There used to be this theater in Georgetown called the Key Theater, I think. Maybe I am confusing it with another name, but it was like the cheap alter-ego of a more snooty theater: the Biograph. I saw my share of strange films at the Biograph, to be sure, but the Key Theater, on Friday nights, had some of the strangest, weirdest, most glam-punk-pop-fucked-in-the-head films. Tippy Turtle, Rocky Horror, and bad slasher flicks showed there. They had all kind of films, shorts, and ... well, I saw stuff like this:
I had totally forgotten about Klaus Nomi. Completely. If someone had asked me if I saw some strange series of films by some guy who thought he was from outer space, I would have said David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. But I came across this trailer tonight:
And remembered. When a memory from that time comes back to me, I smell the street at night, the mixture of cigarettes and coffee, leather and paper, paint and wet concrete, and a strange series of spice and incense-like odors that wafted like interrupted passages in the symphony of a Night on Georgetown. I remember the dark theater with low ceilings, and there were always people talking in the isles. Maybe some young adults snogging in some corner, kicking away the trash heaped around a garbage can that separated their space from the rest of the world. Sticky red carpets with bald patches. The feel of a stone building sucking the heat from your body as you leaned against it, talking to some girl in a mohawk and 30 lbs of makeup as she smoked from a pipette, trying unsuccessfully to keep away the cold with a leather jacket with a broken zipper that didn't do anything to cover her exposed legs thrusting into day-glo pumps from a leather mini-skirt. The moisture from your breath visibly mingled with others in the cold air, and those who smoked always had bigger fogs than everyone else; almost like we all were breathing fire from deep within our shivering bellies.
Two drunken youths begin to fight. "Oh, gag me," says one of my friends at a time when Valley Girl speak was still hip. "What fags." We decide to stay away from the scene; when the cops arrive, half of us are underage, and that was always blamed for something.
I'd love to say I was cool and hip back then, but I was along for the ride and in the shadows of a mixture of posers and wannabes. Most of us were too young and too well pampered at home to be out on the streets this late at night. I followed them like a puppy, and I have to admit, I was dragged out to some of their soirees against my good judgement and timid protests. I saw films like Rocky Horror, and I was too young to understand what the hell it was about. I just thought the acting was another rude series of boos and jeers that spoiled rich teens did to anything "popular." It was popular to hate popular.
I still have that problem to this day.
But Klaus Nomi was up there. I saw him later on a rerun of Saturday Night Live with David Bowie, and though, "Huh... he's made it to TV." How little I knew.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days, just for one night, where I could be one of the hip ones. I could see with the wisdom of time.