The True Fairy of Rock and Roll
I don’t think that I have thought of Jobriath in years but I do remember his rise and fall and have often wondered why we rarely see his name as part of LGBT history. I was lucky enough to see Kieran Turner’s documentary about Jobriath part of the Boston LGBT film festival and found it intense and fascinating. It is finally being released on DVD through Factory 25 and MVD Entertainment.
“Called “The American Bowie,” “The True Fairy of Rock & Roll” and “Hype of the Year,” Jobriath’s reign as the first openly gay rock star was brief and over by 1975. Now, 35 years later, “Jobriath A.D.” spotlights his life, music, groundbreaking influence and the new generations of fans slowly re-discovering him.” Born Bruce Wayne Campbell, Jobriath lived from 1946 until his early death in 1983. He was a singer and actor and the first openly gay musician to be signed to a major American record label as well as one of first famous musicians to lose his life to AIDS. He proclaimed himself as “the true fairy of rock”. Turner found people who either knew or were influenced by him and gives us a deep look into the life of the singer. Using archival material and personal interviews, we learn about Jobraith from those who knew him well. Among the people we hear from are Jayne County, Gloria Jones, Jake Shears, Marc Almond and manager Jerry Brandt are among the interview subjects. Jobriath’s unashamed queerness was just too much for the early 70s. Director Kieran Turner has crafted a rewarding film as a lasting tribute to the creative talent of a major figure. He was enigmatic and very special; a man whose downfall was brought about two much publicity as his manager tried to find a place for him in popular culture. In his time, everyone heard about him and there was even a billboard in Times Square announcing his first album. Turner brings Jobriath back to us and we certainly feel his love for the rock singer that so many have forgotten and that others never had a chance to hear. According to Turner, Jobraith’s demise was caused by his manager, Jerry Brandt. America was just not ready for glam rock that was so popular in Europe. Jobraith was just too androgynous and feminine and even the gay community were not anxious to have such a “sissy” become the symbol of gay freedom. Unlike other glam rockers, Jobraith was very open about his sexuality and many did not like this especially if this is the way people saw gay men in stereotypical terms.
I have come to think of Jerry Brandt as Jobriath’s Rasputin and even though he appears in the film (at 70+ years old) and explains his side of what happened, we see a man who was smitten with Jobraith and when the partnership broke down, both men were devastated. As Jobraith deals with his failure, he went into near isolation at the Chelsea Hotel and tried to regain something but this time as a cabaret singer known as “Cole Berlin”. However, as promising as this was, Jobraith fell victim to AIDS. It is only of late that he is being rediscovered by a new generation of gay men (and others) and thanks to Turner, I have a feeling we are not going to forget him again. He may have died a “nobody” but he is going to re-emerge as an example of what hype can do to a person and I have a strong feeling that, because of this film, there is going to be a resurgence of interest in him. He dreamt big and had epic nightmares.
What is so sad is that after he died, his father went to his apartment and got rid of papers and manuscripts and then had them destroyed causing all of his to lose so much. Nonetheless, he is returning to us and we should all make sure that there are welcome mats at our doors. You just might want to add a second mat; this one for Kieran Turner who has given four years of his life to the making of this film and in doing so gives us a look at a man who so many never had a chance to know.
“Neither for the ears of the elderly nor for those with middle-aged perspectives, Jobriath voiced the excess destitution of New York’s most tormentedly aware, whose lives were favoured by darkness. Cinematic themes of desperate dramas in paranoid shadows were presented as choppy and carnivalesque melodies…Neither America nor England was quite ready. “
Also included with the film is the music from Jobriath’s lost musical, “Popstar” and this is its first release.