In addition to being an accomplished pastry chef, German New Wave opera singer from outer space, Klaus Nomi, was also a spokesperson for Jägermeister, the German cough medicine and working class aperitif.
Nomi’s face appeared on one side of a cardboard “table tent” distributed to bars that read:
“I’m drinking German Jägermeister because that’s my kind of girl over there.”
Here’s the other side of the table tent:
Below, Nomi, in a plastic raincoat stolen from Howie Pyro’s mother, unveils himself for the first time onstage at The New Wave Vaudeville Show in 1978 performing the aria from Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah.
How’s about a little experimental New Wave opera from outer space to get you through your Tuesday? Try this clip of a super friendly Klaus Nomi on a 1981 New York TV newscast.
You can tell that the reporter did her research and made such an unlikely subject for the times into nice little digestible local news story. Nomi’s completely adorable here—his pastry metaphor is downright endearing!
Whimsical segment from the seventies prime time TV program Real People featuring Klaus Nomi, Joey Arias and others (I also spotted a young John Sex and Kenny Scharf frugging away) dancing in the window of the Fiorucci boutique, which used to be across the street from Bloomingdales.
Richard Metzger shared The Nomi Song with DM readers back in 2010 but the original source for the video is gone. Here’s a new link to the film.
Andrew Horn’s excellent 2004 documentary about New Wave opera diva from outer-space, Klaus Nomi, follows the rise of Nomi’s unlikely career until his death in 1983 from AIDS complications. With Kristian Hoffman, Kenny Scharf, Ann Magnuson, Tony Frere, Page Wood, David McDermott and in a great performance clip, David Bowie and Joey Arias.
The Tube was an early-to-mid 80s British “yoof” TV program covering music and fashion, hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. This special report comes from sometime around 1983 (the date is unspecified but we know that Klaus Nomi has already died) when Holland and guest presenter Leslie Ash take a trip around New York’s most happening night spots. That includes the Paradise Garage, Danceteria, The Roxy and even a brief, passing glimpse of CBGBs.
If you can ignore the cheesy presenting style (“Wow! Clubs in New York stay open until FOUR o’clock!”, “I hear this club has a “happening” sound system.” etc) there are some great interviews here, as well as some priceless footage inside the clubs mentioned. So we get the likes of Arthur Baker talking about producing New Order, Nona Hendryx and Quando Quango performing live, Afrika Bambaataa on the turntables at The Roxy, The Peech Boys backstage at the Paradise Garage, and Ruth Polsky and Rudolph of Danceteria talking about their good friend, the recently deceased Klaus Nomi:
The block quoted text below is a slightly edited email that Dangerous Minds pal Ann Magnuson sent me this morning regarding an amazing sounding art exhibit that she and artist Kenny Scharf are curating at the quirky Royal/T gallery in Los Angeles. Titled “East Village West” (in official partnership with “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980”) the show aims to link the fabled New York neo-Dada art scene of the late 70s/early 80s that coalesced around Magnuson’s Club 57 nightclub with its campy Hollywood influences. In the words of the curators “Walt Disney, Russ Meyer, Roger Corman, The Beverly Hillbillies, Sonny & Cher, The Partridge Family, Hanna-Barbera, Ed Wood, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, Sid and Marty Krofft, The Monkees, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, The Mamas & The Papas, the cast of Rowan & Martin’s LAUGH-IN, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, Rodney Bingenheimer and his glam rock English Disco and every Shindig-lovin’, hullabaloo-ing teenager who ever rioted on the Sunset Strip.”
This is a museum-quality show, another art world score for Royal/T.
The exhibit is primarily art and ephemera from the collections and archives of Kenny and myself. Funny enough, I was finally sorting through all my East Village memorabilia when Kenny called me and asked if I’d take on the lions share of this curating job as he has a big show coming up and is painting night and day. It’s become massive! We have paintings, sculpture, fashions, video, photographs, ephemera….it is really a museum quality show! We focus primarily on Club 57 but there are many other elements as well…
We have art by Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat (one real and two of my fakes), Tseng Kwong Chi, John Sex, Kitty Brophy showing art she’s never shown before, Bruno Schmidt, Kenny Scharf, Ann Magnuson, Vincent Gallo, Frank Holliday, Scott Covert, Stefano Castronova, Nancy A. Kintisch, Greer Lankton’s Terri Toye doll, Paul Monroe, Plasticgod and Randy Focazio; photographs by Robert Carrithers, Harvey Wang, Ande Whyland, Lina Bertucci, Joseph Szkodzinski; video by Barry Shils, Steve Brown, Andy Rees, Tom Rubnitz, and others; fashions by Natasha Adonzio (Natasha N.Y.C.) and Katy K; special ‘vintage’ DJ mix by original Club 57 DJ Dany Johnson in the “Porta Party” installation pod; PLUS cool ephemera and rare video provided by original Club 57 members like Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman, Kristian Hoffman, Howie Pyro, Naomi Regelson, Jerry Beck and so many more! PLUS excerpts from THE NOMI SONG (directed by Andrew Horn) and ARIAS WITH A TWIST (directed by Bobby Sheehan)!
We are showing a lot of John Sex’s art that has never been exhibited. He made these gorgeous silkscreens and several feature Klaus Nomi. We also have many of the beautiful large silkscreen posters he did for events at Club 57.
Joey Arias is sending us several of Klaus Nomi’ costumes. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Postmodernism show is currently showing two of Klaus’ costumes. They wanted the vinyl coat that we will be exhibiting (a very early costume of Klaus’ that he had made based on the Sixties plastic raincoat Howie Pyro stole out of his mother’s closet so Klaus could use it to create his Nomi character that he debuted at the New Wave Vaudeville show). Joey couldn’t find it when he was gathering items for the V&A but he finally did find it and he sent it to us! (Howie is also DJ at the opening).
There is a beautiful slide show featuring work from 5 different photographers on the scene. LOADS of video including live footage from Club 57 never shown. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (who won the Tony for HAIRSPRAY) did some of their first musicals at Club 57 and we have a clip from one of them. Clip from THE NOMI SONG about the New Wave Vaudeville show and clips from ARIAS WITH A TWIST to give the youngin’s a quick East Village history lesson.
Kenny Scharf videos (very Warholian if Warhol was a complete goofball), my MADE FOR TV, the video of the Ladies Auxilliary LADY WRESTLING night…
A compilation of our California influences that were transmitted into our still forming noggins via TV edited by Jonathon Stearns that I KNOW you are gonna love.
A special display for the Monster Movie Club (Howie Pyro lending us his MMC t-shirt).
Young members of the ‘new generation’ carrying on the tradition of Club 57 will be performing. Fresh off last seasons AMERICA’S GOT TALENT, Prince Poppycock will sing The Mumps song THAT FATAL CHARM to a track he is recording with Kristian Hoffman (who wrote the song). Another Hoffman hit is one originally sung by Klaus Nomi and sung by Timur of the Dime Museum who is simple astounding! Drag King Mo B. Dick is ‘coming out of retirement’ to do John Sex (John Waters says she is his favorite Drag King, she was featured in PECKER) , and more! (Everyone is listed in text below).
Austin Young is doing an on site art installation called CALIFORNIA NEW WAVE creating New Wave makeovers, Austin Young style.
Dany Johnson made a 4-hour DJ mix of her Club 57 favorites.
The list goes on! As you can see, the show and the opening in particular is going to be a bona fide old skool ART HAPPENING!
We encourage everyone to pull their pointy toed shoes and ripped fishnets out of mothballs and come on down!
We hope to inspire and encourage the young kids how to have fun and be wildly creative with no money! We did it during the first great recession, it can be done during the second!
The details: Royal/T presents East Village West, curated by Ann Magnuson and Kenny Scharf. From October 1, 2011 until January 10, 2012. Opening reception Saturday, October 1, 8-11pm
DJ Howie Pyro and performances by Prince Poppycock, Timur of The Dime Museum, Drag King “Mo B. Dick” as John Sex (along with “his” Bodacious Ta-Tas), Stacy Dawson Stearns, Gregory Barnett, and Meg Wolfe are The Psych-Out Dada Go-Go Family and of course Ann Magnuson and Kenny Scharf.
Plus video from Club 57 never before shown in public. Doughnuts are promised.
Below, a slideshow of some of Harvey Wang’s great photos of Club 57:
This is a clip from The Venture Bros’ Showdown at Cremation Creek (Part II) which aired in 2006.
I never thought back in the late ‘70s when I knew Klaus Nomi that one day he’d be a cartoon action hero. But upon reflection nothing about Klaus should surprise me. Here he is teaming up with Iggy Pop to defeat David Bowie. Tons of subtext for a cartoon.
Za Bakdaz (the back days?) was a space-age operetta that Klaus Nomi was working on with collaborators George Elliott and Page Wood during 1979. It was unfinished at the time of his death in 1983. Working from old tapes, notes and past discussions with Klaus, Elliot and Wood completed the project and released it as an album in 2008. You can purchase it here.
In this video clips from 1960 German sci-fi film First Spaceship On Venus are wedded to the overture and song “Cre Spoda” from Za Bakdaz. It’s eerily effective.
Watch a FREE video stream of The Nomi Song, Andrew Horn’s excellent 2004 documentary about New Wave opera diva from outer-space, Klaus Nomi. Follows the rise of Nomi’s unlikely career until his death in 1983 from AIDS complications. With Kristian Hoffman, Kenny Scharf, Ann Magnuson, Tony Frere, Page Wood, David McDermott and in a great performance clip, David Bowie and Joey Arias. Oddly sponsored by American Express.
I met Klaus in the fall of 1977 in the lobby of the Cinema Village after a midnight screening of Eraserhead. We struck up a conversation about the movie and immediately hit it off. Wearing a black leather jacket, black jeans, black lipstick, black eye shadow and jet black, slicked back, widow-peaked hair, Klaus looked like an elegant punk vampire. But, despite his dramatic appearance, Klaus was low-key and somewhat shy. I don’t know why we hit it off, but we did. He invited my girlfriend and I over to his apartment for the following night. He told us he was a pastry chef and wanted us to taste his creations. We readily accepted.
The next night when we arrived at Klaus’s apartment on St. Mark’s Place, he greeted us at the door wearing a chef’s apron. The smell of fresh baked pastry filled his small but impeccably neat home. We ate his delicacies and swooned. They were delicious. And while I felt comfortable in his presence, I also felt as if Klaus was not of this planet. There was something strange and alien about him, but benignly so. Klaus was an unusual being…which he would soon confirm.
While my girlfriend and I sipped wine, Klaus excused himself and disappeared into his bedroom. After about 15 minutes or so, he reappeared with a theatrical flourish in semi-drag, looking like a diminutive Diva: face made-up and wearing a red satin robe. He walked over to his stereo equipment, put a record on the turntable and started singing to an instrumental backing track, some kind of opera. He was stunning. His voice was sublime. I was witnessing something very special. His performance also explained why there were so many photos and paintings of Maria Callas in his apartment.
Later that night I told Klaus that I wanted to help him develop as a performer. I encouraged him to take the next step. The first thing I suggested was that he get a guitar and learn some basic chords. Singing to backing tracks was fine, but he needed to write original material and try to bridge the gap between high culture and rock and roll. I really believed he had the potential to be a star. I invited him to come to some of my band’s rehearsals and try his hand at singing with a rock group. It wasn’t a good fit, but it did loosen him up and point him in a direction that he would later follow.
One day Klaus called me and asked me to help pick out an electric guitar. I was thrilled. He was going for it. We went to Manhattan’s music district and after several hours of shopping around, Klaus settled on a dark blue Fender Jaguar. He bought it and we went back to his pad and I showed him some basic chords. It didn’t take Klaus long to get the hang of E,A and D. When I left, he was already humming the beginnings of a song.
I never heard from Klaus again. No phone calls, nothing. I made a few attempts to contact him, but with no success. The next and last time I saw him was on Saturday Night Live singing back-up with Joey Arias behind David Bowie. Klaus was on his way to brief stardom. I felt sad to have lost my connection to him, but happy that I had managed to contribute in some way to his development as an artist.
Klaus died of Aids five years after I met him. He was the first person that I knew to die of the disease. Tragically, the first of many.
A few months ago I asked Joey Arias about the blue Fender Jaguar. Was it still around? Joey told me it had been sold after Klaus’s death. I was disappointed. I would have liked to have bought it myself as an Earthly memento of a friend who seemed to be visiting from another world, a world that perhaps he’s returned to.
Cold Song is a powerful live performance filmed after Klaus was well into his illness. The second video is Klaus and Joey at work and play at Fiorucci in 1979.