IT'S NOT LIKE it's some novel concept for established musicians to genre-jump. After all, we now know three Eric Claptons: the decadently drugged-out rocker, the woe-is-me bluesman, and the sensitive, synth-rock sell-out.
But, varied as Slowhand may be in his choice of mood for each new album, at least he doesn't change his name every time Babyface signs on to produce a couple of his ditties.
Ditto politicians. Take Marion Barry, for instance. First we had the promising young civil rights crusader who swooped in to rescue a crumbling Capitol. Then we get the reckless, womanizing, caught-on-camera crackhead who took his city through the commode and into the sewer. Most recently, we had the born-again blowhard who took his message straight to DC's ex-crackheads and criminals to win reelection by a landslide before being virtually forced out by cooler heads.
But through it all, he was proud to keep the name Marion Farking Barry, come hell or high water.
And even when celebs do change their names, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor) or the Artist Formerly Known as Prince (Prince), it's because they have damn good reasons (becoming a Muslim and fucking over a big corporate record label's marketing department, respectively).
But now, courtesy of Garth Brooks Enterprises, we get Chris Gaines.
Because when His Youngcountryness talks, everyone listens, I feel dumb even explaining Mr. Brooks' stunt, because y'all have probably already heard. But for those who refuse to read their A&E sections, here's the skinny: For his new album, Garth Brooks ain't Garth Brooks, he's Chris Gaines. Mythical rocker Chris Gaines, no less, complete with mop-top toupee, goatee, eyeliner, fake story, and discography.
Apparently Garth, second only to the Beatles in career record sales, has his sights set on catching the Fab Four—and doesn't know if "Friends in Low Places" regurgitated a dozen different ways is going to get him to the promised land.
If this Chris Gaines album—billed as a greatest hits compilation—sells well, expect Garth and his label to hatch out a movie and several prequel albums until we all get as sick of fake Garth as we already are of real Garth and his black Stetson. I mean, seriously, don't real cowboys lose their favorite hats after a few too many double whiskeys?
But corporate pretensions aside, wouldn't it be fun to totally reintroduce yourself to the world, different name and all? Some might call it poor self-image—but I call it hee-larious.
So, Garth, in the end, you're a bloody genius; and I highly recommend that the following guys follow your lead—incorporating my ideas to the letter, of course:
* Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey as "Amsterdam Alvin." Do the Harlem Globetrotters ever let the hapless Washington Generals beat them? No. Will Drugs ever let Barry McCaffrey—or any subsequent czar, for that matter—beat them? Of course not. So why not give the czar a converse identity—in a new country to boot? And what better country than the Dutch Treat? Here, a revitalized Amsterdam Alvin frequents head shops, eats mushrooms galore, and, alas, expands his mind and does nothing to harm anyone but himself!
* Gary Payton as "The NBA General Manager." Instead of being the mere hand on Wally Walker's puppet strings, the Glove would be right out in the open as the man who preferred Greg Foster, Ruben Patterson, Horace Grant, Vin Baker, and Brent Barry over Olden Polynice, Detlef Schrempf, Cory Maggette, Charles Barkley, and Shandon Anderson. He would also be the man who gets fired when his revamped team goes 36-46 and misses the playoffs.
* Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott as "Gay at Birth Gary." Unlike the real Trent Lott, Gary knows that he was born gay and can't be converted. Unfortunately, Gary's alter ego, Trent, continues as one of our country's foremost bigots in what history will remember as the most oppressive civil rights fuck-up since blacks were enslaved.
* Steve Ballmer as "Alan Greenspan." Running the world's most valuable company sucks, or so thought Ballmer when he told the region's business journalists that Microsoft stock and the stock of all other tech companies were way overvalued. As Greenspan, he wouldn't be perceived by angry stockholders as a maverick exec who likes to talk out of his ass and lose everyone a lot of money.
* Joey Galloway as "The Black Donald Trump." This way, Black Donald, still possessing marvelous football skills as well as casinos and skyscrapers, wouldn't have to worry about money—he could just play professional football for the love of it. Or he could just sit and rot his lazy ass away in Columbus, Ohio, until he's slower than Cortez Kennedy in the 40-yard dash.
*Al Gore as "Tron." The nickname's been out there for years, but has recently been overtaken by "Al Snore." Time for a revival, says I, as Tron ditches his Vitalis Pump, blonde bombshell wife and Carthage, TN, campaign headquarters for a clad-iron suit, Buck Rogers' ex-girlfriend, and a small fortune from arcade game and movie proceeds.
* Steve Largent as "The Unambitious Hall-of-Fame Wide Receiver." We've all seen what the ambitious hall-of-famer becomes: a twisted Christian conservative Congressman who doesn't dare move unless Pat Robertson yells "fetch." The much nicer, unambitious hall-of-fame receiver appears on Miller Lite commercials, builds a swimming pool for his kids, and beats out Joe Theismann for the lead analyst job on ESPN's "Sunday Night Football."
* John Daly as "Johnny Knuckles: Professional Gambler." Professional golf is hardly the place for affable drunk/gambling addict John Daly. As a professional gambler, "Johnny Knuckles" rolls snake eyes and drinks for free at Bally's every Thursday. It's in his blood, he loves the action, and he doesn't have to apologize for it anymore.
* Mike Tyson as "Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lector." Recast as Hannibal and retired from the ring, Mike gives boxing back some of its dignity and prevents Anthony Hopkins from selling out and accepting the sequel.
It's all about choices, after all.