Runs Fri., Jan. 31–Thurs., Feb. 6 at Grand Illusion. Not rated. 102 minutes.
In 1974, Jobriath performed at the Paris Opéra standing atop a 40-foot penis structure while dressed as King Kong. In the press leading up to the event, Jobriath said, “The outcome will be that, as I descend into the penis, I’ll turn into a Marlene Dietrich look-alike.”
Despite that, you’ve probably never heard of Jobriath—once billed as the “David Bowie of America” and “the true fairy of rock” by his sleazy manager and hypeman, Jerry Brandt. One of the first openly gay rock musicians back in the ’70s, and an inspiration to gay artists today like Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, Jobriath was a massive failure, a textbook example of a record label dumping massive amounts of money into an artist who completely flopped.
Directed by Kieran Turner, this documentary details the rise and rapid descent of this forgotten figure; in so doing, Jobriath A.D. also sheds light on an unexplored part of gay history. In the glam-rock era, when mainstream rockers were putting on lipstick and glitter and copping a feminine look to keep up with the trends, Jobriath was the real deal. A former stage actor who’d appeared in Hair, Jobriath talked openly about wanting people to imagine him when they thought about what “gay” meant, looked like, and sounded like. Unfortunately, his plan backfired, thanks to his manager’s insane overpromotion and the prevailing homophobia of 1970s America. Jobriath was one of the first notable musicians to succumb to AIDS, dying in obscurity in 1983. (A sad footnote: Morrissey attempted to book Jobriath as an opener for his 1992 tour, unaware the singer had passed.)
Jobriath A.D. does a comprehensive job of presenting this little-known tale, splicing in enlightening interviews from his family, peers, promoters, and fans, and adding wonderfully executed animated segments. (These help bring the story to life in an appropriately over-the-top manner that Jobriath surely would’ve liked.) For fans of the ’70s or those interested in LGBT history, Jobriath A.D. tells a story you won’t likely hear anywhere else.