Written by Chi Chi Valenti
February 1994

-T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday (1930)

In the beginning, there were the words. Now Antony will insist that he never wrote those words, and I never read them, and perhaps he never did and I never did, but how else would I have found my way there, to see the thing being born? These words, that signpost, was simply a fragment of copy on a Xeroxed club invitation: "Klaus Nomi meets the Marquis de Sade." The card, an invitation to a night called "Blacklips," lay tossed on my kitchen table, in a pile of such things. There were glassy color notices for all the retro-disco barns, a few black-and-white underwear shots hyping the latest dens of clone misogyny, and probably a tasteful card or two bearing the inevitable reception committee, this being the very early Nineties, before we purged ourselves of such things.

The Marquis de Sade reference seemed synchronistic, since we were preparing that very afternoon for a Jackie 60 night called "Venus in Furs," a tribute to Victorian and Edwardian era S&M with a literary bent. But the Klaus Nomi reference was more unexpected, extraordinary even, to the point of seeming a beacon. It was, afterall, over ten years since Klaus' ascension heavenward to his own soundtrack "The Cold Song": "Let me, let me freeze again...to death." What person or persons would be raising the specter of The Black Lipsticked One, a figure who had come to symbolize both our late lamented generation's blinding early promise and its great tragic endings?

Whoever was invoking Klaus on a steamy July night on East 10th Street, I felt, deserved to have me turn up. So it was that I walked in to the Crowbar one Thursday night that summer to find a small but visually arresting group gathered, equal parts cast and audience in the small dark bar, about eight of each.

Antony, who was then named Fiona Blue, sang a composition of his called "The Rapture" which seemed such a mature, full-blown work that it stunned me, and has again, on occasion. I don't remember who the other performers were that night, but I'm sure Psychotic Eve was there, and of course Johanna Constantine was spinning aural doom like a cobweb from her booth. A few of the performances seemed mawkish in an art-school sort of way, but that didn't matter in the slightest, somehow.

At a certain point the tinny spotlight fell down on Antony as he tried to sing, and I remember thinking, this is how Jackie began, with terrible tech and taped-together shoes and a sense of doing something so important that it was bound to succeed, if only in this way, in a small room to a tiny but perfect audience. This is how all good things must begin in the night, things that will matter later—quietly, far from the inexorable rush to the marketplace and the clatter of press releases and fax machines. They will carry it on, I thought: The dry season's ended, and deadly violets may push up again!

And that is all I remember of my first night there. Quite a bit has happened since, and more, I am certain, is still to come. Something has risen from the ashes that is cause for jubilation, as well as relief. If it comes to full flower, Klaus will surely return to see his progeny, along with all the flaming creatures and Really Dead Goths that joined him later in that dusky New York sky. He lives! They live! We live!

Redeem the Time.

First published in the Blacklips magazine LIEFF SUX, MARCH 1994

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