Friday, January 7, 2011

Klaus Nomi Week: With David Bowie

It's December 15, 1979, and every self-respecting American Bowie fan nervously anticipates his performance on that evening's Saturday Night Live. But when at last he makes his entrance, David himself is imprisoned in an inverted plastic triangle like some human Dairy lea, carried on by two similarly spikey freaks who, having planted him center stage, take up position as backing singers. One of them acts permanently startled -- but with a bleached white face and jagged Toblerone hair-do, who wouldn't? As Bowie launches into a radical treatment of "The Man Who Sold The World," the same three-pointed clown has the audacity to drown out the main man in a piercing, crystal-cracking squawk.

Bowie had chosen this occasion to give the world its first glimpse of the unquestionably peculiar Klaus Nomi, the man who brought 17th century opera to the discoes of early-Eighties New York... When not parading himself at the heart of New York's disco underground, Klaus could be found posing as a human mannequin in the window of Fiorucci's -- a Warhol-frequented, New Wave mecca of Day-Glo plastic party wear. Here, the undiscovered Nomi's destiny was but a customer away, a chance visit by Mr. Bowie resulting in an invitation to join him on that now notorious broadcast along with fellow Fiorucci fop Joey Arias -- a similarly precocious eyesore of space-age clothing and garish hair dye. On the strength of this invaluable patronage if nothing else, Nomi's performance earned him a deal with Bowie's own label, RCA, who in 1981 finally found the courage to issue Klaus' self-titled debut.

UPDATE: More Nomi/Bowie footage here and here.