‘Know Me,’ Nomi

Klaus Nomi was born 71 years ago today. A performer whose career may have reached its peak as a back-up singer/dancer/weird presence for one single show behind David Bowie, Nomi managed to stand out in a time and place that made a virtual fetish of uniqueness: New Wave-era New York City.

Many actors and performers attempt to find their voice or vision in a performance that resides in the very process of erasing the self, even the idea of a self. Some comedians who build a stage persona in this territory will even flirt with the idea of not being “in” on their own joke; they have brilliant moments but tend to have brief careers. Singers and pop stars find it easier to latch onto a persona for an album or concert tour or two, then drop that for an entirely new one a few years later.
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‘Being There’

Contemporary accounts make it sound like watching the man perform on stage was like watching a man possessed: Fascinating and frightening, but a genius. He became world-famous and theaters billed him as the “Funniest Man on Earth.”

A later performer became an international superstar and said many times of himself, to interviewer after interviewer, “If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.” Watching him was like watching a man possessed by the accents and mannerisms of any character. He also said, “There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed.” His questioner in this particular case was Kermit the Frog.
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