trademark infringement. 

    The fan sold us the domain name for a very reasonable price, and we began creating a website that the fans could go to for current and accurate information. We continued working with Deb Jelinek - her Living Legacy website would provide things that wouldn’t, like a forum and a newsletter. She was the only website designer I knew, and it was nice to have someone I could commiserate with about software glitches, and swap coding solutions with. 

    Between the two websites, Dan and I felt like we had a fair amount of control over the information that was being shared on the web. There were times when we wished we had that kind of control in our life at the ranch.


Dan invited some people up for a holiday party, including a local Pagosa Springs couple he met through Anastasia and considered to be his friends. After dinner we all went down to the music studio with our glasses of wine, to hear some tracks from the new album Dan was working on. The couple brought out some hashish brownies and offered them around. Dan and I politely declined, as did most of our guests.

    The next day, the couple called Anastasia and told her the party had been no fun without her. She told Dan. He was hurt that a guest in his home would accept his hospitality and then betray him so callously. From then on, the guest lists were limited to trusted friends with no ties to his ex-wife.

    Drugs were never again a part of our life at the ranch. Both of us had been there, and done that, and we were having a great time without them. Spirits and fine wines were our drugs of choice now. And, after smoking cigarettes for thirty years, and hating them for the last ten, Dan was finally able to quit.

Dan told me stories about some of the things fans had done to try and meet him. The stories were meant to make me aware that I had to be careful, but it’s the kind of thing I had to experience a few times before I really got it. 

    I was in the garden one day when a green Subaru Outback pulled up to the house. A man with long gray hair and a beard was driving, and he had two pretty blondes with him. They got out of the car and said they’d come to meet Dan. I asked if Dan was expecting them. The fact that they were there in front of me meant someone had opened the gate for them, but Dan hadn’t mentioned any visitors to me.

    The man said no, Dan wasn’t expecting them, and one of the women said, with a lilting German accent, “We just want to meet him.” I thought about how pissed off Dan would be at these strangers for violating his sacred retreat, and said, “No…you really don’t.” After that, I don’t remember what I said to discourage them, but they were pretty cool about it and got back in the car.

    As an afterthought, I leaned down to look in at the driver and asked, “How did you get through the gate?” He said, “Oh, it was open.” Well, I was very glad to know about this, and thanked him.

    As they drove away, I took off my gardening gloves and went into the house. I could hear Dan working in the music studio, and didn’t want to disturb him, so I just grabbed my car keys by the kitchen door and went to look at the gate. I drove down the road and as I came through the trees I could see the green Subaru parked just past the gate, which was bent and lying on its side next to the road. The driver and one of the women were standing by some trees, and the other woman was sitting in the car with her door open.

    It was so strange to see the gate lying on the ground - it was made of thick metal bars, and lifted up when opened. Any time it had malfunctioned in the past, it was left in the up position. As I was looking at the bent hinges, the man came up to me and said he’d met the two German women in a bar in town and they really wanted to meet Dan, so he’d offered to bring them up. When they got there, the gate was as I saw it. 

    I drove back up to the house and told Dan everything, and he called the Sheriff. He scolded me for not coming into the house right away and getting him. 

     We met the Sheriff at the gate and the Subaru was gone. It was obvious that the guy had assumed the gate swung sideways, so he pushed it with the car until it broke off the hinge. I never dreamed people would go to such destructive lengths to get to Dan, or that they could lie so easily and convincingly to my face. Feeling completely foolish afterward, I just kept saying, “But they seemed so nice!” It was a lesson learned.


I felt ready to take my little website business public, so I was going to have to come up with a name. It was much like thinking of a name for a band, except I had the only vote. 

    There was a small garden under the big eave next to the garage. It was a difficult place for plants to grow, out of the sun and rain. I was no gardener, but Dan’s beloved cat, Merlin, was buried there so I wanted it to be pretty. It was hallowed ground, after all.

    Orange Daylillies and blue Forget-Me-Nots were struggling to survive on either side of the small wooden cross that marked Merlin’s grave. I weeded, fertilized, and watered, and after a while the plants began to thrive. It was a special spot for me, and it gave me the confidence to work on the other gardens around the house. 


    I dubbed my growing website business “Merlyns Garden,” using the spelling I preferred. I had an income again, which was important to me because I didn’t want to buy Dan gifts with his money.

    We were each learning our own lessons about trust, betrayal, and lies, both on the home front and the new frontier that was the internet. And even as we untangled ourselves from our pasts, we became more caught up in the beautiful web that had been weaving itself around us since our first date.


Posted September 12th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020