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In Features, Issues



Charles Atlas (the New York—based media artist, not the body builder) is currently developing a biopic on the outrageous life and telling times of Leigh Bowery. Taking a Citizen Kane approach, Atlas’s Fairy Contrary will follow writer Hilton Als, who profiled Bowery in a New Yorker article in 1998, as he uncovers the "real" story behind this larger-than-life figure, whose influence on the worlds of art and high fashion is legendary.

Widely known as model and muse for painter Lucian Freud, Bowery began his career as a fashion designer, but he couldn’t tolerate the idea of "just anybody" wearing his name. Instead, he styled himself as a "living artwork," performing both on stage and in nightclubs in mind-boggling outfits of his own design. Bowery even pierced his own cheeks to anchor "accessories," such as the red plastic lips he wore in Charles Atlas’s video Teach (seen left).

In addition to Als’s interviews with Bowery’s famous friends and colleagues, the film promises to include a barrage of stunning visual footage from the archives of Atlas and numerous others with whom Bowery collaborated before his untimely death in 1994. (Contact: Lucy Sexton, producer, at factress@aol.com) – S.G.



Nomi in concertm photo by George Du Bose
Berlin-based filmmaker Andrew Horn (Doomed Love, The Big Blue), who is currently working on a nonfiction film about Klaus Nomi, a cult figure of the New Wave music scene, describes Nomi as "a countertenor who sang pop music like opera and brought opera to club audiences and made them like it."

Horn, who also co-wrote and produced 1997’s East Side Story, about Communist musicals, says that Nomi presented himself as " ‘the perfect video star,’ yet his star burned out just before the mass explosion of MTV. On the verge of international fame, he became instead the first gay artist to die of AIDS." Nomi’s entire recorded output consists of only two LPs and a live album, but his music lives on through reissues such as 1999’s "Eclipsed: The Best of Klaus Nomi" (Razor & Tie Music/BMG) – and, less fortunately, as theme music for Rush Limbaugh’s monthly Anti-Gay report.

With The Nomi Song, Horn seeks to restore Klaus Nomi’s star to its proper place in the firmament and along the way to "deliver a great story told by some fascinating characters" from New York’s underground demimonde – including singer Joey Arias, painter Kenny Scharf, pioneer techno recording artist Man Parrish, Kristian Hoffman of the New Wave cult band The Mumps, and other "strange and surprising celebrity guests."

"The whole punk/New Wave scene," Horn explains, "was about alienation, and Klaus was already an alien, both nationally and culturally – a European thrown in with a bunch of crazy American kids." Moreover, his whole stage act was built around the idea that he was an alien who fell to Earth from a more glamorous galaxy. In fact, his real life story was only marginally less extraordinary.

Born Klaus Sperber to a single mother living in Berlin, Nomi moved to New York in 1972, where he worked as a pastry chef. In 1979 he answered an ad for artist David McDermott’s "New Wave Vaudeville" shows at Irving Plaza, and Nomi – an anagram of his favorite magazine, Omni – was born. Wearing a futuristic suit, his hair sculpted into three points, he performed a song from Saint-Saëns’s "Samson et Delila," and then disappeared into the recesses of the smoke-filled stage like an apparition. His "inhuman" voice and cabaret-style act – fusing New Wave, Kabuki and Bauhaus elements – made a lasting impression on anyone who saw him perform.

After a show attended by David Bowie at the infamous New York nightspot the Mudd Club, Nomi and Joey Arias, with whom he frequently collaborated, were invited by Bowie to join him as backup singers for a legendary appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in 1979. (They sang three songs, between which Bowie whisked through costume changes, including a Chinese airline stewardess outfit.) Through Bowie’s influence, Nomi signed a recording contract with RCA and in 1981 released a self-titled debut album, mixing pop, opera and ethereal "space music." He subsequently toured the world, appeared in several music videos and low-budget films – including Urgh! A Music War – and recorded a second album, "Simple Man," in 1982. But by 1983 it was all over.

"Nomi’s performances suggested a grand spectacle with the simplest of means," Horn says. Like Nomi himself, the film – which will incorporate sci-fi movie and educational film clips, puppets and animation, performance footage and interviews – promises to be "decorative, playful and deliberately artificial."

The Nomi Song is being produced by Thomas Mertens (producer, Nico Icon) and Ilona Ziok. (Contact CV Films: tel: 49 30 5369 7500, fax: 49 30 5369 6085.) – S.G.


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