Would you join the Alan Autry International Fan Club?
Bubba from In The Heat of the Night had some passionate fans!
The internet can occasionally be beautiful when we're not using it to tear each other down. Especially in its early days, the world wide web served as a great way to connect over common interests. The nascent net had sites like GeoCities, where users could build a homepage to chat with others about their favorite media. Today, we take that connection for granted because of how wide-reaching the internet is. You can instantly find thousands, if not millions, of viewers like you. There are hundreds of places you can find like-minded people to share conversations about your favorite things. We don't really have to look too far back in time, though, to find an era where that wasn't the case.
Before the dawn of our digital age, fans had to try harder to connect. This was especially true for people who were passionate about niche topics. If you were the only person in town who felt fanatically about a particular subject, it was really up to you to explore your fandom. There might have been a book or two available at your local library. Or, maybe, if you were really lucky, there might be a magazine that covered your topic of choice. But other than that, there were very few opportunities to connect with strangers about a shared interest.
Carol Nixon is a folk hero and should be celebrated for the way she brought people together over their like-minded obsession. You might not know her name, but Carol was out here doing important work in 1989. She was the founder of the Alan Autry International Fan Club. She fell in love with the actor because of his role on TV's In The Heat of the Night, where he played good ol' boy Bubba Skinner.
Nixon was from Ottawa, but she appreciated Alan Autry for the authentic charm he brought to Heat of the Night. "It's the character he plays," Nixon told the Ottawa Citizen in 1989. "He puts the southern flavor into the show."
It was with Autry's blessing that Nixon launched the fan club. She was proud of her club's seal of approval; other fans of the series tried and failed to start an official fan club.
Alan Autry's acting skills weren't the only thing that sparked Nixon's fandom. To her, the man behind the fictional badge was even more admirable than the cop he played on television. "He loves kids," said Nixon. "And they love him. Wherever he goes, they just flock around him... He once turned down a quarter of a million dollars to appear in Rambo III because it wouldn't be a good image for children."
In addition to celebrating their favorite actor, the Alan Autry International Fan Club raised funds for children's charities. According to her interview in the Ottawa Citizen, Nixon intended to fundraise by selling Autry t-shirts and keychains, as well as hosting functions where the star would make scheduled appearances.