Like a demented satire against glam-rock, Klaus Nomi was part of a circle of post-Warhol bohemian eccentrics in New York city, all in quest of their fifteen minutes, almost none of them achieving even that.
Klaus was partly a lonely pathetic soul, greatly a weirdo eccentric could've-been surrounded by wannabes & a few locally beloved performance-art people willing to live on the edge of the edge in exchange for the illusion of achieving something more significance than what the workaday ordinary masses have the nerve to attempt.
He was definitely talented in a bizarre way, creating music & art that not everyone could quite recognize as either music or art. This expatriot Berliner did outsider theater, expressed punk gone New Wave Wacked.
This was a time when there existed a fringy club scene that encouraged varying degrees of semi-talent or nutty accomplishment, encouraging a new kind of vaudeville which done live was knock-your-socks-off delicious. Something that was that great in the moment is not easily captured on film or tape, but Klaus had a pictoriality about his performance that is captivating even on film.
Klaus was more authentically bizarre than the affected majority, so over-the-top sissy he made Ziggy Stardust seem butch, but as ugly as an aging disease-wracked diva singing his falsetto opera almost well.
He attracted friends & fans who were "nomi" meaning from outer space, convinced sometimes for real that the world was soon coming to an end, & expecting the post-destruction world to be even more fun.
Joy, New Wave angularity, & knowledge of 1950s sci-fi movies was de rigour for the nomi, at a time when everyone was doing the robot.
The "regular" New Wave rock scene was at its most high-tack Decadent. For his fifteen minutes of national fame, it looked like there really was a place for Klaus in the entertainment industry, something well beyond neighborhood clubs. During a Saturday Night Live gig, he got to be a back-up singer for David Bowie.
But most entertainers aren't the personas they create on stage. The grease paint comes off & after all that's not Figaro but just an actor who gets dressed up like Figaro. But whoever Klaus was at the core, it never completely left him when the act was over.
As captured in the documentary The Nomi Song: The Klaus Nomi Odyssey (2005), Klaus at first comes off as a tres cool freak, as likeable as a freak can get. He seemed eternally to be in chracter & only slowly does a sweet personality begin to emerge through chinks in the mask. And liking him as a freak slowly becomes just liking him.
He was kabuki meets sci-fi operatic aureas meet pop-rock. He was Masterpiece Theater meets the Outer Limits. He was Marcel Maseau meets Twisted Sister. He was Cabaret meets Tetsu Iron Man, or Joel Grey recombinated with Lisa Minelli.
He achieved a considerable success, drew big crowds to his performances, & was taken as seriously as ever such an unusual artist could expect. And his records actually sold.
But he was also getting ill at a time when AIDS was inevitably a death-sentence. Friends abandoned him in fear of his illness. "The party was over," & his end was as terrible as any end can be.
Had he lived longer, I suspect he would've been utterly coopted by the mainstream. For your & my amusement he'd've been booked even at the Metropolitan Opera, & certainly into any venue that might've loved Marcel Marceau in both his heyday & his scary old age. But alas, Nomi died.
The Nomi Song is an artfully done documentary that definitely rises to its subject, capturing the beauty & the horror, the laughed-at & the honored, the lionized & cast-off ruin. And here, too, is enough of Nomi's performance-art & music to get past the initial strangeness & into the realm of understanding he really did have vocal talent, however framed in the oddness of his vision.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl