This Week's Guest: AK Miller
Would you rather travel the world to seek out new experiences, or create new experiences in your own home town? My guest this week is Chicago theater person AK Miller, who couldn't wait to leave his small town and find the big-city gay communities he'd always read about.
But before long, he discovered that being part of a gay community can go way beyond simply moving to a major metropolis. He could go even further, not just joining but creating a community, the likes of which he'd only ever read about.
This Week's Recommendation: Jobriath
Thanks again to AK Miller for joining me. You might've noticed that he mentioned Caffe Cino in New York, an experimental theater that changed performance in the 1960s. I interviewed one of the playwrights who worked there, Robert Patrick, on episode 66 of The Sewers of Paris. So if you'd like to hear about what it was like to be a gay playwright in Greenwich Village in the 1960s, just hop back a few episodes and listen to Robert Patrick's story. It's pretty incredible.
My recommendation this week is a Google search. Go look up a man named Jobriath and just start clicking and reading and watching and you will discover an incredible performer who was going to be the next David Bowie until he went too far, was too gay, and the world turned its back on him.
You owe it to yourself to learn about this man. Just click everything that comes up. Read his wikipedia article. Watch the few youtube videos that exist. Find the documentary that was made a few years ago called Jobriath AD. He was an amazing, groundbreaking artist, the first openly gay musician signed by a major record label, an early casualty of HIV, and for some reason we've allowed him to be almost completely forgotten by history.
Well it's time to rediscover Jobriath. He was extravagant and strange and he created elaborate queer performances, such as a planned show where he would appear as "King Kong being projected upwards on a mini Empire State Building. This will turn into a giant spurting penis and I will have transformed into Marlene Dietrich."
He called himself "rock's truest fairy" and maybe it's statements like that that explain why mainstream audiences just weren't willing to embrace him. It was the 1970s, and gay musicians winked -- they didn't climb spurting penises.
But while his memory faded, his influence still lives: you can feel his fingerprint in the music of The Pet Shop Boys, Gary Numan, Siousxie Sioux, and Def Leppard. Morrissey cites him as an inspiration. So whether he's recognized or not, Jobriath's still with us. He's all around us. Like so many great artists, gay and straight, he gave us a gift when he was alive. And we're only just now figuring out how to unwrap it.