They're Taylor Swift superfans, in their 80s
Phil Dorweiler, 89, and Liz Frink, 86, have been dating for about a year and a half. They go see films, go out to dinner and travel together.
On Thursday, they will see 25-year-old pop megastar Taylor Swift at her sold-out show at the Wells Fargo Arena.
Yes, they realize they are not your typical Swifties. But they don't care. Because what's more fun than seeing one of the the hottest pop stars of their time on a weeknight in Des Moines?
“I think we’ll definitely be the oldest people there,” said Dorweiler, of West Des Moines. “I’m looking forward to it.”
On the other side of the Swift fandom spectrum sits Summer Miller, 17, of New London. She lost her father to brain cancer earlier this year, her senior year in high school.
"Nobody had words to help but Taylor," Miller said. "Just her music and how she carries herself inspired me to move forward,”
The tale of these three Swift fans, whose age differences span more than seven decades, illustrates the broad appeal of the star, who is scheduled to make her fifth appearance in Des Moines since 2009. Each prior show sold out to more than 13,000 fans.
According to a Billboard report published Aug. 5, Swift's "1989" world tour has grossed $86 million, with sold-out shows across the nation. Swift's fifth studio record, "1989" became the fastest-selling record in 10 years, Billboard also reported, reaching the milestone of 5 million copies sold in 36 weeks.
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In case there were any doubts about this particular date, don't despair: It is grandchildren-approved.
“First of all, they said, ‘What?!,’” Dorweiler said. “And then they said, ‘You’ll enjoy it, Grandpa. They think I still got a little bit of life left in me by doing it.’”
Dorweiler, a widower, and Frink, a widow, both live in the Des Moines area. The tickets came as a surprise to Frink. Dorweiler purchased two after he heard the show was coming to Des Moines — but it wasn’t until a month or so ago that he informed Frink that’s how they’d be spending a Thursday night in October.
Dorweiler's interest in music goes way back.
He spent a brief period — from 1941 to 1942 — working as a DJ at a radio station in Fort Dodge. Tucked away in his basement are the old records he used to play at the station, which he still spins on his record player from time to time.
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He left the radio business to serve in the military during World War II. He spent his younger years catching shows like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald in Las Vegas.
Dorweiler spent the bulk of his career, before retiring 20 years ago, as a partner with the Ahlers & Cooney law firm. Frink worked as corporate traffic manager for Younkers before retiring in 1983.
Dorweiler said Swift is about the only singer he likes who’s still alive and playing shows.
“I can understand some of her words,” Dorweiler said. “With Taylor, she speaks very well, and I can understand her lyrics. (With) every (song), there’s a story.”
And he also knows that she's a writer, which adds to her appeal.
“She’s gotta be pretty darn intelligent," he said.
Dorweiler’s got a few favorite tracks he’s aiming to hear that night.
“I thought it was really funny when she wrote that one, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,'” he said. “The other one, ‘I Knew You Were Trouble,’ I thought that was pretty good.”
Frink’s anticipating the experience as a whole.
“I’ve seen her on TV at some of those award shows, and I thought she was darling,” Frink said. “She just seems like a cut above most of ‘em.”
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For Miller, Swift's music provided a path to light in a time when her life couldn’t seem darker.
Miller was a freshman in high school when she learned her father, Danny Eversmeyer, had brain cancer. She said losing him this year was one of the hardest things she's ever had to confront.
A superstar's sensitivity helped Miller through her difficult time.
“Through everything, she’s always been there,” Miller said. “She’s so genuine and truly cares about her fans. She takes the time to talk to her fans and makes a more personal relationship.”
Swift's no stranger to surprising her fans with a personal touch, particularly on social media. She often pops into social media platforms to spread words of encouragement. An article published by Business Insider last year showed Swift replying to fans' comments on Instagram with everything from a simple "happy birthday" to a "hang in there" for more serious stories being shared. Sometimes these moments transcend social media — she's showed up at a superfan's bridal shower; she sent a care package to a fan going through a tough time; she's visited fans with cancer in the hospital.
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Miller herself has experienced one of those "Taylor moments."
In April 2014, she posted a selfie to Instagram showing herself clutching a collection of Swift albums with a caption thanking the star for being a "role model" and an "inspiration."
Taylor Swift's verified Instagram account responded with a comment that Miller later wrote gave her "goosebumps."
"I love you too," Swift's account posted on Miller's Instagram. "And I'm envious of your effortlessly beachy hair."
Miller said she was lying on her bed, listening to Swift songs when she received a notification that the star had commented on her post.
"At first I didn't know it was actually her account, until I clicked on her profile, Miller said. "I started screaming, and my mom ran in my room because she had no idea what was happening."
Miller said she watches how Swift conducts herself to learn cues for her day-to-day life.
“She’s focused on being herself and not letting what other people say about her really get to her,” Miller said. “It inspires you to not care what others think about you. If she can overcome that ... you can, too.”
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