most devoted fans

Portrait of an Influential Fan: Marc Cohen, One of Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters

As part of this week’s series on fandom, Vulture will profile a number of passionate, influential fans.

NAME: Marc Cohen

ORIGIN STORY: Growing up in Los Angeles, Cohen, now 18, hadn’t paid much attention to Lady Gaga until he caught her 2009 MTV Video Music Awards performance (the one where she pretended to bleed to death onstage). Having performed in local musical theater productions since age 7, he was drawn to the audacious theatricality of it all. “I had never seen anyone do something like that on my TV,” he recalls. “I wanted to see her perform live, so I asked my parents, can I go to her concert for a Hanukkah gift?”

Cohen gathered up his gelt and caught Gaga on her Monster Ball Tour, where he “instantly fell in love.” “[She had] this connection with the audience, putting on a performance for them instead of making it about herself.” The California teenager saw in Gaga the kind of entertainer he aspired to be. “Her last tour was a 420-day tour. It’s insane. So I was like, I want to be this dedicated. I want to be this type of performer. And so I really started following her online.” The fan base was still pretty scattered at the time, but Cohen was inspired to make a Twitter account (@MarcMonster) that now numbers in excess of 50,000 followers, in order to spread the gospel of Gaga.

FIRST CONTACT: A year after his first Gaga concert in L.A., 16-year-old Cohen traveled with some friends to see her show in Detroit. “We waited for her at the stage door afterwards, and everyone bombarded her and she drove off, and I was kind of upset,” he says. “And then we went back to our hotel and had pizza and whatever, and Gaga tweeted where she was. But she said the wrong place: She tweeted that she was at the Golden Bowl, which is a Chinese restaurant.” By piecing together clues from Gaga’s friends’ Twitter feeds, Cohen and his crew figured out that she was actually at the Garden Bowl, a bowling alley. “And so all four of us got in a car and sped to downtown Detroit, at two in the morning.” The teenage boys ambushed Gaga in the parking lot as she was being escorted into her limo. “Her security was like, ‘No, sorry guys.’ They locked the doors so she couldn’t get out,” Cohen recalls. “And then she climbs out the window and she’s like, ‘I’m gonna say hi, whatever.’ So she hopped out the window and chatted with us for like ten minutes, which was amazing. She looked at me and she was like, ‘I saw you at the concert last night, front row, you were having so much fun!’ She was so drunk, too, I don’t know how she remembered.”

MOTHER-MONSTER BONDING: By the time they had their first meeting, Cohen had begun to see Lady Gaga as a sort of kindred spirit. Coincidentally, “Gaga” was his childhood nickname for his late grandmother, a theater fan to whom he has dedicated his career. Lady Gaga has revealed in interviews that she has a similar figure in her life: her Aunt Joanne, who died of lupus before she was born. “I just ended up writing her a letter, and I gave it to her that night in Detroit,” says Cohen. “The next time she came back to L.A., I waited for her after the show again with some friends, and she came out and I said, ‘Gaga, do you remember me from the bowling alley in Detroit?’ Like, there’s no way. And she looks at me and goes, ‘Yes, I do. You’re Marc Monster.’” So I’m thinking she read my letter, or saw my Twitter. I don’t even know how she remembered me. I’ve met her a bunch of times now in L.A., and she’s always been so kind.” Cohen is now a freshman studying musical theater at Gaga’s alma mater, New York University — though unlike his idol, he has no plans to drop out and pursue pop stardom. “People will be like, ‘Oh, are you there because of her?’ And I’ll be like, no, it’s been my dream since I was 8 years old.”

INTER-FAN WARFARE:  This summer, Cohen discovered that his closeness to Gaga was making him a target for other fans. “She retweeted something I tweeted, and then a few days later she tweeted me as well, because of something else,” he reluctantly explains. “But because of that, everyone was like, ‘oh, she’s playing favorites,’ etc., etc. Cohen began receiving death wishes (“I hope Cohen comes to South African for the Born This Way ball so I can stab him repeatedly with a traditional African spear”), as well as suggestions that he was bribing Gaga for her attentions. Mother Monster herself eventually intervened, threatening to stop her online fan chats if the bullying didn’t stop. “Monsters making me sad fighting on Twitter,” she wrote on her page.

But the Little Monsters rarely turn so viciously on one another. Instead, the claws come out whenever Gaga is accused of hackery. “Madonna fans and Gaga fans. That’s where it is. Everything Gaga does, people have to say,’ oh, there she goes copying Madonna again.’ And it’s really weird, because on Twitter, there’s not a lot of older people, and there are all these younger Madonna fans on Twitter. So I’m just like, wait, how did you become a Madonna fan? She’s not even on the radio anymore.”

ÜBER-FAN DUTIES: 72 hours a week posting photographs; spreading Gaga-related news updates; keeping up with the online communities; checking Twitter feeds, Tumblr, and Instagram; and going to shows — all while juggling a college courseload.”Now that I’m in school, I’m in classes nine to six. But during breaks I’ll check my Twitter walking between classes; I’ll get her tweets sent to my phone. When I do go online, it’s usually because of her … It’s bad. Actually thinking about the number of hours makes me want to vomit.”

REACTIONS: “At first my parents were kind of concerned, like why are you obsessed over one person?” Cohen recalls. “But I explained to them why I connect with her, and they’re really appreciative that I have this person in my life that has helped me discover who I am, and I’ve opened up as a person because of her.”

LONG-TERM PLANS: Cohen believes he’ll always be dedicated to Gaga, and he hopes to one day be a performer worthy of her attention. “My main aspiration would be to have her mentor me, as a performer,” he says. “I look up to her for advice. When I meet her I don’t get a lot of time, but I try to get the most out of our meetings.”

Influential Fan: Little Monster Marc Cohen