So yesterday was the hottest day so far this year in New York Mothafuckin' City. It was also the day Zac and I sat outside from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to be among the first in the door at the Lady Gaga concert. For the mathematically challenged, that's TEN HOURS. It was hot, but it was bearable, because we're both from the dirrty dirrty and we know the meaning of true heat. Yesterday was nothin.
We were sixth in line to get in the door, which totally made the wait worth it. The day before, we went grocery shopping and bought (in true Southern fashion) enough groceries to last us a week. We packed our food and headed out our East Harlem door around 8:30 yesterday morning. We got in line at nine and spent all day talking with other Gaga fans, including a gaggle of adorable Europeans who had flown to the city just for the concert and were first in line. It was a fun time.
And, natch, we were interviewed several times by local news organizations. Here's the video taken by my new favorite reporter, Lindsay Meeks, from the New York Daily News. It's fucking amazing.
I also wanted to include here, for the first time ever, an essay I wrote way back in January after I saw Lady Gaga the first time. It was my inaugural attempt at summing up this amazing artist in 1,500 words or less. I submitted it to Gotham's website but it was too long and never got published. It's still relevant, especially since I just saw her for the second time, and I wanted to share it.
Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are. – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is two months and one week younger than me. She turned 24 this March, which makes me wonder if she does all the things that I do. Does she toss and turn at night because she can’t shut her brain off? Does she long for her childhood, when she used to sit on her parents' rug listening to Queen albums, and her greatest worry was what kind of sandwich she would eat for lunch? When she's not touring or recording, does she go home to her parents' Upper West Side apartment and sleep in her old bed? Does she then wake up the next day and eat breakfast with her family around the kitchen table? When she's home, is Stefani Germanotta there? Does she wear cotton pajamas and socks and laugh when her dad tells a joke? In short, is she just like us?
It seems appropriate that I spent part of my 24th birthday inside Radio City Music Hall with Lady Gaga. As I watched her undulate on stage, I asked myself these questions, among others. I had never encountered someone so simultaneously transparent and impossible to read: as she raised her eyebrows and lovingly referred to us, her fans, as her "little monsters," I felt as though she was my best friend in the whole world. I felt like I knew her better than I had ever known anyone. And as she then yelled frenetically at us, demanding that we tell her she's sexy and clap and scream and jump for her, I realized why: I felt that I knew her so well because she has brilliantly filled a niche that no one has filled since Madonna. She has marketed herself as a perfect reflection of a whole generation. If you're lonely, little monsters, just remember that I'll be lonely too. And this is The Fame.
The bass crawled through the room and I felt that I was no different or separate from any other person in the crowd. I wondered as I watched her who she really was, underneath it all. She would tell us she loved us more than anything in the world, and thank us for everything we’ve done for her, and then she would scream at us and taunt us for being nothing more than Fame-crazed* whores who stole her former life from her. She switched so fast between loving and hating us – the people who made her wildest dreams come true – that it was hard to keep track, or to know which sentiment was more sincere. But as a generation who lives in a constant state of Internet-fueled anxiety and confusion because we seem to have too many choices and not enough wisdom to make the right ones, we see that she is our mirror: rough, honest, loving, but (above all) bewildering. We grew up on Tim Burton and Nickelodeon and MTV; give us dark bewilderment, or give us nothing at all.
It’s precisely because she exists as two opposing people simultaneously that Gaga speaks so well to our generation. She is Stefani, the person each of us 20somethings currently is, the nobody walking around the streets of New York, with nothing but a dream and a will; and she is Lady Gaga, the person we all imagine ourselves as inside this dream. Every 20something I know has a Lady Gaga of themselves in their head: whether we want to be writers, artists, singers, actors, or reality TV stars, we all want to be Lady Gaga. We all want other people to worship us for our work. And maybe unlike any generation before us, because our parents told us we can do anything in the world – plus the added element of coming of age in a time when fame is made easy by YouTube, blogging, and a number of other Internet tools – each of us actually believes we can and will become Lady Gaga.
"Hello, little monsters. Do you like my show?" she purrs from beneath a neon-yellow wig and a thick layer of red lipstick, false eyelashes and black eyeliner. "If you don't, I don't care, because you can fucking leave."
The crowd roars in approval. A thousand cameras pop off flashes as Gaga, clad in a skin-tight nude bodysuit fashioned of rhinestones and flashing LED lights, slinks toward the back of the cube-like structure that frames her stage. The stage lights flash white before they drop, and the bass vibrates through our bodies. An image begins to flicker across the three large screens that make up the walls of Gaga's three-pronged world, and supersized digiGaga appears before us in a gorgeous, flowing white frock. We continue to chant and jump as the music climaxes and the image switches to a solid bright white. When Gaga returns to us, she is straddled by a girl with long dark hair, wearing a black unitard and knee-high boots, sticking two fingers down her throat and vomiting blue paint on Gaga's perfect, luminescent dress. Over and over again, she purges through her open mouth while ours gape. I’m sort of like Tinkerbell. You know how Tinkerbell will die if you don’t clap for her? I'll just die without you, my little monsters.
The Monster Ball is genius performance art – along the same lines as Andy Warhol, Patti Smith and David Bowie, it would probably be more appropriately housed in the MOMA than in Radio City – because it's a tool Gaga uses to simultaneously worship her fans, who are both the byproduct and the cause of her sudden rise to fame, and to fight with them. She says, "Fame is killing me," and we believe her. We believe her because we can see it happening. It’s in her face, in her body – which seems to be growing more and more skinny and sinewy - and we can hear it pulsing underneath her scratchy, raw vocal chords. When she says that fame is killing her, she means it both literally and figuratively; it’s literally making her exhausted and ill – Gaga recently confessed that she tested borderline postitive for lupus, the disease that took her aunt’s life – and figuratively it’s slowly killing the person she used to be.
Gaga lies down on the stage and contorts her tiny, lithe body so she is facing us. “Do you think I’m sexy?” she asks us. The crowd’s roar grows to a deafening trill. “I think you’re sexy. When people ask me why I spent all my money on my shows, I just tell them it’s because I have the sexiest fans in the world. But, the question is, do you think I’m sexy?” We scream again. “I don’t believe you!” she screams in return.The reason we scream for her now is because we know that she knows she’s not classically sexy; unlike Britney or Beyoncé before her, Gaga has never pitched the allure of her sexuality as one of her strong artistic qualities. She rarely shows her eyes, often hiding behind dark sunglasses and large hats and sometimes full-coverage masks. She is often nearly-nude, but her nudity never exudes raw, dripping sex like Britney’s did. But it doesn’t matter. In less than two years since her rise to fame, Gaga has sold more than 10 million records and been able to create an entire fan base centered on a singular idea: Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
The reason we little monsters love our Gaga so much is that she is not just a person – she is the never-ending, drug-reminiscent orgasm of my generation. It's like we literally gave birth to her – as if all the young 20somethings in America got together and had a giant orgy, and when we were finished we looked to the middle of the crowd and there was Lady Gaga, laying on the floor, curled up in the fetal position. We have no idea how she got there, but we know she's a part of us, and always will be. We just have to be careful that, like wild primate mothers who prefer to digest their progeny, we don’t eat her right up.
*Uppercase Fame is decidedly different from lowercase fame in Gaga’s world. Uppercase Fame is the ability to proclaim self-worth, which Gaga claims everyone has inside of them, while lowercase fame is the common usage, denoting notoriety or popularity.
SEE: JOAN JONAS EXHIBIT AT GAVIN BROWN
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