On April 17th, 1997, I performed The King of Pop’s New Clothes in the Columbus Drive Performance Space at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In King of Pop’s New Clothes, a reclusive pops star’s drug-fueled attempts at being loved through personal reinvention go horribly wrong when his public and private lives collide. The King of Pop’s New Clothes existed as both a live performance with projected video art and as a video art piece that screened at Randolph Street Gallery.
The impetus for this surrealist nightmare came through Fausto Ferños who asked me to create a celebrity hallucination segment for his MFA thesis project, Glamour in America, a heavy metal Christian fundamentalist musical. At the time I had been reading Michael Jackson Was My Lover, a questionably sourced, pulp, tell-all about Jackson’s relationship with a teenage boy written by former Hard Copy reporter, Victor M. Guitierrez. After the book’s publication, Guitierrez was successfully sued by Jackson for slander. I was interested in the cosmology of celebrities’ storylines and how they are constructed through our collective myth-making. I was not agreeing with or refuting allegations made against Jackson, but taking a hard look at America’s blood lust for knocking down public figures from the very pedestals we once elevated them to.
I was also fascinated by the incongruities between the narrative of Jackson as soft spoken, innocent, child-like, talented, generous, and philanthropic and the counter-narrative of a calculating monster fueled by a raging, injured ego that could never be satiated by a seemingly endless narcissistic supply of manic fans, exotic animals, record sales, or children – especially terminally-ill and disabled children.
Collaborators included Kathleen O’Shay, Ayanna U’Dongo, Juba Kalamka, Prudence Browne, Julie Puzon, Zoe Orgasma, Nette E. Brenner, Nadine Bopp, William Wheeler, Fausto Ferños, C. Davida Ingram, Kate Hinrichsen, Noel Bartus, Kappi Wright, Kulov, Arlena Tucker-Hampton, Lee Wells, Jasmine Kronbeck, Kera Evans, Haejin Kim, Ximena Musch, Peter Ciecka, Mitchell Magee, Liz Gueunther, Maria Cicarelli, Ricarda Montinaga, Arlene Harting, Pam Staron, Jessica Henderson, Inez Somer-Simspn, and Julie Shanks
Michael Jackson was a topic I would come back to many times with The Adventures of Michael Jackson and the Animals of Neverland Ranch, and Jacksons Private Zoo. Plastic surgery was also another theme I would come back to again and again with Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical, and Raggedy Ann to Real Doll.