This is a story about soccer moms.
Or, more specifically, sweet yet utterly obsessed moms and the lengths to which they go to chat with their favorite imaginary teen vampire.
This is the world of TwilightMOMS.
Twilight is the first in a series of best-selling young-adult novels by Stephenie Meyer. First published in 2005, the series follows the story of "Bella," a teen who is forced to move to the "small town of Forks, [Wash.]" In Forks she falls in love with Edward, a 100-plus-year-old vampire who looks like a hot teen himself. And, much in the same vein of other young-adult blockbusters like Harry Potter, these books are now being turned into movies. The first, Twilight, has been filming in and around Portland, which has doubled for Forks since February.
"I started [TwilightMOMS] because I was going through some midlife crisis. I was obsessed with the books. I thought I was the only adult woman who had read the books and was preoccupied 24 hours a day with the relationships between these vampires, werewolves and humans. It was my shameful dark secret. I never talked to anyone about it except the teenage girls that babysat my kids."
That's Lisa Hansen, a 34-year-old Utah mother of two. Hansen started up her TwilightMOMS fansite on Oct. 6, 2007. At first it was just Hansen and a few other fans. But the site grew—quickly.
Although there are at least 100 other Twilight-related fansites—most of them by and for teens—the relatively new TM has soared to the top in popularity in less time than it takes to text-message. That's saying a lot, considering that to be a TM you must be one of the following: over 25, a mom, or married. Hansen says TM—forums full of recipes, exercise tips and fan fiction—has 4,000-plus registered members with 100 new ones a day, and at any given time between 6,000 and 23,000 ominous-sounding "lurkers." "In the beginning we found out what actors had filled the [Twilight movie] roles of the [books'] characters. We knew the fans didn't know and nobody was telling them. So we went ahead and did it," explains Hansen about the Moms' unique niche in the Twilight zone.
Hansen—who works full time, has a "full load of housework, kids, husband and a website that feels like a second full-time job"—only got to visit Twilight's Portland set once toward the end of filming (it's scheduled to wrap May 1). But there are plenty of local TMs who are more than happy to keep their fellow vampire-lovers up to date on daily Twilight set drama.
I discovered this not long after the film started shooting in early February and WW posted a couple of cast pictures on wweek.com. "Hi, Byron. I belong to TwilightMoms," read the email. "If you need any help stalking, um, I mean doing 'investigative reporting,' please let me know. I am pretty excited about all of this so I would be willing to do anything (follow you around with a fan, grab your coffee, whatever) to help. (Lynds)."
That's Lyndsey Wymore. A cute, curvy, 31-year-old local part-time pharmacy tech, "Lynds" was one of the first TMs to sneak on the movie's set. By the time she contacted me she said she had already ventured onto a closed Clackamas set, chatted up the actor who plays Edward, Rob Pattinson (also known as "Cedric Diggory" from the Harry Potter flicks), and generally hung around where she wasn't supposed to be.
That's the M.O. of the TMs. They're always popping up where they least belong. Summit Entertainment's Wyck Godfrey, the film's producer, says rabid fans are just part of the package. "It's great that Twilight already has this built-in fan base," Godfrey says about the "religious fervor" Twilight has whipped its frenzied fans into. "[Overall] it's been a positive experience." Then again, this measured response is coming from a pro who dealt with paparazzi sneaking all over the Portland set of Summit's Jennifer Aniston vehicle Management last year.
Access to any film set can vary depending on the studio and talent. Twilight has been open to the media. Guests of the filmmakers were also afforded access to the set. Bloodthirsty moms? Not so much. But with chutzpah and a willingness to drive hours to whispered-about out-of-town locales, almost anybody can figure out a way to wrangle their way to within viewing range of a set.
And that's what these obsessed TMs did. Despite a website code of conduct that says no TM is to interfere with the production, on one of the days I visited the set Wymore and a friend were there handing out cookies and coffee from inside the kitchen of the Viewpoint Inn, near the mouth of the breathtakingly beautiful Columbia Gorge, the site for Twilight's pivotal prom scene. They weren't supposed to hand out cookies. Hell, officially they weren't supposed to be there at all. They just did it. (Wymore says they "got in" via the Inn's owner.) Later the Moms tried to sneak into an area where MTV and Seventeen magazine were interviewing Twilight's stars. They were shooed back to the kitchen.
Local blogger the One True B!x (Christopher Frankonis), runs "Can't Stop the Serenity," a global charity event that screens Serenity—the follow-up to the TV show Firefly, another series with a fanatical following. "I've never heard of some group routinely inviting themselves to watch film shoots," says Frankonis. "[There are] always random individuals who try to go get "scoops" by trying to snag pictures or videos of high-profile shoots in their area (Batman in Chicago or the new Star Trek in L.A.). But that sort of concerted coordinated effort by the TwilightMOMS is new to me."
Hansen believes the TM site has helped its members. "Many women 'found themselves' again after having fallen into routines after marriage—work, kids, etc.," says Hansen. "The social-ness has brought enthusiasm back into [their] lives through the common bond of these books. Perhaps the greatest thing it offers is proof that none of them is actually crazy."
Right. That said, the TMs are capable of crazy stuff.
Take, for example, one of Wymore's local TM buddies: 31-year-old, married Washougal, Wash., mom Rhonda Domurat (the one who helped Wymore hand out cookies). A huge fan of the book, she jokingly admits she sometimes forgets to clean her house, or even feed her kid, due to her obsession with Twilight.
"You have to understand," Domurat explained, "I will do anything for Twilight." And she has. Not only has she visited the set more times than she can remember (she was only officially invited once), she's also tried out to be a teen extra and even has taken "leftovers" (the ultimate no-no) from a working set. "I scored a tree from one of the places they shot where they attached rebar to trees and stuck them on stands as a part of the scenery," she told me. "Nothing like dragging your 2-year-old through the muck in his red wagon to grab a piece of discarded movie scenery!"
For Domurat, it's as important to see the truck Bella drives as it is to see the actress, Kristen Stewart, who plays her. That's how much she loves this book. But movie sets are not always the best place for excitable moms with itchy Internet fingers. Especially ones who are protective of their "baby"—whether it be a book, movie or Internet site.
"We have our reputations to protect," said Domurat after she noticed I had jotted down a note that her husband was planning to take her and their family off to Disneyland the next day to "get away from all the Twilight madness." She looked at me and said, "I hope you're writing something nice about us." That was a big change from an email conversation I'd had with Domurat a few weeks earlier: "So here's an angle for your story...hehehe," she wrote. "Twilight Moms a bunch of soccer moms? Heck no—they're Stalker Moms!"
She's right, nothing gets in the way of the entitled fan-ladies and their first loves. "In all honesty, I don't think that any of the press or people involved with the movie realized what they were in for," TM creator Hansen says. "They had no idea of the rabid fan base. I think we did our part to make it known to them that WE ALWAYS WANT MORE!"
MORE: The film version of
, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, is scheduled to open Dec. 12. No word on what TwilightMOMS have planned for the big day.