In memory of Holly Beeman
Staff contributor and friend
By Leviathant for The NIN Hotline on February 16, 2022
Even though I don't have Facebook on my phone, I still visit it from my desktop. For better or for worse, with some curation it can be a fairly solid place to keep up with friends I don't get to see as often as I like, or to follow the work of artists, events at venues, and so on. I also joined a group of Nine Inch Nails collectors, because even though I keep a modest collection, it's always fun to see what other people find.
Alongside rare shirts and unusual imports, it's not uncommon for people to share a photo of an autograph and ask about its authenticity, and one evening just a couple of weeks ago, I scrolled past one of these posts. An auction on eBay had just closed, in it was an interesting collection of promos and mostly Fragile-era CDs, including one with a rather sloppy signature.
It didn't follow the usual form, and out of curiosity, I clicked through to the eBay auction, and to my surprise, I recognized some details from the seller. Someone named Beeman, out of Pearland, Texas. If you've been coming to this page from the start, you might remember a regular contributor to the site who went by the nickname Crimsonplague. Here's a screenshot of her profile from the Hotline staff page - yes, some of us had abstract photos, which was the style at the time.
When a bunch of us flew to Cleveland for the kickoff of the first NIN tour in the US since 1995, she flew up from Texas. Many of the folks responsible for this website met in person there - Paul/Pablo, John/Static, Wendy/WhitechapelMolly, Renee/Haze, myself, Meathead/Meathead, Holly/Crimsonplague, as well as Keith from SmashedUpSanity - he lived in Cleveland though, so he didn't have to travel far. It was a spectacular excuse for a bunch of people who hung out in online spaces to get together. Look at all these nerds!
That's me near the middle - blinking. The one photo we took with this group, and I blinked. And that's Holly down in front in the blue hoodie.
When we weren't all chatting on IRC, we were on ICQ. We'd send each other stuff via snail mail, we were a pretty tightly knit community that, for most of the group, just didn't live near enough to each other that hanging out in person was feasible. Over the next couple of years, A few of us even went to New Orleans a couple of times together, just to hang out, see the city, eat tasty food - adventure! Here's a photo I took on Holly's camera, with Renee, Todd, and Holly being goofballs on our visit to the Audubon Zoo.
As the years and decades passed, lives and directions changed, as happens with any group of friends. I'm always delighted to see names or handles I recognize from over the years, even if they're people I don't regularly interact with more. Holly still kept in touch now and then, although the last time I'd really heard from her was when she left a birthday message on my Facebook profile in 2010. So upon clicking through to this auction, it cheered me up to see a reminder of an old friend - and once again, I wondered what she had been up to, so off I went to Google.
I was surprised to find that my friend who was once very much online wasn't immediately coming up in the search results, especially since I vaguely remembered she had gone into a career around archiving and research. So I switched to Google Image Search, and saw her image looking out above a link to a KQED article - maybe she got into writing music reviews.
What I came to read made the color drain out of my face. It was a review of an EP by James Blackshaw, called "Holly", and the review was written in 2016, some five years after the EP was released. The first line of the review: "On or about Nov. 27, 2013, my dear friend Holly Beeman took her own life."
I cry out loud, even as I type this. The author, Chris Zaluda, knew Holly in the years after she and I had lost touch, and in his article, he shares his own memories and photos of a person I remember so fondly, someone who's responsible for some of the only photos of me in my early 20s, taken from when we all went to New Orleans, who I traded CDs with, I bought ridiculous platform boots from, who I hoped I would run into at a show one day, and she's been gone for almost a decade, leaving on a heartbreaking note, and I was only finding out nearly a decade later.
Today, there are people who've grown up only knowing a world with the internet - and an internet that's very different from what I experienced. Even though it only really factored into my life by the time I was 14 or so, it quickly became a central element of it, and at the core of that experience was this site, and the people who I met because of it. The time I've been fortunate to spend with those people has been my happiest, best times - whether that's accounting for the nearly two decades I've been married, or mere seconds I've spent, crossing paths during a show with someone I've 'known' for years online, or grabbing dinner with friends in strange cities, wholly untethered to anything Nine Inch Nails.
The community around Nine Inch Nails has always been a complex one, full people who feel alienated, who struggle with mental illness, who have complicated family backgrounds, who struggle with addiction - and sure, others who've managed to do well in spite of whatever personal demons attracted them to the sympathetic voice they heard in music of Trent Reznor. How many other people are there that have I lost touch with that will I never have the opportunity to reunite with? Could I have been a better person? What happened? Why did I only find out because of a chance peek at an eBay auction all these years later? Why does it seem like Holly was scrubbed from the internet? Reader, if you've gotten this far - please, if you're going through dark times, if you know someone else who is, please reach out to your friends, and know there's a community of people who might be able to help you navigate through the troubles. I know it's been a hard couple of years - know that you are missed.
Back on Facebook, other folks were already leaving comments. "It's sadly not even remotely close to resembling his signature from any era." Another. "Personally anyone trying to resell that for anything is going to have a hard time. I certainty[sic] wouldn't buy it on its own." After I left a heartbroken response - yes, and here's how I know that signature is 'real' - the new owner of this collection of CDs generously offered to send me this copy of The Fragile signed by Trent, prefaced, "Hey Holly!"
Holly was always a joy to talk to, and was an absolute delight to be around. I feel awful that she wound up in such a bad place. That the only notable remnant of her online presence is a lamentation couched around a review of a record about her is so, so strange to me, but I think she'd find it hilarious. I think that's what I remember best about the time I got to spend hanging out with Holly Beeman - so much laughter. I hope that the archivist in her would appreciate my small effort to document a little slice of her life.
That signed copy of The Fragile arrived today, and it's now sitting on my shelf, next to the We're In This Together import CDs she sent me over two decades ago.
I knew Holly, but I didn't know she was gone. Maybe you knew Holly, and you didn't know she was gone. It makes me sad to think we won't get to hang out again, we'd have so much to talk about.
And you, reading this - thank you for sticking around. Whether you've been following this page since 1999, or you're a new follower on Twitter. I don't think I ever expected the site to stick around this long, and I never expected to be posting something in memoriam of the friends who helped build this.