The Nomi Song, Directed by Andrew Horn
Arte, March 24, 2005 (US)
Written By: Andrew Horn
Starring: Klaus Nomi
“He came from outer space
To save the human race”
-from the song, “Keys of Life”
“What the fuck is that? …
People said what is that, not who is
-Alan Platt, Journalist
Roll call. Calling all outsiders. Those undeterred at being picked last (if picked at all) in this game we call life. Like drag queens, transvestites, or the androgynous, those who dare to be different and who dare to stand up to fear or authority, those not afraid to exist within the shunned minority.
“We were misfits. And the only place where misfits could go was New York City. We were fueled by Andy Warhol.”
-Ann Magnuson, Performance Artist
What a beautiful thing it is to have a place to call home, surrounded by walls that are not constructed by a moral majority, a place safe from the contamination of urban sprawl, far far away from the disease of contempt.
It’s a story that will never grow old. The story of the individual. He who is not afraid to shake up the seemingly unshakable norm. The visionary. The poet. The leader. He or she or it who is seemingly not of this place. The alien. The artist. Ahead of their time. In their presence, we are speechless. Confused. Maybe even dismayed or disgusted. But unmistakably, we are changed because of them.
Who are these mascara splashed starry-eyed dreamers who dare to walk among us?
“When I was a kid, I stole money from my mother—I think she’s still mad at me—so I could buy a record of Elvis Presley’s King Creole. And she was really angry. She hated rock and roll …
so she took it away and got me Maria Callas instead. And there I was, caught between two extremes.”
The Nomi Song is touching on many different levels. It is a portrait of a freakish misfit who found, in New York’s underworld, not only a place to belong, but moreover a place to seize the spotlight and actually be the belle of the ball.
“Well, when I first met Klaus, the first thing I was really impressed with was his level of androgyny. Not just the androgyny of sexuality but the androgyny of whether you’re human or not. I mean, this is an androgyny beyond androgyny where he became robot-like.”
-Anthony Scibelli, Photographer
If the story simply ended there, happy but one-dimensional, the story might give way to a dissolve, ultimately to be forgotten. But with Klaus Nomi, it is simply impossible to get the man or artist out of your head. Certainly, his appearance was visually striking. And while his music— breathtaking tenor soprano falsetto arias that blended seamlessly into a rock aesthetic—was as unclassifiable to record store bins as Klaus himself was to the world around him, it remains nothing if not unforgettable.
It is no less than inspiring to be reminded of the power that one life—that every life—possesses. Seeing Klaus as more than resident alien but instead unmasked as a human being who tapped into and cultivated the unlimited potential that all of us are born into is what makes The Nomi Song so profoundly moving.
Yes, it is heart wrenching to contemplate Klaus facing his own mortality at such a young age and so completely alone as the loneliness inherent to the plight of an outsider manifests itself into a quarantine of seclusion at the darkest hour. Nevertheless, as is always the way of any dark night, morning announces itself with a beacon of light. And in the wake the new day, the sunlight that resurfaces mirrors the meteoric, unrelenting, and ultimately immortal glow of a life shining on, well after the final notes have faded.
“But then, after talking to him for awhile, the overwhelming feeling was that you realize, what a sweet person. What a nice guy.”
Stripped down to the core of any story of human existence is the bare bones reality that we are all impossibly the same. No matter how different we appear on the outside, no matter how different our backgrounds or foregrounds, no matter how different our opinions, values, or beliefs, we all are here, sharing the same stage. All of us—each and every last perfect one of us—are all a bunch of beautiful freaks. In the end, perhaps the only discernible difference is in the few that actually have the courage, grace, and pride to expose the face behind the mask. How much richer the whole is because of it.