Watch Clarissa Explains It All Fans Read Their Fan Mail 20 Years Later

Clarissa Explains It All, which debuted on Nickelodeon in 1991, got tons of fan mail during its four-season run. (This was long before social media, and before most people were regularly using email.) This year, the show’s creator, Mitchell Kreigman, released a new Clarissa book called Things I Can’t Explain—and to celebrate, he caught up with some of the kids who sent that fan mail. The now-adults agreed to read their letters on camera for a video that’s done up in Clarissa’s signature style.

One fan, in his letter, talked about the birth of his baby brother; another, who said in her letter that she’d gotten roles in school plays, confesses that that had been a lie. Another fan—who, in her message, listed all of her pets—summed up why the show appealed to her then, and why it's still so beloved now: “It's a good thing to be smart ... [Clarissa] never had to pretend to be somebody else.”

Kreigman, who spoke with mental_floss last year on the 20th anniversary of the show’s final episode, has done a lot besides Clarissa: he served as executive producer on Bear in the Big Blue House, wrote episodes of Rocko’s Modern Life, and penned a YA novel about a Jersey girl obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. But, he told us, Clarissa is still the “most satisfying thing” in his career. The idea that you do something 20 years ago, and everybody still remembers it—not just remembers it fondly, but passionately, and cares about it—I just love it,” he said.

By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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