THE MEENO PELUCE FAN CLUB
Voyagers Guidebook is very proud to present a page dedicated to the original Meeno Peluce Fan Club. One of the MPFC's founders, Debbie Sheldon, had discovered the Voyagers Guidebook and saw her name listed. Debbie was part of a small group of fans that spear-headed a campaign to keep Voyagers! on-air longer than expected. Rest assured, fans today are entirely grateful!
Debbie graciously donated her materials for me to scan and display on-site and she agreed to an exclusive interview!
The Guidebook would like to request that if any of the original Fan Club members for either Jon, Meeno, or Voyagers! sees this page, please don't hesitate to consider donating memorabilia and/or sharing scans you have to keep all the original Fan Clubs in memory. If you have a story to share, I'd be happy post it.
Q: Whose initial decision was it to create the Meeno Peluce Fan Club?
It was Meeno's decision! It happened like this: three of us, including myself, Vanessa Sundstrom and Tracy Graham saw that Meeno was going to be making an appearance at a convention and we decided to attend to see him as we had all become fans of Voyagers! We went up to his table where he was sitting with his Public Relations person, Scott Taylor.
As we talked with them, one of us asked the question, do you have a fan club? He replied, No, start one! His PR man asked us if we'd be interested in doing so and we thought about it (for about 5 seconds!) and said, okay! He promised to send us an official letter of permission and to work with us to get it started. That's how it began!
Q: Why did you choose to make a Fan Club for Meeno Peluce?
The three of us had been watching Voyagers! since it came on the air. We thought Meeno was talented and so much fun to watch that we were excited to go see him at the convention (Creation Convention, I believe) and tell him how much we enjoyed his performance.
It never entered our minds to start a fan club until we spoke with him. When he asked us, we knew there must be hundreds of other fans out there that would love to have news about him. He deserved a fan club, and he was so gracious and down-to-earth as we talked with him that we just said yes!
Q: How was the fan club structured? Did you have monthly/bi-monthly newsletters? Was it nationwide?
We began by putting an advertisement in Starlog magazine that the MPFC was being initiated. We received letters almost immediately from both children and adults all over the country. As the club grew, we also sent in listings to other Teen magazines and newsletters.
The club grew quickly. We decided to put together a fan club kit that would include Meeno's biography, an initial welcome newsletter page from Meeno, an autographed picture, membership card, and a fan club button. We made the button ourselves, Scott sent us an official biography to use, Sondra gave us a stack of autographed pictures, and one of our new members actually did a sketch to use on the front of our newsletter.
The newsletters then came out monthly and had such sections as 'In the Meentime', giving news of what Meeno was doing, and reviews and synopses of various of his performances, a pen pal section, a quiz or challenge section (for instance, matching quotes with episodes, etc.), and several other sections.
We also set up tables at conventions to promote the club. When we had these ideas together Meeno's mother invited us all to the set to have lunch and spend the day so we could show her and the others what we had and finalize their permission for everything. She also asked us if we would help answer Meeno's fan mail. He got cartons and cartons full of mail every week.
We began picking up the fan mail from him and sent out autographed pictures and club invitations with the answers. It was a lot of work, but it was fun. We also got frequent updates from Sondra. She was the most gracious lady we could have imagined and everyone was very cooperative with us.
Q: How long did the fan club last?
Debbie: The listing in Starlog was in March of 1983. The club lasted until early 1985, I believe. We had hoped to follow Meeno in his career, but he was acting less and less, and a set of unfortunate circumstances in our personal lives kept us from continuing also. We got fewer and fewer memberships, and the club kind of petered out in early 1985. We had planned to put out a memory book of Meeno's career, but it was never realized.
Q: Did you have regular fan club meetings?
Debbie: The three of us who started the club were best friends so we were always together anyway. A fourth member whose first letter was very impressive became our fourth club leader. Her name was Margo Coburn (now Margo May). She lived in Reno, NV, but we visited together often. We met with Meeno and his PR person and his mother at the studio and spoke with Meeno one other time at a house of some fans who lived two doors away from him. We also picked up the fan mail about once a month.
We had a fan club picnic in Griffith Park, which was attended by those who could make it to the area. This was about two blocks from Meeno's house. Because our membership was so spread out over the country it was impossible to have actual meetings; however, we corresponded with many of the members regularly.
Meeno's mother always sent us new updated photos and answers to questions, as did his PR person. We had a section in the newsletters where fans could ask Meeno questions and Meeno would send us the answers to be published. We also got answers to questions from James Parriott.
Q: What kind of kid was Meeno? He seemed very intelligent and playful. What did you think of his family, and how did they feel about the Fan Club?
Meeno was a wonderful kid. We did not talk to him directly on very many occasions, but the time we spent with him really impressed us. He was very quiet at first, then became a bit more talkative. He did impress us as being extremely intelligent, but one who loved to clown around and laugh. He was also very o both thanked us for starting the club and we felt as though they were both very happy that someone wanted to do so. They were also very humble and down-to-earth.
When we saw Meeno at his neighbor's house he was mature for his age, and seemed to have good, strong values he believed in even at thirteen. We never met Soleil, but Sondra, his mother, was very soft-spoken, very gracious and eager to cooperate with us in the club. She and Meeno were skateboarding and came in to talk with us for a few minutes. He just acted like a normal kid, and didn't seem impressed with himself at all.
Q: What was Meeno's first reaction to the fan club?
The day we met him and he said in answer to our question of whether he had a fan club, "No, start one!", I think he was surprised and thrilled that someone wanted to do so. I got the impression he just thought it would be fun to have one.
Q: How long did it take to compile all the necessary information, pictures and fanmail/fan-postings that are found in the MPFC newsletters?
I assume you mean how long did it take for us to do each one? It really depended on what we already had and what we had to wait for. When we sent out our applications we also sent a paper to be returned by those who wanted to be included in our Center Stage section or the Write People Pen Pal section, so that information was always readily available.
The games and quizzes didn't take long to compile, maybe a few hours. The things that took the longest were "In the Meentime" and the Events schedules because we had to get that information from Meeno or Scott Taylor.
Sometimes it took them a little while to get back to us due to their busy schedules. We almost always had what we needed within two to three weeks and the newsletter came out each month. Putting it all together, as crude as it was back in those days, really only took a day of typing, cutting and pasting. At some point I believe we had a contest to name the newsletter and the name that won was "The Meenozine."
I think we used that in later newsletters. Some columns were there in every newsletter, like "In the Meentime," and "Center Stage," but sometimes we had reviews of programs Meeno had been in, like when he guest starred in "Silver Spoons," or other TV shows, so some sections were intermittent.
Q: Who was responsible for different sections of the newsletter? How did you divide the tasks amongst the club managers?
I believe we were all responsible for everything. We got information from Meeno, of course. We all got together and pulled out the cartons of fan mail from Sondra and had kind of a fan mail answering party whenever we could. We'd combine it with a Voyagers! marathon usually. I think Vanessa and I did most of the quizzes. It was pretty unstructured, more like, "Hey I've got a great trivia question," or, "Why don't I write up a review of Meeno in this or that," and in it went. I know Vanessa did several of the reviews. Margo sent at least one write-up about a convention where we had a display table. It was all very democratic and fun.
We'd get together about once a week and put it together. I did the actual page make-up, word processing and putting it all together. Tracy and I did the copying. I recall sitting up in Vanessa's attic bedroom while she, Tracy and I made buttons on her button-making machine. The buttons were part of the membership kit. But it was definitely a joint effort. We all worked together and that's why it's hard to recall exactly who did what, but we had a great time meeting together to do it.
Margo's Convention Write-up:
"What can be said about a weekend that started out perfect and ended perfect? We arrived at the Creation Convention early and were able to set up the Meeno Peluce Fan Club table. It seemed as though from the very start, we had people come up to us and ask us about the club and Meeno. Even before the convention began, We had some of the Dealers come up and tell us about the pictures they had of Meeno and Jon-Erik, as well as some Voyagers! Scripts they had.
We had a lot of people come up to the table and ask about Meeno, what he did before Voyagers!, and what he was doing now. Some of them had seen him in Voyagers!, however most of the people remembered Meeno from “Best of the West” episodes on video tape. Several members came to the convention and stopped by the table to chat and find out what was happening and were given a nice gift for showing up.
It was surprising – actually not really – how many people are impressed with Meeno as an actor. And everyone we talked to agrees that Meeno has quite a future ahead of him! But that goes without saying. The Meeno Peluce Fan Club was able to pick up some new members and sell various items that we brought with us. However, the best thing was that we were able to get people interested in Meeno, the programs he’s done, and the Fan Club.
All in all, it was an experience to be able to talk with people who know Meeno, have briefly met him or just admire him. After all, it was the perfect weekend." – Margo Coburn
Q: How many newsletters did the FC print during its run?
The Meenozine came out every other month. Those six issues came with the club membership, and each year we had a contest for the cover sketch of Meeno so it changed from the first year to the second. Then as the club began to wind down a bit due to our personal situations and dwindling membership (at the end I believe we had about 36 members; at our peak close to 300) the last few newsletters started coming out a little late and not quite as often.
OMNI & GUIDEBOOK CAKES, A LETTER FROM JON-ERIK, ON-SET TOURS…
MEETS THE MPFC
Despite their age difference, Meeno and Jon-Erik were very friendly toward each other. No egos there! Many fans like to presume their relationship reflected that of their characters. PB & J – Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly. They're partners and best buds forever.
Q: I ask this jokingly, but was Jon-Erik jealous? What did he think of this young boy getting a Fan Club before him?
I can't read minds, but I never saw any signs of jealousy in Jon-Erik. He did not impress me as the jealous type. We asked the studio about starting a fan club for him, but they said they were going to start a studio club so we dropped the idea. The one time we met him I got the feeling he was very happy for Meeno.
Q: It's well documented that Meeno and Jon-Erik were close, and Meeno himself has said they were good friends. What was your impression of the relationship between Meeno and Jon-Erik?
My impression was that they got along very well and the day we were in Meeno's trailer they talked to each other more than anyone else. They seemed like two insiders talking about things they both understood. I think Jon-Erik was still young enough to speak Meeno's language. They both appeared to be fun-loving, but serious when necessary.
I got the impression that neither had a big ego or anything to prove, and that neither was jealous in any way of the other, but that both were having a good time doing the show and were enjoying sharing it together. Jon-Erik also seemed somewhat protective of Meeno. I recall him warning Meeno about something, but I can't remember now what it was. He acted like he really cared about him.
Q: It's amazing that you visited him on the set. Do you remember what episode they were filming at the time?
We were invited to the set by Meeno's mother, Sondra. I'm sure she wanted to check out those who were going to run his fan club! She was so gracious and kind and could not have been nicer. We were pretty overwhelmed, too, at being invited!
We met Scott at the gate and had lunch with him, Meeno and Sondra in the commissary. The only thing I recall about that lunch, other than discussing the fan club and showing them what we were doing, was that Meeno had eggs and toast for lunch! The only reason I have any inkling of what they were filming is because of the blue shirt Jon-Erik was wearing, and also because I remember the set being the same room as used in The Trial of Phineas Bogg.
I know we were there around February 26 or so because it was Meeno's birthday. If my memory (this was 20+ years ago!) serves me right, they were filming 'Destiny's Choice,' and the room was the courtroom. In the pictures taken of us that day you can see that Jon-Erik has on the blue shirt he wore in that episode.
On the day we were there they were not actually filming, but doing what is called looping. It's like dubbing or voice-overs. Actually, that was a good thing for us because we got to spend more time with them! Another thing I recall is walking through the set area behind the actual set and stepping over a lot of ropes and equipment and Scott telling us to be careful.
Q: How was Meeno's trailer? I can almost imagine him allowing Jon to hang in it from time to time.
It's difficult to remember the inside of his trailer at all. I do remember there being a sofa and a table. It was not a large trailer at all. With seven of us in there it was pretty cramped (not that we minded!). We must have been in there about 20 minutes eating Meeno's birthday cake and talking, but for the life of me I cannot remember what we talked about! I think Jon-Erik did most of the talking. The picture of us with Meeno and Jon-Erik was taken just outside the trailer.
Q: The Omni cake sounds awesome! I'd always thought it would make a great cake subject. What did it look like and what was Meeno and Jon's reaction to it?
I have a picture of a second Omni cake just like the first one which I am sending for the website. It was round with brown icing and other colors used for the dial and the globe. Meeno and Jon-Erik both loved it and I remember Jon-Erik especially being impressed and saying "Awesome!" I remember Jon-Erik lounging on what I believe was a sofa and eating his!
Meeno's early childhood life seemed to mirror the kind of adventures Jeffrey Jones had as a Voyager!
"What happens to a child, born in Amsterdam to American parents traveling on a five-year odyssey around the world, who, as an infant, lives in a windmill in Holland, rides camels across the deserts of the Far East and elephants up the mountains of India, and names himself (at age 3) while hiking on the lower levels of Mount Everest? A child who is nearly five years old before first witnessing such conveniences as hot-and-cold running water and light switches?"
Written by his former publicist, Scott Taylor.
Sweet Jon-Erik Hexum was almost notorious for his letters. He had a large, loopy and dramatic scrawl – and wrote with an upward, positive slant. He used whatever scrap paper he could find and most often wrote on an upside down sheet flipped over.
Sloppy handwriting can be the sign of a busy person and Jon was constantly on the go. His letters were short, sweet, often humorous. Jon was kind and considerate in sending them to friends and fans whenever possible, keeping them updated on his latest projects.
This letter was written on an upside down, pink script sheet. It's from the final Voyagers! episode, "Jack's Back." – Too funny!
Read more correspondences from the Jon-Erik Hexum Fan Club and Archive website: Letters from Jon-Erik.
Q: And a final question. What do you think about the current Voyagers! revival during the recent years due to the Internet? Jon and the show were almost forgotten, as was Meeno's child-star career – but now everything we could find about them, plus the official DVD release is accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. You and the Meeno Peluce Fan Club did twenty-five years ago what we do today, but with different tools, and as you mentioned, a lot of hard work!
Wow! What we could have done with the MPFC twenty-five years ago (Now 35!) if we'd had the Internet. I can only imagine (and I have quite an imagination!), but what the Voyagers Guidebook site and Jon-Erik's Fan Club site are doing today is a real indication, although I think a lot more work goes into this website than what was needed simply to handle a fan club. I think the revival is wonderful.
I am stunned at the interest in these sites and at the attention they are getting from both old and new fans. Parents and adults who watched Voyagers! back in 1983 are now able to bring not only the show, but everything about the show to a new generation, when there is little for this generation that is wholesome, decent and teaches good values. Perhaps that's one reason the revival is so popular, it is an oasis in the vast wasteland of TV and the internet.
I regret that I cannot show these programs to my students at school as they would not only learn so much about history by using the shows as a kick-off for further study, but would enjoy them immensely! Then they could go to your website and really get involved. Ah well, that's the dreamer in me. The best thing is that because of the Internet and the Voyagers! related websites, generations to come will still be able to enjoy all of this after my generation is gone.
Finally, I have a selfish reason for being happy to find this revival and website, and to find someone like, you, Ginger. I am getting older and I have often wondered what would become of all my Voyagers! memorabilia when I move on to glory. I even thought of tossing it in the trash at one time because there was nothing more to do with it and it was just gathering dust on a shelf. I knew no one else who would care about it.
Now I know that there is a place where it can one day be preserved. Perhaps someone who does not have originals that I have can use them and enjoy them. This website will receive everything one day and I'm sure you can find someone who would like to have it all. It will never end up in the trash.
Time passes, but as Bogg would say, "Time is our oyster!"
Long live Voyagers!
I want to sincerely thank Ms. Sheldon for sharing her time, memories, and wonderful memorabilia. It's now become a part of entertainment history that can be appreciated by fans the world over! – Voyager G
May all your landings be soft!