Thursday, July 12, 2012
If you were a resident of Manhattan in the early 70’s, then you were quite familiar with a show-biz personality by the name of “JOBRIATH”.
After all, dozens of images of the would-be “glam superstar” (a likeness not dissimilar to a plastic manikin tossed on its side in an alley somewhere) screamed out from the top of skyscrapers and strategically-placed billboards all around the “Big Apple”.
Think “Angelyne” and multiply that by twenty.
According to the promoters, JOBRIATH was America’s answer to celebrated glitter Queen - David Bowie - who took the country by storm in the uninhibited seventies (during the British Invasion from across the big pond).
Unfortunately, JOBRIATH'S appeal to the masses didn’t pan out the way his managers intended; in fact, the response to one of his first performances on a television broadcast at the start of his career launch triggered a knee-jerk reaction.
On that occasion, audiences shook their heads in disbelief when he strolled out on stage in what appeared to be a futuristic spacesuit.
During the performance, JOBRIATH pressed a release button inside his sleeve - at which point - the helmet opened up and cascaded down to become a row “petals” surrounding the circumference of his swan-like neck.
“Weird, man,” was the general consensus by armchair critics at home.
“So, gay,” others uttered up in a “subculture” (just making its presence visible around the country at that time).
JOBRIATH was a classic example of what happens when slick (short-sighted) promoters try to “sell” the public something they just don’t want.
In contrast, clever Warhol – during the same era – managed to convince the mainstream that a “Tomato Soup Can” was Art.
Is it all in the packaging?
Next week, Outfest will screen a documentary on the ill-fated pop star titled:
Director Kieran Turner has weaved together a handful of interviews (with friends) and rare archival footage to paint a fascinating portrait of JOBRIATH’S life from the childhood years to his untimely death.
I personally met JOBRIATH through a contact of mine in the theatre when I resided in downtown NYC for a year (1973-1974).
I was originally invited to spend a weekend at his rented cottage in Provincetown (PA) to audition for a spot as a back-up singer for a tour he was putting together.
In spite of the fact JOBRIATH had cropped hair (a futuristic “look” he was flogging at the time) and mine was long and curly (a-la-Peter Frampton) we were almost a mirror-image of each other (about the same height and weight and build).
Right off-the-bat, I sensed he was attracted to me, but he kept his distance.
As did I.
After the rehearsals, he casually strolled over and asked if I wanted to go in to town with the band to have a cocktail.
“Sure,” I half-whispered.
When we strolled into the bar, jaws-dropped, and the patrons stared at him like he was a creature from outer-space or something.
The following morning, without further incident, I was on my way back to the city. The “gig” didn’t appear to be up my alley, so I went on my merry way.
Years later, biographers have contacted me to quiz me about what “he” was like.
Shy. Talented. Lonely. Intelligent. Ahead of his time. Misunderstood. An Original. Sexy. Gifted. A fish out of water.
Check the documentary out next week at Outfest and find out for yourself.