A Simple Man
It's a shame Klaus Nomi isn't better known, cuz then maybe people wouldn't be so gaga over Lady Gaga. Frankly every shtick she has (avant garde costumes, catchy dance music, quirky stage shows), Nomi did infinitely better (excuse my superlativism I just really dislike like the chick).
Dressed in a skintight space suit with a clear plastic cape, Nomi first stunned an East Village audience at 1978's "New Wave Vaudeville" with his bizarre rendition of Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix from Samson et Dalila, a performance which ended with Nomi disappearing into a chaos of smoke bombs, strobe lights and crashing sound effects. Legendary New York performance artist Joey Arias recalls, "I still get goose pimples when I think about it... It was like he was from a different planet and his parents were calling him home. When the smoke cleared, he was gone." Later when David Bowie caught Nomi's act at The Mudd Club, he hired the super-stylized performer as a backup singer. Nomi's first peep at national airtime was during Bowie's 1979 Saturday Night Live performance in which he sang backup while holding a prop pink poodle with a television in it's mouth. This 1982 French television performance of the Cold Song from Henry Purcell's King Arthur highlights Klaus Nomi's sick vocal range and kooky/gothic stage persona:
While Klaus Nomi recorded several albums without much mainstream impact, his cult status was undeniable. He was a regular on Manhattan Cable's TV Party, a public access program directed by my former professor/late 70's East Village art-enigma Amos Poe, that was pretty much just recorded hangouts and jam sessions with Mick Jones (The Clash), David Byrne (Talking Heads), Debbie Harry and Jean-Michael Basquiat.
Klaus Nomi died of AIDS in 1983 but he leaves behind a treasure trove of music and videos that have influenced musicians (Morrissey habitually covered his songs while Gaga is his aesthetic female copycat, ) as well as fashion designers (Gaultier's Spring 2009 collection featured several variations on Nomi's signature V-tuxedo, and to say Gareth Pugh is obsessed with Klaus would be an understatement). His video for "Falling In Love Again" from the Simple Man album is an erotically charged exercise in high fashion and perverted sexuality set to a catchy Freddie Mercurified version of an old Marlene Dietrich tune, starring supermodels felating neon light sticks and ice cream cones. Plain and simple.