Ten years ago tonight, I wore a vintage Clovis Ruffin dress, my gold Cleopatra earrings and a whole lot of extra hair to my New Year’s Eve celebration at Balthazar.
Normally, I love a 10-year fashion-anniversary opportunity. But tonight, I’m wearing a (new-to-me) secondhand dress that, with the right hair and makeup, is intended to give me a Klaus Nomi-inspired look.
Klaus, born Klaus Sperber, was a German countertenor and cabaret performer with an otherworldly style. When David Bowie wanted to create a new image with his Saturday Night Live performance in 1979, he asked Nomi to be one of his backup singers; the other singer was performance artist Joey Arias. For “The Man Who Sold the World,” they carried Bowie to the front of the stage like he was a life-sized doll. It’s must-see TV. Nomi later adopted the oversize suit that Bowie wore for that performance as his own signature look.
Klaus Nomi died in 1983, aged 39, from AIDS before it even had the name AIDS. All these years later, he’s still inspiring fashion, music and art … and at least one New Year’s Eve outfit. This quote from Nomi’s collaborator Page Wood, from a 2008 Village Voice story, is right on: “But Nomi isn’t dead — Klaus Sperber is dead. And I think he’d have loved the idea of this character going on.”
This is Klaus Nomi.
Odds are that I will look more like a punk colleague of Julia Roberts’s sex-worker character in Pretty Woman than an artiste from another planet, especially because I’m not going to shave off my eyebrows. One has to draw the line somewhere! But my dress’s strong shoulders and V-shaped detail are my effort to pay homage, like Lady Gaga did in a more extreme way in her video for “Telephone.”
I definitely have to choose the right lipstick. While looking at Klaus Nomi lipstick photos, I came upon this circa 1980 ad featuring Klaus for Jägermeister. Whoever got this approved by the corporate suits in marketing must have plied them with a lot of their own product, because it’s crazy fabulous.
I also found this video of Klaus (“I’m Klaus Nomi from the Planet Nomi”), Joey and their avant-garde colleagues alarming the passersby by dancing to the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster” in the windows of Fiorucci. Fiorucci! The store of my dreams then and now. I can’t believe I’m seeing it in action.
Whatever you do tonight, have a great time. In fact, party like you’re from another planet, even if it’s just in your head.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016!