Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the June 1st edition of [NAME REDACTED BY LEGAL COUNSEL], a free weekly newspaper in northern California. It is reproduced below in its entirety.
Album: Born This Way
Artist: Lady Gaga
Release: May 23, 2011
Okay, so let me start off by saying that I’m with you. There’s nothing I hate more than those pretentious first-person reviews where some wannabe Lester Bangs or Hunter Thompson is supposed to be talking about the thing he’s reviewing, but really just ends up using it as an excuse to talk about himself.
I had every intention of doing this thing for real, of giving Gaga’s new album a clean honest review.
Cut to me lying on my couch, blasting the album through my Beats by Dre high-definition over-the-ear headphones. Lit to the gills on turpentine-grade gin and a gram of strong hash, the realization quickly dawning on me that any attempt to review this album in the conventional sense would be futile.
Cut to me here, laying on the ground, blood streaming out of the giant gash in my head and pooling on the black-and-white-checkered floor. My hands are tied behind my back with the translucent yellow power cord from a floor lamp.
A few feet from my head lies the fiber optic Mary Magdalene statuette that she used to bash me over the head.
A few feet further still, she sits in an armchair, perched on the edge of the seat and holding out a steel nail file pointed at me like a gun, like she’s keeping me at bay.
Finally, after twenty minutes of silent staring, she speaks.
“Love is like a brick,” she says. “You can build a house, or you can sink a dead body.”
“What the fuck?” I cough weakly, feeling the fear begin to swell in my chest.
She stands up and slowly crosses the room toward me, then places her bare foot on top of my face, mooshing down my cheek into an undignified Picasso-esque grimace.
“I would rather die than have my fans see me without a pair of heels on.”
But before I get to the review, or to the craziness that followed, first a little context. Let’s jump back to the other night, when the world did not end.
Cut to me sitting in a bar, Saturday night going on Sunday morning. I’m with a couple friends from high school, Jessie and Dolores. They were my best friends once upon a time, but then we drifted apart the way people do, nudged along by circumstance. Shortly after we graduated, Dolores’s sister killed herself in front of Jessie, and things got a little strained between them. Jessie quit the band we were trying to start, one of a series of failed bands for me, and then moved away to finish her degree. Dolores ran off to the city and shacked up with some guy who paid for her hormone treatments and surgery. Now, twelve years later, we were relegated to getting together once every few months whenever one of us was ensnared by misguided pangs of nostalgia.
Jessie spent most of Saturday night texting her girlfriend while half-heartedly listening to Dolores’s distinctive brand of stream-of-consciousness rambling. Tonight’s topics included the failure of the rapture to materialize, the crushing disappointment that was the British royal wedding, and the exciting prospect that Donald Trump may one day have control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.
I was keeping entertained by intermittently scribbling in my notebook, which I carried around to capture random thoughts and snippets of conversation that might be useful for an article or for the long-suffering screenplay I one day still hope to finish.
I drained down the last gulp of cheap gin and melted ice from my glass and checked my watch.
“12:06,” I said to Dolores with a grin. “It’s officially not May 21st anymore, and we’re still here.”
She screwed up her face with distaste, her lips caked thick with cherry red lipstick that she was no longer young enough to pull off without looking campy. “Oh well, there’s always that Mayan Calendar thing next year. Here’s hoping that might pan out.”
“Actually, the Mayans didn’t really think the world would end,” I corrected. “It’s supposed to be a time of radical transformation, the beginning of a new era.”
She sneered, “Adam, honey, why do you always have to take the stupidest point of view in every argument?”
Then, just as our conversation hit a lull, a disembodied voice cut through the silence and declared over the bar’s sound system, “It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M.”
“Oh God, I’m so sick of this song,” Jessie groaned without taking her eyes off her phone, as the tinny digital beat of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” kicked in.
She tuned around to look at table of sorority girls who’d been monopolizing the jukebox all night and yelled, “You know, I liked this song so much better when it was called ‘Express Yourself’.”
This elicited the appropriate jeers, and I briefly wondered whether going over to apologize for my friend’s behavior might net me any phone numbers.
Jessie turned back to us and continued her grumbling, “How could the world not have ended when the Whore of Fucking Babylon is already here?”
“I kinda like her,” I ventured, earning me a vicious glare.
Dolores gave a little chortle. “You know she’s a dude, right?”
“That’s not true,” I object.
“Or at least a hermaphrodite.”
“It’s true,” Dolores insisted. “There are pictures online where she’s wearing, like, spandex leotards and shit, and she’s got her legs spread open,” she paused to demonstrate, flashing me a look up her skirt, knowing it would turn me red, “and you can totally see the dick bulge.”
I tried to think of a reply but came up empty, knowing that Dolores was just baiting me into saying something that she could twist around to prove how narrow my cis-hetero-male worldview was.
After a long awkward silence, she chirped mockingly, “Dick bulge, son. Dick bulge.”
“Anyway,” I finally said, “my paper wants me to review her new album that’s coming out this week. They said, ‘Do another one of those cute little sarcastic stream-of-consciousness things you do.’”
“Why?” Jessie asked with an anguished cry, apparently offended enough to actually warrant slipping her phone back into her purse. “Why aren’t you giving coverage to some deserving indie band, some new artist struggling to make a name, instead of just providing one more flaccid body in the 24-7 sycophantic orgy slobbering over the world’s biggest superstar?”
Jessie, it should be noted, is also a journalist, albeit for what she refers to as a “real” newspaper, as opposed to the free weekly I write for. Also, despite her elitist conviction that her larger circulation somehow validates her more as a journalist. At the same time she resents that, from her perspective, my paper’s mediocrity gives me the freedom to write about things that her neatly-manicured and offensively-unoffensive corporate masters have deemed verboten. Things like unionizing sweat shop workers, or unionizing sex workers, or basically anyone forming a union while doing a job neither of us would ever have to do ourselves.
“What could you possibly have to say about her that hasn’t been said before?” she demanded.
I shrugged, almost apologetically, and tried to explain, “Well, a few months back I was having lunch with my editor, and I started telling her about a couple of right wing Christian websites I’d stumbled on that claimed Gaga is an Illuminatus. We were just bullshitting, you know, talking about crazy shit online, but she seemed interested, so I explained how they had all this very painstakingly analysis of all the esoteric symbolism in her videos and photo shoots. And I had to admit, they made a pretty compelling argument. Her tendency to pose with one eye covered or with two fingers spread on her face, framing one of her eyes in a V (or triangle). The Hello Kitty photo shoot inside a Masonic lodge. The pervasive birth, rebirth, and metamorphosis imagery. The crosses, both inverted and upright. Multiple allusions within her videos to mind control. Honestly, haven’t seen this much blatant occult and anti-Christian imagery in pop music since Marilyn Manson. Anyways, my editor was sufficiently amused and suggested that when the new album came out I should do a tongue-in-cheek review about some made-up hidden symbolism in it.”
Jessie rolled her eyes. “You’re only covering her because you want to fuck her.”
It should be noted that a good amount of the time I spent hanging out with Jessie in high school was motivated by wanting to fuck her.
I said, “Honestly, she’s never really done anything for me sexually. I mean sure, she’s got a great body, and obviously she’s not shy about showing it off. But it’s not about wanting to fuck her,” I paused, struggling to find the right words, feeling the booze weighing down my tongue, making everything come out sluggish and misshapen. “I just admire her, you know. I’m fascinated by her. She’s turned herself into a living, breathing work of conceptual art that both celebrates and condemns the narcissism of our culture. I guess there’s part of me that identifies with her, and another part of me that wishes I could be more like her. Haven’t you ever felt that way about an artist? It’s like, I don’t want to fuck her as much as I want to be her. I don’t want to just take off her clothes, I want to peel off her skin and wear it around like suit.”
“You mean like the guy in Silence of the Lambs?” Dolores chimed in.
“Yes,” I responded, then hesitated. “Wait, um…”
“The guy that did that tuck scene,” she continued, as if helping me along.
I stared at her blankly.
“You know who else has to tuck?”
“Dick bulge, son. Dick bulge.”
Cut to me coming home from the bar and laying out on my couch. Dre’s on my head. Leaked copy of the new album on my iPod, freshly-downloaded via a prominent torrent site. Hash pipe in hand, notebook and pen resting on my belly, ready to review the shit out of this thing.
The album started off unassuming enough with “Marry the Night”. The lyrics are typical angsty teenager, black-lipstick and Sylvia Plath journal writing nonsense. “I’m gonna Marry the Night/I won’t give up on my life/I’m gonna Marry the Dark/Gonna make love to the stars.” Like Shirley Manson singing “I’m only happy when in it rains” back when I was in school.
The next track, “Born This Way”, is the lead-off single. You’ve probably heard it; it’s been ubiquitous over the past month or so, but it’s one of her blander singles, to my taste. The lyrics are some vague notion of empowerment. It’s touchy-feely, everyone-gets-a-trophy-for-participation crap; the kind of thing that’s turned the millennial generation into a bunch of gutless mama’s boys who burst into tears if they don’t get an atta-boy pat on the ass every fifteen fucking minutes. It’s vapid, non-threatening sloganeering for the masses to give the illusion of control over their lives.
I start to get a little worried that I’m not gonna find anything with some real meat in it to use in my article.
This is pointless, I thought to myself. Why did I feel such a strong compulsion to find something to read into it? Did I need to create some intellectual, pseudo-ironic justification for enjoying an album, just because it’s popular or commercial? Why do hipsters find it so hard to enjoy something for its own sake? Why can’t it be enough to like a song because it’s catchy and fun and demands absolutely nothing of you as a listener?
And just as I was ready to write-off the whole endeavor, things started to get weird.
The third track, “Government Hooker”, jumped out immediately as being a much stronger song than the previous two, propelled by a manic beat with caterwauling refrain “As long as I’m your hooker.”
But despite its bouncy, driving dance beats, there was a vaguely unsettling vibe to it. It didn’t help that the verses consist of a series of brainwashed, Stepford Wife-ish come-on’s: “I could be girl (Unless you want to be man)/I could be sex (Unless you want to hold hands).”
And then there was the random allusion to JFK in the bridge. Ostensibly a dig at his philandering, it still stood out awkwardly. I started scribbling more excitedly in my notebook.
Next came “Judas”, which is another single so I’ve heard it before, although the juxtaposition to the last song gave it a much more menacing undertone. First off, there were more references to hookers and prostitutes, forming a clear bridge to the last song. And then she hit me with this line: “I’ll bring him down/A king with no crown.”
An image flashed in my head, frame 313 of the Zapruder film, JFK’s head disintegrating into a fine red mist. Kevin Costner repeating, “Back, and to the left.”
I could feel the hash really starting to work its magic on me, getting the creative, free-association juices flowing.
In my notebook I wrote: Possibly invoking Masonic/Illuminist symbolism connected to the Kennedy assassination? Reference “King-Kill/33” essay by Downard, claims assassination was a performance of the “killing of the king” ritual required of initiates into the 33rd degree of Masonry.
Which I know is a stretch, but this is how subliminal messaging really works, despite all that crap your preacher may have told you about backwards masking. When you read it one word at a time, it’s either innocuous or nonsensical, but read only every third or fourth word and the pattern starts to emerge. The brain latches onto the strongest images that stand out, like the highest peaks of a mountain range that break through the clouds—death, crowns, crucifixion, JFK, killing the king—leaving the subconscious mind to connect the dots.
A few songs later came “Bloody Mary”, which was about Mary Magdalene and shared a lot of common imagery with “Judas” with lines like, “I won’t cry for you/I won’t crucify the things you do,” and, “Kill the king upon his throne/I’m ready for their stones.”
In my notebook I wrote: Overt allusions to Mary Magdalene, another prostitute, while subtext is King-Kill/33. Could be read to almost encourage or at least the violent removal of authority figures.
Angle for article: Gaga part of Illuminist MK-Ultra/Manchurian Candidate program to brainwash a cadre of hookers to assassinate political and economic leaders, the Stepford Hashishin.
Possibly also connected to Mary Magdalene/Rennes-le-chateau/Merovingian/Sirius axis of conspiracy theories, but try not to get too Dan Brown about it.
I kept moving through the album. Most of the other songs are tamer, echoing earlier anthems of hollow-toothed youth rebellion like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Fight for Your Right to Party”. But taken as a whole, the album has a heavily anti-Christian, anti-establishment bent. I wrote: Maybe the fundamentalists & evangelicals are right to be freaked out.
I could feel the hash starting to make me edgy and unfocused.
There was one other song that struck me as significant, although I couldn’t place exactly why at first. It was called “Electric Chapel” and had lyrics like:
Follow me, don’t be such a holy fool
Follow me, I need something more from you
It’s not about sex or champagne
If you want me, meet me at electric chapel
Shit, it sounded like some kind of creepy recruitment pitch. I thought of that cult in the ‘70s, Children of God, that sent young women into bars to recruit men by going home with them and then hitting them with proselytizing as pillow talk.
Then my brain made another connection: electric as in light bulbs, as in illumination, as in Illuminati. Holy shit, did she intentionally name a song of after the Church of Illumination?
Of course not, man, you’re high as balls, the clear-thinking, rational part of my brain responded.
My creative/drug-addled brain responded back: I’m not suggesting that she’s actually part of some shadowy organization, obviously, but maybe she is into occultism. Wouldn’t be the first popular entertainer, Jayne Mansfield and Sammy Davis, Jr. both palled around with LaVey.
I thought what you were going for was ironic, tongue-in-cheek, I’m-a-hipster-and-I-read-books-so-that-entitles-me-to-make-fun-of-everything vibe. That’s what you do, that’s what you’re good at. You keep talking like this and people will start to think you actually believe this crazy shit. Don’t be that guy.
Okay, but she could be throwing this shit in just to fuck with people, like how Lennon threw that “the walrus is Paul” line into “Glass Onion” to fuck with the Paul-is-dead conspiracy theorists.
Yes, the Beatles! Everyone loves the Beatles, and everyone loves that pop culture referential shit. Now you’re starting to talk some sense, man. Hidden messages to the true fans in the know, making fun of all those freaks and weirdos who just don’t get it. You should fly to New York and ask her about it, just to see if you’re right. That would be pure-fucking-gonzo journalism.
Suddenly I found myself laying on the ground in an airport terminal, wedged between between a row of interlocked chairs and a window overlooking the tarmac, with no idea how I got there.
“Tell me your confession,” she demands, leading me back down the spiral staircase on a leash.
I take a hard swallow before answering, “I feel like I’ve betrayed my dreams, or maybe sometimes I think my dreams have betrayed me. I’d have been better served by simple dreams like marriage, family, stability. What right have I to dream of making my mark on the world?”
She makes a disapproving tsk with her tongue. “Dreams are never weak like we are.”
Cut back to me in the airport, clambering to my feet, trying to figure out how I got there.
Presumably I’d taken a flight. In fact, the more I thought about it, I did vaguely remember sitting next to a middle-aged businesswoman who kept typing on her laptop while trying to ignore me spewing violently into the airsick bag.
At any rate, it wasn’t as important how I got there, I decided; what mattered was what city I was in. Taking a moment to smooth out my clothes, I noticed a brown leather overnight bag at my feet. I didn’t recognize it, but assumed it must have been mine, so I picked it up and rummaged through it until I found a boarding pass with the destination airport code printed on it: JFK. I also found an envelope full of twenty dollar bills that looked suspiciously like the entire contents of my savings account minus the cost of a one-way plane ticket.
I made my way out of the terminal and hopped in a cab.
“Where to?” the driver asked.
“I’m not sure,” I answered. “Where would you recommend for a first-time tourist?”
“Well that depends what you’re looking for? You looking for pussy?”
I considered it a moment. “No, not really.”
“What are you, some kinda fag?” he asked in the kind of gravelly voice that you only hear from cab drivers in old movies.
“No, I like pussy,” I responded defensively.
“Damn straight you do. Sit back, I know just the place.”
I rode out the rest of the trip in silence until the cab pulled up to a hotel next to Central Park with a giant metal globe in front of the building. I pulled a couple of bills from the envelope and slipped them to the driver, and he slipped me back a purple business card. One side was printed with a stylized eye in a pyramid design, while the reverse had a handwritten number: 333.
“When you get to the room, knock on the door three times long, three times short, then three times long again,” he instructed. “She’ll take good care of you.”
I took the elevator up to the third floor. When I got to room 333, I gave the special knock, and a woman answered the door wearing a tasteful little red satin dress. She had short auburn hair and green eyes, and the first thing that popped into my head when I saw her was how much she looked like Jessie.
“Put the envelope on the dresser,” she instructed while leading me into the room. Assuming that she meant an envelope with some money in it, I reached into my bag and tossed my envelope full of money onto the dresser. I briefly considered taking out a few bills to keep for myself, but I didn’t want to look cheap and besides I was pretty sure that asking her how much money should be in the envelope would be a breach of protocol at this point, so I decided to play it safe and just give her all of it.
“What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Adam. I’m Celeste.”
I could tell that she was lying and regretted that she knew my real name but I didn’t know hers, sensing that some power dynamic had shifted.
“You can take your clothes off and lie down on the bed,” she said, although it felt more like an instruction than an option. I obeyed and watched her shimmy out of her dress. As I looked at her naked body, I thought to myself that she was definitely skinnier than Jessie and had smaller boobs and no glasses, but she still kinda looked like her anyways.
Then she came over and put a condom on my dick with her mouth and kept her mouth down there to get me hard, or at least hard enough, and then she climbed on top of me and slid her pussy down onto my dick. We fucked for a little while but all I could think about was how much she looked like Jessie and so I kept going soft and finally she just gave up. I apologized and blamed it on all the alcohol and drugs although by that time I was pretty sure they had worn off hours ago. She said it was okay and we could just lie together and talk.
She asked me where I was from, and I told her. She asked if I had a girlfriend back home, and I lied and said that her name was Jessica. She asked me what I was doing in town, and I told her that I was a reporter and was going to interview Lady Gaga. She pretended to give a shit about my job and asked what other famous people I interviewed, and I made up a few unconvincing lies before she told me that our time was up and I had to go. As I walked out, she took a couple of twenties out of the envelope on the dresser and gave them back to me so I’d at least have cab fare.
I didn’t notice until later that folded between the bills was another purple business card like the one the cab driver had given me.
Now she’s moved me downstairs, put one of her wigs on me, and is making me play her piano. She’s barking at me to write songs, to create spontaneously, to open up my mouth and my body and become a conduit for the music. She wants me to write an entire rock-opera on the spot. Whenever I play a bum note or hesitate too long or flub the second rhyme of a couplet, she swats me in the face with a fly-swatter to show her displeasure.
She’s been swatting me a lot.
“When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.”
“I can’t, I’m shit, I have no talent,” I whine. “I have nothing to say as an artist, I’ve never had a single unique or original thought in my entire pathetic life.”
She swats me. That wasn’t in key.
“Do you know what this says?” she asks, pointing to the tattoo on her arm.
“It’s Rilke, right?”
She swats me.
“No, I don’t know.”
“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?”
I let out an anguished cry, “I don’t want to work that hard for my art. I just want to be adored. Even if I’ve done nothing to deserve it. I am human and I need to be loved just like everybody else.”
I get another faceful of swatter.
“As artists, we are eternally heartbroken.”
Cut to me alone in an elevator, not sure exactly what building the elevator’s in or how I got there. I glanced down at my hand and noticed I was holding the purple card that Celeste had given me. It looked exactly like the one I got from the taxi driver, except it had the number 777 written on the back. Then I noticed that the button for the 7th floor was lit, so I figured that must have been where I was headed. When the elevator doors opened, I walked down the hallway until I found the room and then knocked on the door seven times long, seven times short, an then seven times long again. There was no answer, so after a few minutes I tried the door knob and it was unlocked so I just let myself in.
The door opened into a spacious loft apartment that looked like it’d been ripped from the world of Tron. There were the usual hallmarks of contemporary upper crust domesticity, like minimalist Scandinavian furniture with chrome accents and monochromatic upholstery, except everything was trimmed with glowing florescent tubes of red and blue. And it wasn’t just the furniture, even the walls, the baseboards, the counter tops and cabinetry were outlined in the florescent tubes, all of which ran throughout the apartment in intricate criss-crossing patterns and converged in the middle of the room where they intertwined together to form a giant crucifix of neon lights.
I wandered from room to room, looking to see if anyone was home, but found no one. Then I walked up a spiral staircase that led to the master bedroom, where I heard a shower running through the closed bathroom door. I glanced back down at the card in my hand and figured that the protocol would be pretty much the same as before with Celeste. So I stripped off my clothes, laid down on the bed, and waited.
Five minutes later, the bathroom door opened, and out of a cloud of dense steam walked the Mother Monster herself. Lady Fucking Gaga. Skin still slick and scaly from the shower, her angular bone structure jutting against her pale flesh as she moved like some albino reptilian. She took one look at my naked ass lying on her bed, and bashed me over the head with the fiber optic Mary Magdalene statuette from her night stand.
She is sitting beside me, straddling the piano bench, her lips hovering mere millimeters from my right ear.
I laugh nervously.
“Sorry, I just remembered something funny,” I lie.
“You know, sense memory is a powerful thing,” she whispers. “I can give myself an orgasm just by thinking about it.”
I shift uncomfortably on the bench, feeling the blood rushing to my cheeks and groin simultaneously.
“Do you want to fuck me?” she asks.
“I don’t know. I both do and don’t. I don’t want to fuck you in any vulgar or profane sense, but I can’t think of any other way to connect with you intimately, to consummate this moment in time that we are sharing.”
She thwaps me in the face again with the flyswatter.
“Sexuality is half poison and half liberation. What’s the line? I don’t have a line.”
The next morning I tag along with her as she gives interviews to promote the new album. I find it easy to blend into her entourage, to be just another face in the crowd, another cold and barren satellite orbiting her star.
I watch her shift uncomfortably in her seat as the pair of morning show hosts lob inane questions at her. They don’t look human, they look like animated wax dummies, and their questions and awkward attempts at banter display about as much humanity as wax. Everything about her demeanor makes her seem genuinely uncomfortable with the attention—the nervous laughter, the clipped responses, the vaseline-toothed smile plastered onto her face that keeps veering over the line into a grimace. And to make matters worse, the skin-tight and barely-there vinyl skirt she’s wearing won’t stop riding up her thighs, so she keeps tugging it down and fussing with it. The overall impression is not of Lady Gaga, polished pop goddess, but instead of some normal random person who woke up one day in this ridiculous costume and was forced to fake her way through the role.
She’s just like us. I think to myself. She’s just a regular human being after all with the same insecurities and awkwardness as the rest of us.
That train of thought quickly leads to: So why should she deserve to be famous? What makes her so much better than the rest of us?
But that question is only a half-truth. What I really want to ask is: What makes her so much better than me?
The female host is asking Gaga about her exercise routine, or rather she keeps hinting she might ask about it but is too busy talk about her own age-defying diet and exercise system to actually get around to it. She’s finally cut off by a lecherous remark from the male host about how all that working out really shows. He’s old enough to be his partner’s grandfather and makes no attempt to hide the plainly visible erection this gives him. Gaga takes the awkward pause that follows as an opening to finally talk about her own daily rehearsal and exercise routine, which is insanely disciplined and makes me self conscious of the fact that I don’t even remember which floor my apartment building’s exercise room is on. She then goes on to talk about how hard she’s worked for her art and about the years she spent cutting her teeth doing shows in New York’s club scene and the tireless hours of self-promotion it took to make it where she is today, and I’m thinking about the one demo tape my band managed to make in college and how there’s still a box full of copies in my parents’ garage that I’d always intended to take around to the local radio stations and record stores and clubs but never got around to. And then I think about the unfinished screenplay that’s been sitting neglected on my hard drive for years.
And then I notice that Gaga’s stopped talking and is staring apprehensively into the camera like a deer in the headlights because no one’s asking her any more questions; the male host is too busy tugging away on his misshapen member while the female host sucks the blood out of a nineteen year old P.A. in a CUNY sweatshirt until his skin collapses in on himself like a deflated Capri Sun juice pouch.
The whole studio falls into a protracted hush. It lasts too long for anyone’s comfort, until finally a young woman in the audience screams out, “I love you Gaga,” and the rest of the crowd bursts into riotous applause.
Suddenly Gaga snaps out her petrified daze, and her eyes sparkle and her lips curl up into an ecstatic smile and she waves to her fans while gazing lovingly into the camera’s adoring lens, and says, “I love my fans. Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other.”
Later, we are in the back seat of her limo, and she is stilling glowing from feeding on the positive psychic energies of a studioful of people who worship her like people in sandals used to worship golden calves.
I ask her, “How did you do it? How did you make it to the top?”
“I’ve always been famous,” she answers, as if the question itself is absurd. “It’s just everybody’s just now finding out.”
That night she does an in-store signing. The fans are all young and beautiful and insane, standing in line with telephones strapped to their heads, draped in slices of rancid meat and fishnet underwear and latex bodysuits, generally looking like refugees from a Broadway adaptation of Beyond Thunderdome.
“Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other,” she commands them.
“Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other,” they chant back in unison.
Fans start to pass out as they reach the front of the line and receive their autographed CD. A pair of stage hands drags them away like at an 0ld time tent revival. The line snakes up and down every aisle of the store before going out the door, around the building, and then trailing off down the street.
“Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other,” the chanting continues.
Fans start speaking in tongues and throwing themselves on the ground in convulsions. People are losing bladder and bowel control left and right.
“Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other.”
A fourteen year old girl flings herself on top of the table in front of Gaga and starts to orgasm ecstatically like Bernini’s Saint Teresa.
“Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other.”
All at once, twelve of the fans look down at their hands at the exact same moment and see bloody stigmata.
“Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other.”
A massive orgy breaks out in the Easy Listening aisle.
“Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill each other.”
“Kill each other.”
“Kill each other.”
I feel sick, overwhelmed and claustrophobic, like the entire store is going to implode around me. So I stagger out the back door through the stock room and end up on the loading docks behind the building.
From inside, I can still hear the rapturous chanting.
“Kill each other.”
I’m not sure exactly how much time passes after that.
I’m living on the streets now. Sometimes I find a place to sleep with a roof over my head, but sometimes I just sleep under a doorway or a bus shelter.
Sometimes people will give me a place to stay, or give me some money. Most of the time they expect something in return, but that’s okay, it doesn’t bother me. Nothing really bothers me these days, everything’s just sorta numb.
I’m still blacking out. Often when I come to, I’m in a new city and I’m not sure how I got there. Sometimes I am dressed like a bum, sometimes I’m in drag, sometimes I’m wearing expensive tailored suits, and sometimes there’s blood on my clothes but I don’t seem to be cut or injured anywhere.
I haven’t been back home at all. One time it occurred to me to call in and check my voicemail. There were a few messages from work. The last one said that if I didn’t come in the next day, not to ever come back in at all. The machine said it was over a month old.
I have been back to New York, though, but not back to her. Sometimes I do come out of a blackout and find myself in front of that hotel by Central Park, the one with the globe where I met Celeste. I never go inside, I just stand out front and look up at it for long periods of time. I’m not sure why.
One day I found myself at a bus shelter, staring at an ad for the TV show The Apprentice. I had no way of knowing exactly how long I’ve been standing there, staring, but from the freaked-out expressions of everyone around me, I could safely guess it’d been a while.
A grizzled old man walks up and stands next to me. He looks like a teamster or longshoreman or some other suitably masculine profession that I could never do.
“I can’t believe that joker might actually run for President,” he says in disgust at the poster, then turns to look at me. “I sure as shit wouldn’t vote for him, would you?”
I turn to look at him and notice that he bears a subtle resemblance to the cab driver who picked me up at Kennedy Airport.
“Damn straight you won’t.”
Then he whispers something to me, or at least it sounded like he did, even though I watch his lips the whole time and they didn’t even seem to twitch. But anyways, he whispers, “Watch very closely as the magical angel and I are swallowed by the rainbow twister, and left stranded on the Glitter Way.”
I turn back to look at the poster. Someone has drawn devil horns and a goatee on the face, along with a big 666 on his forehead. I focus on the preternatural orange quaff on top of the man’s head in the photo, and in my mind’s eye I picture it staying perfectly composed, not a single hair moving out of place, while the head it sits upon jerks back, and to the left.
Back, and to the left.
Acknowledgement: lyrics and additional dialog written by Lady Gaga.