FELIX DA HOUSECAT, DJ EVA
Baltic Room, 625-4444, $12 adv. / $15 9 p.m. Thurs., June 13
Andy Warhol was only half right. Yes, anybody can be a media superstar. All you have to do is tuck a vintage toaster under your arm, introduce it to anyone who gives you the hairy eyeball as "Fido," occasionally admonish your new pet for barking at people's ugly shoes, and suddenly your photo is splashed across the party pages in Interview. But real stardom, the 24-7, "Oh my God, Mr. Blackwell is so mean to me" kind of celebrity? That takes work.
Now, I could say that I have met enough rock stars in the course of my career to know that I do not wish for fame. I could say that . . . but I'd be a liar. Honestly, I'd gladly put up with the paparazzi and the odd stalker in exchange for tickets to the Academy Awards, a clipboard-toting P.A. to screen my calls, and Tobey McGuire's digits. But alas, I lack the requisite moxie to swim with the sharks.
Last week, I was contacted by a New York casting director about a new cable TV show. The program's premise involves five gay "experts" giving some straight schmuck a lifestyle makeover. As unfathomable as it might seem, she was having a bear of a time finding a witty, queer pop-culture guru to help Mr. Khaki Slacks spruce up his taste in music, books, and films. Would I be interested, she wondered, in taking a crack at the gig?
Would I? To quote Troy McClure, "Baby, it's the part I was born to play!" While other children were playing in the sunshine, I stayed indoors reading Stephen King novels, listening to Top-40 radio, and watching the 4 o'clock movie on channel 7. By the time I left high school, I was the only video clerk in suburban Virginia who could seriously discuss the oeuvre of Howard Hawks while decked out like Howard Jones. I've even worked for DETAILS, so I already know all about helping straight guys polish up their act.
Yet when I stepped in front of the camera to shoot my audition video, everything went south. I stumbled over jokes and flailed my hands about like a tangled marionette. Who the hell was I trying to be, prancing about in a silver shirt, telling some imaginary Joe in Kansas City why reading this year's Pulitzer Prize winner would help him score with chicks? I felt like a complete phony. Translating my gifts as an underground tastemaker into something suitable for mass consumption proved too intimidating.
Fortunately, not everybody suffers from such shortcomings. There are still rare individuals who find a way to "sell the garment" without selling out. Take, for example, Felix Stallings.
Better known as Felix da Housecat, the Chicago DJ has been spinning and recording house music for 16 years, producing lasting classics like the influential "Phantasy Girl" and Aphrohead's "In the Dark We Live (Thee Light)." But this year, with his sixth album, Kittenz and Thee Glitz (Emperor Norton), he hit the jackpot, fusing '80s electro-pop futurism, chest-thumping beats, and drop-dead-cool vocals by Swiss-French temptress Miss Kittin and the equally blas頍elistar. From the sexy "Silver Screen Show Scene" to the filtered, Visage-esque beats of "Walk With Me" and the twisted bump and grind of "Control Freaq," Kittenz and Thee Glitz is one of the most satisfying CDs of the year and scooped up the Album of the Year prize at the Muzik magazine Dance Awards in the U.K.
But since his sudden brush with stardom, has Felix stepped back into the shadows, content to polish his trophy and rest on his can? Hell no. Not only is he currently grooming Glamorama, a girl group that he describes as "very Minneapolis" (did someone say Vanity 6?), but he's just dropped Excursions, an 18-track mix CD on the U.K. label Obsessive that covers a dazzling gamut of synth-pop, house, and techno cuts. The cool, faux-Kraftwerk grooves of Ladytron's "He Took Her to a Movie" cuddle up with a cheery Les Rhythm Digitales remix of "Now That Love Has Gone" by We in Music. Zoot Woman pop up via the best Hall & Oates rip-off ever ("It's Automatic") and "Missy Queen Is Gonna Die" by Tok Tok vs. Soffy O introduces the proud tradition of the Hi-NRG "bitch track" to a whole new generation of listeners.
Any idiot with a pair of rubber trousers and the money for collagen injections can get their picture in the press, but it takes a true talent to step out of the shadows and into the pages of Rolling Stone (where Kittenz . . . earned a four-star review) without acting trashy. I've learned my lesson—the next time I wear that silver shirt, it'll be to go dancing before the altar of a real star: Felix da Housecat.