“Welcome to my vampire boudoir…” Not even Big Gay Horror Fan can refuse such an invitation from the succulently versatile Vanity as voiced on Flipping Out, the first track on her 1984 Motown album, Wild Animal. On top of the erotic bloodsucking images from that number, the LP also includes the deliriously fun title track in which Vanity, in seeming homage to Tanya’s Island; the nudity strewn ape frolicking B-movie that began her career, makes very descriptive love to King Kong. Yep, refusal resistant, in my world!
And while the divine Vanity (aka DD Winters), best known to many music lovers as an early Prince protégée, graced the screens in everything from slashers (1980’s Terror Train) to action flicks (1986’s 52 Pick-Up, 1988’s Action Jackson) and small screen terrors (making a bone chillingly efficient appearance as an assassin in 1990’s Memories of Murder with Nancy Allen), her most unusually interesting horror offering occurred on an 1989 episode of Friday the 13th, The Series entitled Mesmer’s Bauble.
Appearing as successful pop star Angelica, the sultry Ms. Winters essentially was playing herself, here. But, viewers expecting a simple tale of a stalked and endangered singing queen found something else beneath the surface of Bauble – an ultimately haunting tale of transgendered confusion.
The particular tale centers on a gawkily unattractive record store clerk named Howard (sensitively played by Martin Neufield), whose obsession with Angelica leads to murder when he discovers that the titular trinket allows him to better his physical appearance with each offered death. Quickly gaining direct access to his idol, it seems at first, that Howard’s main goal is to bed her. But when that situation ultimately presents itself, he stumbles upon the realization that he doesn’t want Angelica – he wants to actually be her.
Taking over Angelica’s skin fills him with delight (and Vanity very willingly portrays this duality with joyful passion), but of course all is destroyed when the series’ resourceful leads snatch the bauble from Angelica/Howard’s neck, mid-performance, and he begins to transform, grotesquely, back to his former self in front of a passionately frightened audience.
The episode is bookended with Vanity’s subtly performed version of the haunting classic Nature Boy, a perfect complement to the episode’s themes. The lyrics (“There was a boy. A very strange enchanted boy. They say he wandered very far, very far. Over land and sea. A little shy and sad of eye. But very wise was he.”) and Vanity’s sweet tones create a sensitive undercurrent to Howard’s sympathetic need, allowing us to care for his character long before thoughts like transition and reassignment surgery were more readily acknowledged or understood.
The opening scene from Mesmer’s Bauble, containing Vanity’s version of Nature Boy, can be viewed here:
Memories of Murder, which was written by John Harrison, of Creepshow and Tales from the Darkside fame, can be seen, in its entirety at:
Be sure to check back each Monday for a Pulitzer Prize worthy Goddess of Horror!
And until the next time –
Sweet love and pink Grue,
Big Gay Horror Fan