Back to the Future

Eighties revivalism is afoot, and much of its allure stems from self-awareness—for all its glam pretensions, the decade was kind of dorky. “I’m a nerd singing disco,” cooed Miss Kittin Thursday night at Fun, except the French-Swiss vocal star of Felix da Housecat’s recently released Kittenz and Thee Glitz wasn’t a nerd at all, but a buxom blonde Eurobabe, ample curves packed into a sparkly turquoise tank top. And her backing music wasn’t disco, but the lo-fi electro and techno that’s all the rage amongst the electronic set from Williamsburg to Berlin. “DJ plays déjà vu,” she later sang over a simple, surging keyboard melody. “As we were in ’82.”

Miss Kittin and partner-programmer the Hacker’s show was inexplicably five songs “long,” and a promised DJ set never materialized. Still, there was an undeniable charm to their tracks. “Frank Sinatra? He’s dead,” she deadpanned (she deadpans everything) with a cold laugh during her song that shares his name. “To be famous is so nice. Suck my dick. Kiss my ass. In limousines, we have sex every night with my famous friends.” The indifference is the thing—Miss Kittin has a punk-rock take on celebrity, but rather than grind an ax, she makes certain it’s razor sharp, and then listlessly waves it about. No need to get testy—she’s just saying, is all.

Now lots of people are hearing what this new wave of artists is just saying, is all, judging by the packed house at out-of-the-way Fun and the line at the door Friday night during one of Larry Tee’s weekly electro nights at Luxx (a velvet rope in Williamsburg? How ironic!). Fledgling trio WIT played an abbreviated live set, including a cover of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed.” An acronym for Whatever It Takes, WIT exchange Ric Ocasek’s earnest pleas for the practiced dispassion of Robert Palmer girls. It’s nostalgic yet new. It’s nonchalant, very serious criticism. It’s the electro renaissance, its ironies so ubiquitous that they’ve become hard to detect. Get it? —Bill Werde

Contract Killer

John Loan, the events manager at the prominent investment firm Alliance Capital Management, was arrested Monday, January 14, for embezzling over $3 million from the company, where he had worked for nine years. Indicted on January 25 for grand larceny in the first degree and possession of stolen property in the first degree, Loan is being held on $1 million bail. He will be arraigned in Criminal Court February 6. If tried and convicted, he could receive as much as a 25-year sentence.

The arrest was a body blow to the local cabaret community, because over the last few years, Loan, calling himself John Jerome, had established himself as a benefactor to entertainers who toil regularly in a marginalized show-business arena. Because the potential for CD sales of cabaret artists is limited and because the number of rooms devoted to cabaret is small, many singers make do with low incomes supplemented by day jobs. When they want to produce CDs, now a necessary calling card for bookings, they raise the backing themselves.

That’s where Loan/Jerome came to the rescue. After the November 7, 2000, release of then boyfriend Kristopher McDowell’s Faces of Love CD on newly formed Jerome Records, the seemingly bottomless-pocketed Jerome began aggressively signing numerous neophyte and established singers—among them Julie Wilson, Karen Mason, Jeff Harnar, and Phillip Officer. In other words, he appeared to have sprung full-blown as a local hero—a Loan John.

At the moment, however, Loan’s lawyers won’t even speculate about the disposition of masters and possible royalties. Mark Sendroff and Thomas Shanahan, who are representing Jerome, won’t comment on holdings, other than to allow that they’re trying to locate and sort through whatever assets exist and then determine, as Sendroff puts it, “which artists we can give relief.” If the CDs are completed but unreleased, the two lawyers say, those under contract will have to wait before learning the masters are theirs to assign. Another of Jerome’s lawyers, defense attorney Arthur Aidala, points out that Loan’s annual Alliance Capital salary was $70,000 plus bonuses and not, as reported elsewhere, $200,000. He adds that his client lives in a simply furnished, rent-controlled apartment and doesn’t own the kind of luxury items usually associated with felons feathering nests.

Uncertainty over what motivated Jerome is rife among the recipients of his largesse. Kristopher McDowell scheduled a tell-what-he-could meeting with this reporter but, claiming stress, postponed. Those who do talk watch their words carefully. Even though Heather Mac Rae’s first Jerome CD is now in limbo, she says, “[Jerome] made my dream come true. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a wonderful person.” Julie Reyburn, halfway through her first project, says, “There was always this too-good-to-be-true kind of thing, but he was trying to get attention [for cabaret]. He was trying to bring it into the mainstream.” Baby Jane Dexter, who’d recently signed to Jerome but hadn’t gone into the studio, allowed that when she learned about developments, “I was in shock, but I wasn’t in shock that something was wrong. It always seemed strange.”

Jerome has also supposedly donated generous amounts of money to charitable causes, although the donations are currently in dispute. As one well-situated observer puts it, “Sure he was giving to a charitable cause—he was giving to cabaret.” —David Finkle

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