Who wants to be a millionaire pop superstar with three smash hits? A better question would be who doesn’t? But don’t order yet. Would you still take that ride if your string of number-one hits was followed by a cryptlike artistic silence, a subsequent knighthood in the Royal Order of Has-Beens, and a bit part in the pageant of smirking retro worship?
There’s a peculiar indignity that comes with sitting on top of the world and then having it yanked out from under you, and nowhere is this more evident than in the annals of biodegradable 80s British pop sensations. Kajagoogoo, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Charlatans UK. When the sun sets on British pop stars, which it inevitably does, it sets especially hard.
Like whores and ugly buildings, however, embarrassed icons of youth explosions can eventually become respectable if they stick around. When Frankie Goes to Hollywood booked themselves for an April 19 gig at the Ritz (yes, the one in Missoula) last month, the band that told the world to “Relax” seemed poised to make a supremely ironic comment on their own lapsed stardom. Trouble was, it wasn’t the real Frankie Goes to Hollywood: It was a group of youngsters who’d bought the name, presumably for pence on the pound, and were shilling themselves as the real thing. After tentatively booking the act, Ritz owner Shawn Lambeth caught wind of the ruse, called their bluff and sent them packing.
And somewhere, in some parallel universe 15 years in the future, a spurious ‘N Sync is booking a show at the Leicester Corn Exchange. •••
Please file this under Prophecies, Self-Fulfilling. This week, the branch of the state Tourism Commission that covers the eight counties of northwestern Montana—the self-styled Glacier Country—launched a campaign to inform would-be tourists everywhere that Going-to-the-Sun Road is open. Now, anyone who has been around long enough to know how to pronounce Twodot knows that Going-to-the-Sun, the 80-year-old artery that takes you into Glacier National Park, is always open. Even in winter. So why all this awareness-raising?
Well, according to Missoula’s Tutskey Group, the ad agency handling the campaign, it began from within. In the fall of 1998, when the government first announced plans to renovate the old road, Glacier Country immediately became washed with rumors about phantom plans the feds had to shut the road down while the work was being done. According to one Tutskey worker, the very people who had an interest in keeping the road open—including, but not limited to, state politicians—helped foment the notion. And then what happened? The rumors caused local business receipts to take a nose dive. Glacier’s landmark St. Mary Lodge blames the folly for at least an 8 percent decline in business last year; this year, the drop will be upwards of 10 percent.
Hence, the un-disinformation blitz. “Don’t believe everything you hear,” the glitzy info kit reads. “Although ongoing repairs and improvements are being are being made, this engineering marvel … will remain open this year to all visitors.” If that doesn’t work, perhaps they should consider reviving the succinct slogan of the WWII era: “Don’t Talk.”