By Dan McQuade
By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
It is a fame they simultaneously never imagined and always wanted. "When we started this band, our sights were not necessary on Wembley," says Shears over tea at the Landmark. "It was like, 'Can we get a Saturday night show at Luxx? Then the next month, 'Oh, my God, we got Berliniamsburg? Do you think they'll book us at Spa? Oh, my God! We're playing Amanda Lepore's birthday party at Spa!'"
"I used to dream about being in situations like this," says Marquis, strumming a guitar in one of the bland rooms backstage that serves as a practice area. "And so now they exist, not necessarily how I planned them, but sometimes even more fantastic than I could have dreamed."
This double life would almost seem cruel, except the band doesn't seem to mind a bit.
"Great. Great. Love it," says Matronic, who'd originally hoped for an underground career modeled after Bongwater's Ann Magnuson. She's putting on her makeup for the show while the hairstylist preps her Hollywood-quality wig, made of real hair, with fine lace for the hairline. "It's like being a superhero. You put on your cape, fly over to London, and save the day. Then you put your glasses and your three-piece suit back on, and you're Clark Kent back in New York. No one, none of us, got into this for fame, or celebrity, or riches. It was always about music and playing to as many people as wanted to hear it."
"I never want to be a celebrity," Shears says. "I want to be an artist. Celebrity-ness is like herpes, and once you have it, it never goes away."
This way, they have it both waysthey can be stars, then come home and go to parties at local clubs like Mr. Black and not be bothered. "It's almost as if I went to sleep and then I woke up, and I'm in New York, and everything that happened over here I can put to rest if I need to," Marquis says. "I couldn't have this existence follow me around in my home, so I actually really like the dichotomy."
Fame and occasional fortunemost notably the bling glistening off Shears and Babydaddy's wrists, gifts from Elton John himselfaside, being a rock star seems almost tedious. As the tour bus drives toward Wembley, Paddy Boom talks about how strange it is playing arenas: "There's almost like a vacuum that's been created, because it's like, 'Whoa, here it is, I've got it, I'm in a superstar rock band.' But the backstages feel like prison. It's a weird contrast. 'We're going down, here come the gates! Check, check, security!' "
He was half-joking, but you could tell he also meant it. Sure enough, as we pull into the arena the gates clank down behind us as the bus descends into a bottomless pit of cement and monster trucks. "Look," says Paddy as we get off the bus, walking like his hands are tied together and wobbling as if his feet are in shackles. "We're in prison."
"You know, I was just happy when we got a record deal," he continues. "I'm surprised that it's still getting bigger. I almost thought it could have been a swan song with Live 8 [during last summer's performance, they shared the stage with U2, Madonna, and Paul McCartney, performing to 200,000 people], 'cause this business chews up bands and spits them out. Today's love affair could be tomorrow's MC Hammer."
The Wembley trip is a family affair, with significant others and reps from the Shears, Baby- daddy, and Matronic camps, the latter proudly wearing self-made black T-shirts studded with "Mama Matronic" and "Papa Matronic." Having their families in town seems to chip at the dullness of the backstage viewa long, narrow hallway leading to a series of indistinguishable rooms painted a crisp white, with gray carpeting and bright fluorescent lighting. There are no windows, so were it not for a wall clock, you'd have no idea what time it was. You certainly wouldn't know that thousands of people are gathering just outside these rooms, waiting to be entertained.
To break up the boredom, photographer Kevin Tachman and Babydaddy's brother, Ben, embark on a mission. "Scissor Sisters Parking Lot!" they shout, heading to the lobby with a video camera and microphone, asking random victims the inappropriate questions featured in the heavy-metal cult movie. They lack the delicate interview skills one needs when approaching pre-teens and the shy British public, but they score when a little girl with bright red hair finally consents to a chat, clutching a giant pair of inflatable scissors. "Are you wasted?" Ben asks the girl, who looks no older than eight.
After Friday's 4 p.m. soundcheck, I hang out with Shears and his family, including his mom, Frida, a dynamic blonde Southern woman who's a well-known fixture among the band's fans. Jason/Jake Shears is much the same person I met over 10 years ago in Seattle when I was working at Bauhaus Café on Capitol Hill: bubbly, optimistic, and friendly. I had so many other friends who seemed far more obsessed with music and fame; I never would have pegged him to be a future rock star. "I must have known, 'cause I wrote a letter to myself when I was 16 years old," he says later. "It was like 'To the future me, I hope you're enjoying being a rock star.' I wrote it upstairs at Bauhaus. It was the night before we played a show."