In music and entertainment, fans sometimes go to great lengths to get close to their favorite stars. In some cases, these interactions can be heartwarming and memorable, but in others, they can lead to deception and confusion. One such incident occurred when an alleged child fan duped Genesis’ Phil Collins.
In 2011, Collins experienced an unusual interaction with a fan who deceived him by posing as a sick child. Phil shared the incident during an interview with Conan O’Brien, revealing that he initially received a letter from an individual claiming to be a young boy with AIDS. The letter detailed the child’s isolation due to friends avoiding him because of his illness.
In response to the letter, Collins sent a check for £100 and a message encouraging the recipient to use the money to buy toys. A few months later, Collins received another letter with a similar story but a different ailment – leukemia. Noticing the identical handwriting, Collins decided to write back, acknowledging the new diagnosis and pointing out the similarities between the two letters.
Phil Collins’ words about the time he got tricked by an alleged child fan read:
“Recently I had this lovely letter from this young boy, and it was a real scrawny hand, right he said, ‘Dear Mr. Collins, I’m ten years old or 11 years old, and I have a disease called AIDS which my mummy tells me may kill, my friends won’t play with me. I wonder if you could send me an autographed picture.’ So I read this, and I thought, ‘Oh Jesus,’ you know, so I wrote a check out for 100 pounds; I sent him a check to buy himself some toys. I wrote back to him saying ‘What’s really upsetting is the fact that your friends won’t play with you so here’s a present.’
Then a couple of months later, I got a letter from my secretary; he said to read it, so it said, ‘Dear Mr. Collins, I’m 11 years old, and I have a very bad disease, which my mummy says might kill me, leukemia.’ It was exactly the same handwriting, so I said, this is crazy, and I wrote him a letter.”
“I said, ‘Dear Alum, I’m very, very sorry that you have this terrible disease; I’m very pleased that you’ve got over AIDS, though.’ No, what happened was the guy wrote back to me, his mother and father wrote back to me. This guy is 20, you know, and he’s a student. He’s a broke student, and he said you know, here are the 100 pounds back. Actually, he didn’t give me a hundred pounds back, but he promised to pay me back. He gave me the autographed photograph back.”
The ensuing correspondence revealed that the writer was not a sick child but a 20-year-old broke college student who eventually promised to pay back the £100 and returned the autographed photograph the musician had sent. The student’s parents confirmed their son’s actions and apologized for the deception.
Through this ordeal, Collins demonstrated that he could handle being deceived with a sense of humor and grace. However, this incident showcased that it is possible for fans to sometimes go to great lengths to interact with their favorite celebrities, even resorting to dishonest tactics to get what they want.