Friday, May 21, 2010

"Looks Like an Alien, Sings Like a Diva": the One, the Only, Klaus Nomi.

Criticism & frustration abound on this sapling blog—& in my brain, as of late—but that doesn't mean they should. Here, now, is an entirely positive blip of a post about something (or, rather, someone) wonderful: Klaus Nomi.

"Créature asexuée, clown triste au physique d'extra-terrestre, enamouré de la Callas et d'Elvis Presley."

Before I was able to really unpack my brain as regards Ms. Gaga, when confronted by friends, I would flail my hands a bit & sigh & scrounge through my cluttered head for something resembling what I wanted to say, which often ended up sounding like: "She's just not good enough! It's been done so much better!" When pressed for examples, I of course jumped for Bowie (as the Lady does, herself)—& then we would debate for hours about the merits of imitation, & whether Gaga is performing a character or the character is herself, & to what extent that's even comparable to Ziggy or the Thin White Duke... & on & on.

Looking back, I think my overheated brain made the wrong choice for comparison, because Bowie is a plastic little enigma all his own, pliable to fame & cocaine & the darkness that seeps through the stones of Berlin—& Nomi himself, for a moment. (Oh please, oh please, skip to the end of this post. I can't wait anymore. It's too good.) Though I'm frustrated that Gaga isn't doing her glam predecessors proud (in a number of ways), I concede that it's difficult to line her up point for point with Bowie; I think that nebulous feeling of "It's been done better!" was coming more so from artists like Klaus Nomi—new wave force of nature, fiercely individual to the core.

If you have 90 free minutes someday, Andrew Horn's The Nomi Song is informative & lovely, an interview-style documentary about his rise to fame in late-70s New York—a place of misfits & artists, adoptive home of this "mysterious, austere, alien" little man with a giant Weimar bowtie & enough Vision to splatter the Sistene chapel. Watching him (painted to the nines in angular plastic, ghostly white nostrils flaring) as he warbles, delicate but steady, through a soprano aria—it's heartbreaking, transcendent, Lynchian, hilarious, & so delightfully unexpected as to make you stop & wonder, reconfigure just a bit. & that's what a real avant garde artist does.

He exploded operatic & pop convention; made a receding hairline look cool; was, briefly, & died too soon. Ladies & gentlemen, without further ado: Klaus Nomi—

(From Anders Grafstrom's The Long Island Four, 1980.)

(His cover of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me," which serves as the "Gay Community Update Themesong" on The Rush Limbaugh Show.)

(A story about Nomi on the New York 10 o'clock news—"The future is now.")

(The original song from which the film derives its title, "The Nomi Song.")

&, finally, the piece(s) de motherfucking resistence—two doses of pure, unadulterated beauty & fabulousness slicing through the dark: David Bowie & Klaus Nomi performing "The Man Who Sold the World" & "TVC 15 / Boys Keep Swinging" on SNL in 1979.

(& the host is Martin Sheen!!!)

EDIT: This is a wonderful coincidence. & Nomi would totally kick Gaga's scrawny behind in a fight to the death. He would shatter her bones with a high C or sommat.

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