By Anne M. Raso
Glam rock fans have long been waiting for someone to do a documentary on Jobriath, the first “out” rock star–or rather, out “almost” rock star. Back in 1974, the outrageous New York by way of Philly-based singer/songwriter was poised to be “the biggest rock star in the world”–he had more media that any other artist before him, including a $50,000 billboard on Sunset Street and New York bus signs promoting his album.
|Creatures Of The Street Album Cover|
He appeared on The Midnight Special with a flabbergasted, unscripted Gladys Knight introducing the two songs (“Rock Of Ages” and “I’maman”) he and his band performed, and he was undoubtedly talented but never “blew up” with the mainstream crowd. He called himself “a true fairy” and many people have wondered if Jobriath never became popular because he offended homophobic sectors of mainstream America, was mishandled by manager (rock impresario Jerry Brandt who later owned The Ritz nightclub) or was seen as a David Bowie copycat. (His costumes and sets were actually even more outlandish and “space age” than Bowie’s, and on Midnight Special, he appeared onstage wearing a glass bowl on his head that broke away into about six pieces and fell to his shoulders!)
|Self-titled debut album cover|
Director Kieran Turner of Eight Track Tape Productions did documentary out of his love for the artist, but also as a gay man asking the questions: “What went wrong with this artist hyped to become the biggest rock star of all time?” and “Would people have cared if he was gay if he was starting out today?” Did we fail to mention that Jobriath (born Bruce Wayne Campbell) was just an overall difficult personality for even the most jaded people in the record business to deal with?
It comes as no surprise that Jobriath ended up announcing his retirement from the music business in January 1975 (after two albums) and then making a living as a lounge singer named Cole Berlin at the Covent Gardens restaurant in NYC. He died alone in a Chelsea Hotel penthouse triplex apartment of AIDS back in 1983, and his body was not found for days.
There were even more complex issues that made Jobriath’s career go downhill, including drug addiction, alcoholism and classic rage-a-holic fights with Brandt, one that included the celebratory post-Midnight Special appearance chocolate cake smashed by Jobriath right into Brandt’s face and onto a new tan suede jacket. Jobriath A.D. analyzes if Brandt was the devil or angel in the whole career downfall of this unique artist. Certainly, Jobriath would not have had his deal with RCA Records in the first place if Brandt hadn’t used his connections to get it.
The film features interviews with Brandt, Marc Almond, Ann Magnuson, Jobriath’s family and Joe Elliott of Def Leppard who claim to be influenced by this “true fairy of rock and roll.” There will be a Q&A after the film with director Kieran and some surprise guests that may include some of the names I just mentioned!
Jobriath A.D. has been making the gay film fest rounds and tomorrow night at Friday, July 28th at 10:30 PM it will screened at the beloved NewFest at the Walter Reade Theater (Rose Building) in Lincoln Center, 115 West 65th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the box office or by going to http://www.filmlinc.com/films/on-sale/jobriath-a.d. Tickets are $12. This film is not rated. For more info, go to http://www.newfest.org or check out Jobriath A.D. on Facebook.
It is worth mentioning Jobriath’s keyboardist Hayden Wayne just penned an e-book bio on his former bandmate called Jobriath: A History Of Sexual Indulgence (Bareknucles Press) that we’ll also be checking into this weekend on our Kindle Fire. You can purchase it for only $2.99 at amazon.com, Kobo or bn.com.
(Movie poster photo courtesy Eight Track Tape Productions; album cover shots courtesy Elektra Records.)