Every young art star has to be alert for opportunity. Any opportunity.
In my time, I’ve appeared at Caroline’s Comedy Club, starred in an MTV pilot, auditioned for reality TV, sold my panties online, tried my hand at writing porn, and even stripped on Fuse TV on a show called the Pants-Off Dance-Off. At least I’m not swallowing live maggots on Fear Factor, I said to myself while shaking it bare-ass for the Fuse camera. That lissome look in my eyes was me thinking of my unpaid Con Ed bill. For that gig, I took home $200.
At my audition for "I Want to Be a Hilton," where I could have won $200,000 by learning to act like a socialite, I was turned away for being "too eccentric" -- but clearly, I was already more fabulous than those goofy Hiltons. And at my MTV "VJ Search" audition, the casting director exclaimed, "I have to draw the line at the ears!" He was referring to my usual fashion accessory, a pair of plastic elf ears. What’s his problem?
Recently, I scored my most aboveground gig yet when Moby hired me to direct a music video. As everyone knows, Moby runs a tea shop on the Lower East Side, which is my neighborhood. One day I was walking my Chihuahua, Reverend Jen Junior, down Rivington Street and Moby recognized us from posters for Jen Junior’s debutante ball, which I’d pasted up throughout Manhattan. We talked and became friends.
Later he suggested that I make the video for his upcoming single -– a dance song featuring Debbie Harry on vocals, from his upcoming Best of Moby album.
I was ready for the assignment! In 1979, I passed entire days roller-skating to Blondie’s big hit, Heart of Glass. Not to mention that I had spent thousands of hours with my eyes plastered to MTV, sitting two inches from the screen with my hand on the TV knobs, to prevent my brothers from changing the channel to Wide World of Sports.
But this would be no million-dollar project. Moby was making the big-budget video. Mine would be the "fun video" with no creative restraints and a $1,000 budget, made more for the Internet than for MTV. Considering that I had recreated Middle Earth for my second film, Lord of the Cockrings, with under $500, the budget seemed fine. Maybe I could even pay an actor for a change.
Moby sent me the song, a disco tune called New York, New York. It’s reminiscent of ABBA and the rococo good times of the 1970s, with lyrics that describe "lines of snow and popping corks, money, drugs in old New York." Listening to it, I forgot about the impending apocalypse and only wanted to strap on my roller skates and get down.
Copious research was needed before beginning the storyboards. I logged onto mtv.com, watched some top-ten videos and concluded they contain three main elements -– piles of money, bling in the form of jewelry and girls in hot pants dry-humping expensive automobiles.
In search of classic music videos -– the kind I loved as a child -- I logged onto YouTube, where the first thing I saw was a video of a sleeping kitten. It had been viewed over 100,000 times. That is the power of YouTube -- it reveals what people want to see. If TV execs watched four minutes of YouTube a day, television viewers wouldn’t have to endure crappy, bound-to-fail sitcoms.
We could just sit back and watch baby animals snoozing, snacking and playing in primetime.
Hence I decided that my video for Moby’s New York New York would feature an adorable animal (Reverend Jen Junior) and two other ingredients -– cool outfits and silly dancing.
Since the song is about New York, the video tells a New York story. Jen Junior portrays a slumming Edie Sedgwick-type character making her way around New York and finally ending up at a disco. (No reason why I shouldn’t capitalize on the upcoming movie Factory Girl.)
This plotline necessitated piles of Chihuahua outfits, and buying them almost bankrupted the production -– a monkey costume, a leopard print cape, a faux-Chanel shirt, a Geisha dress and more. My camerawoman, Kat, cut up one of my tube tops and made a Chihuahua tube top for the disco sequence. At Canal Plastics, I acquired materials for building a Chihuahua-sized light-up dance floor, while Kat got a green screen in order to shoot Junior flying over Manhattan on a disco ball.
Throughout, there would be cameos by colorful New York characters. Inspired by vintage "I Love New York" ads, I even conned a friend into dressing as a Cats Broadway dancer and breakdancing.
Kat and I began shooting at my apartment -– scenes of Jen Junior trying on clothes and relaxing. We then took a copy of Tiger Beat, pasted a picture of Moby on the cover, and filmed JJ reading it in her dog bed. I dabbed salmon juice on the cover and she attacked it.
We then headed over to East Village gay dive, The Cock, where we hoped to film shirtless dudes. I felt a little creepy, like we were producing Girls Gone Wild as we attempted to get men to take their shirts off on camera. We were met with surprising shyness and only managed to find one willing go-go boy.
Two days later we met up with Moby and his friend, Stacey, who runs a fancy clothing line with a black-and-white showroom that looks like something out of Clockwork Orange. There we filmed Moby in drag as Anna Wintour alongside Jen Junior in her Chanel getup. (Moby in drag was a last-minute decision, so he’s an unshaven Anna Wintour.) The two watched as Stacey and I modeled fabulous vintage fashions.
From there, we hit Times Square, the Hotel Chelsea, Fifth Avenue and Central Park. By day’s end, we were so exhausted we could barely make it to Benny’s Burritos for budget-approved margaritas. Kat kept the camera rolling at the cafe, capturing Avenue A at dusk.
The following day was reserved for the disco scene, which we shot at Kat’s loft. The morning of the shoot, half my dancers bailed. Luckily for us, the ones who showed up made the scene at the Cock look like Romper Room. On my shot list, I’d jotted down "partial nudity" with a question mark. One of the dancers noticed it, took off his clothes and streaked across the dance floor. More nudity followed, along with same-sex necking and actors pretending to snort huge quantities of cocaine. Jen Junior did her part and tried to eat the fake drugs. Clad in a pink leotard, I roller-skated around, directing the dancers with a megaphone, which was unnecessary since there were only about 30 of them. Still, it was helpful when we ran out of beer.
When it was finally time for Jen Junior to dance on her flashing dance floor a la John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, she grew suddenly bashful and dashed off the set. I brought her back but she scurried away again. During the making of Babe, that movie starring a little piglet, there’d been about eight Babes. But there was only one Jen Junior, and she was being a diva.
"Meat! I need meat!" I announced through the megaphone.
Someone appeared with a slab of pastrami. I gave Jen a tiny piece and dangled the rest off screen, over her head. The technique worked. She stayed. She danced. The crowd cheered. Jen Junior glowed, wagging her tail.
Satisfied, Kat turned the camera off.
"That’s a wrap!" I announced, but the party continued.
ABBA blared. A drag queen was passed out on the floor. The punch bowl was refilled as more beer was carried in.
And a man in a sequined majorette outfit exclaimed, "Why can’t we have a disco every day?"
When the soiree finally ended, we were left with three hours of footage, to be whittled down to three minutes. Since I am a technical moron for whom just putting a camera back in its case takes about four hours, the editing was left to Kat. She took the tapes to her day job where she condensed them while I ate peanuts and watched.
Eventually I was banished for being too annoying and Kat finished up the rough cut, which she screened for Moby and me. Moby gave it a thumbs up, but suggested "more cute shots of Jen Junior." (Clearly, he’s watched YouTube.) So, Kat is currently busy adding a few more Chihuahua stills before we send it off to the record company in London, which will probably ask for more changes. By the time viewers see the finished product, it might be three minutes of girls in hot pants humping cars.
No word yet on when it will air. Sadly, I’ve realized that it definitely won’t air in time to be included in this year’s MTV Music Video Awards, which are on Thursday -- though it should be a shoo-in for 2007. However, if you want to check out the single and let your vagabond shoes become boogie shoes, The Best of Moby is set to be released on Oct. 24, 2006.
REVEREND JEN is an art star, urban elf, troll museum founder and up-and-coming celebrity personality. She is the author of Reverend Jen’s Really Cool Neighborhood and Sex Symbol for the Insane.