"Being known gets in the way a lot. It's not any fun -- it's terrible. It's frightening. Lots of people like me, but they don't really like me, they like that person I've made up on stage. They can't talk to ME -- that's the worst part. And you never know why they're interested in you. You'll be sitting in a restaurant like this, and you'll notice that somebody across the room is looking at you. Why? I don't know if they're looking at me because they recognize Joel Hodgson or because I have food on my chin. I can't be presumptuous and assume they recognize me. But I can't be naive, either. It's horrible."

-- Joel Hodgson on fame

The Gizmocrat was a monthly online newsletter published in 1994 by a somewhat diehard Joel Hodgson/Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan named Lisa Jenkins (who seemed to use the online nom d’geek “Agent J” or “AgentJ”). The first issue was published November 1994 on Usenet’s rec.arts.tv.mst3k and eventually via a web page.

The newsletter’s name came from Joel Hodgson’ stand up comedy days when he was a prop comic. He referred to himself as a gizmocrat (from which sprung MST3K’s Gizmonics Institute).

The Gizmocrat, over four issues, traced Hodgson’s career, from his early stand up days in 1981 to his departure from MST3K. Her Hodgson biography is brilliant but Hodgson was neither amused nor complimented by Jenkin’s writing or her newsletter. Hodgson got his lawyer to mail her a cease-and-desist letter. She was not allowed to use Hodgson’s trademarked terms like “Gizmocrat” and “Gizmonics”. Further, his lawyer indicated she wasn’t even allowed to use his name in any publications (which a copyright/intellectual property rights lawyer should know is permissible for review purposes, which Jenkins clearly was doing).

Curiously Hodgson’s rather shabby treatment of Jenkins did not dissuade her as a fan. She simply changed the name of her newsletter to Gizmos and continued to write about Hodgson. She started a web site “Agent J's Workshop” (now defunct) that was an unmatched archive of Hodgson information. Jenkins’ dust up (reminiscent of the AD&D-versus-the-Internet copyright battles T$R was waging around the same time) with Hodgson’s lawyers ended up turning her into something of a minor celebrity on the MST3K convention circuit. At conventions, she’d proudly show off the massive scrapbook she maintained of Hodgson-related articles, beginning with an article from the November 25, 1981 edition of the Twin Cities Reader (an article about Hodgson and other finalists in a college comedy contest).

To those that accused her of being a Joel stalker, she calls herself "a well-meaning, loving, attentive, obsessive crazy person." Not a stalker. No, sir.

The famous letter:

Dear Ms. Jenkins:

We represent Joel Hodgson, the owner of all rights to the GIZMONIC name and logo. Recently, it came to our attention that you are publishing an electronic magazine entitled THE GIZMOCRAT without Mr. Hodgson's permission. I enclosed a sample printout of your magazine in which you acknowledge that GIZMONICS is owned by Mr. Hodgson. Your electronic magazine constitutes an infringement of Mr. Hodgson's proprietary rights.

As Mr. Hodgson's attorneys, we must actively protect Mr. Hodgson's intellectual property to maintain his rights. Accordingly, you are hereby advised that you are infringing Mr. Hodgson's trademark and copyrighted material. To avoid further infringement, we demand that you immediately cease and desist from using Mr. Hodgson's name, trademarks, and copyrighted material an in any form for any publication, whether written or electric. In addition, we request that you inform us in writing, before January 10, 1995, that you have complied with this demand. We await your reply.

We reserve all rights and nothing in this letter should be construed as a waiver or release of any of our clients' rights or remedies.


signed Sean A. Luner

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