Review: The Nomi Song DVD
When I saw this documentary on the shelf I literally thought "Now they can make one about Jim Skafish!" Seriously, Jim was the Klaus Nomi of Chicago. He couldn't sing soprano falsetto but they both put on a campy and self-limiting theatrical stage show, and, my god, that nose must have come from Mars too!
The Nomi Song passes the 90-minute test and in doing so elevates the status of Nomi's career from minor cultural event to minor cultural event with grander implications. 90 minutes is a feature length film's normal running time and not all subjects yield 90 minutes of viable content. The Nomi Song moves along nicely, and it helps that Klaus (born Klaus Sperber in Germany) and friends obsessively taped shows, rehearsals and behind-the-scenes numbnuttery like their idol Andy Warhol.
Nomi is known for three things: his appearance with Bowie on SNL in 1979, performing "Total Eclipse" in Urgh! A Music War in 1981 and dying from AIDS in 1983. He was a talented performer but stuck in his iconic persona and a stage act that came from and was stuck in the genre swamp of verboten vaudeville (see 1972's Cabaret and the unsung godfather of punk, Joel Grey, for more).
The Nomi character was great but offered the longevity of a sketch. Near the end he sings a beautiful aria like Maria Callas with a massive orchestra behind him, and only then does a lasting career present itself. IF he had lived long enough and maybe IF he could stop being an otherworldly character so unapproachable people were only half joking when they wondered if he really was from outer space.
The Nomi Song, as expected, tells a rise and fall story. Klaus was a minor act so the impact was limited. It's still a good story. Thankfully the film doesn't pretend Klaus Nomi was bigger than he really was. Klaus had a real (though constricted and eccentric) talent. He's presented as very sweet and determined so it's sad he died alone, or so the film implies.