Jobriath A.D.Lonely Planet Boy

Jobriath A.D.
directed by Kieran Turner

What if they made a masterwork and nobody came?

Yes, this review begins as a bitter diatribe, a flame aimed directly at the LGBTQ community, my community. Why oh why, year after year, do you trek to the neighborhood arthouse cinema or order from TRL yet another coming-out story with bare-chested young men behaving badly or some screwball sex comedy with bare-chested young men behaving badly? Are we not yet sated on this front? Why do our queer art films die on the vine? It is criminal that as of yet no distributor has picked up writer-director-producer Kieran Turner’s Jobriath A.D. for even DVD release or network broadcast.

An important chronicle of innocence lost, betrayal fulfilled, lust denied and bravado unchained, Jobriath A.D. dovetails perfectly with the tumultuous ‘70s and ends in the tragic ‘80s, where death came too soon to too many. A straightforward documentary exposing the music industry and its fixation on the bottom line, this finely crafted film follows Bruce Wayne Campbell’s self-reinvention as Jobriath, the first openly gay rock star in history. “Asking me if I’m gay is like asking James Brown if he’s black,” says our subject. Scrutinized from birth to death as a true outsider artist, his talent was either diminished or heightened by the glam rock packaging, depending on one’s take on that era. Interviews with luminaries like Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, Marc Almond and Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons, Zenobia, Ann Magnuson and Joey Arias underscore the major influence Jobriath has had on the current generation of pop stars and cultural doyennes. Tony Zanetta of MainMan, Miss Mercy of the GTO’s and the always-delightful Jayne County lend insight as well.

Perceived by many as a failed David Bowie clone, Jobriath actually was an astonishing out and proud talent Svengalied by one Jerry Brandt, who becomes a major focus of the documentary as he tells us of the rise and fall of Jobriath and the Creatures from New York. Editor Danny Bresnik keeps the pace brisk, and a series of animated vignettes add luster to the spectacle. Following the tale is a delightful romp, and narrator Henry Rollins is an unexpected surprise. Footage from the astounding Midnight Special set of 1974 is hypnotic, and to hear William Morris talent manager Brandt describes Campbell's complete personality change upon Jobriath’s arrival onstage and fully costumed is chilling, speaking to a likely borderline schizophrenia or bipolarity. Brandt sank a fortune into the myth of the star, and money from his Electric Circus Discotheque on St. Marks Square was followed by funds from the more cynical later club Erotic Circus, a parallel indicative of the death of cultural naiveté.

It’s also a real exciting image to see the curved brick wall of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios followed by interior shots of the studios where the Jobriath albums were recorded. Somehow, impossibly, Richard Gere is seen singing backup vocals, along with Vicki Sue Robinson and even guitar work from Peter Frampton! The hypnotic allure of Jobriath’s personality, going back to his early days as Woof the sexualized hippie from the musical Hair! to the very end, gave him special super powers to influence those around him. Such was his skill and natural, innate ability that even crowds in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, gave the glitter freak a minutes-long ovation. Director Turner has infused the film with such love that we cannot help but be swept into the vortex.

Of course it ends badly, inevitably, with the last days in the Chelsea Hotel tower apartment and yet another reinvention of Bruce Wayne Campbell. Someday, a full reckoning on film will be made of the tremendous talent, from Klaus Nomi to Rudolph Nureyev, taken by a hideous disease and setting back culture by decades, perhaps centuries. Please, dear friends straight, gay and in-between, take note: This brave film is a stride in that direction. Seek it out. Ask for it. Demand it. Raise a ruckus! Jobriath did.
–– Roy Rogers Oldenkamp

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