Key chains, helmets, masks, bed sheets and not to mention pet costumes, toasters and coasters – there seem to be no boundaries to the varieties of merchandising products. George Lucas, the mastermind of Star Wars, is said to have earned a fortune of about $ 1 billion from Star Wars’ ancillary products and sequel rights. Certainly, blockbusters like Harry Potter, appealing to children, are the most obvious vehicles of merchandise, but when it comes to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or the Star Trek Universe most of the collectors are not even minors merely interested in toys.
We are speaking of adults glorifying their plastic replicas as treasures, unopened on a display case at their homes. In addition to that these individuals tend to dress up as their favorite movie or series character and this not only on Halloween. Shows, fairs and conventions related to their favorite series is where you can find them. Gathered up to passionately discuss details of the series, like the upholstery of the Enterprise’s bar Ten Forward, or the characters private lives, technical ideas and possibilities related to the series and their creators.
Richard Meyer, a former collector, is founder of Andere Welten, which is a realm of specialist collector’s items and merchandise related to fantasy films and television series such as the famous Alien movies, Star Wars, Blade Runner and Space: 1999, in the heart of Hamburg. Richard, why do grown-ups buy plastic orbital gliders and Jedi Knight figures? Is this a longing to visit the furthest reaches of the Universe or an attempt to escape from a hopeless earthly life? Of course, there are stargazers within my circle of friends and among my customers who believe in extraterrestrial life. After all, the ultimate question is if we are alone in the Universe or not. And if not, how can we prove it and initiate contact? That may have escapist traits and offer some kind of hope for the solution of mundane problems. Even in the 50s, believers in UFOs claimed everything would turn for the better on Earth with the arrival of Martians. Shortly before Obama’s inauguration, a neatly dressed man in his seventies came to the shop and predicted that, on the day of Obama’s swearing-in, Obama would announce that the Area 51 UFO crash site really existed and that aliens had been in close contact with all international governments ever since. That paper money would be disestablished, and cruisers chase Princess Leia on top of the heads of the audience.
And right from the beginning there were action figures and guns being released along with the movies. A whole new era of merchandise began with George Lucas. Everybody knows the story of how no Hollywood studio wanted to buy Star Wars, and finally Lucas completely renounced his pay in exchange for the marketing rights to his film. In collaboration with the toy giant Hasbro, he developed the Star Wars figures. There could potentially be 900 different ones today.
Keyword: Episode I Well, just before the movie was launched in theaters, business was booming. There were, for example, five stores in Hamburg selling nothing but Star Wars figures. But as older fans of the first movies started to criticize Episode I, the sales collapsed. Even today, there are collectors that could live on shredded Episode I figures for years. Only with Episode II and Episode III did it become obvious George Lucas wanted to inaugurate a completely new generation to the Star Wars cosmos. With animated movies such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and a new very gloomy television series, he will succeed.
Amassing shrink-wrapped toys, visiting fairs and collectors meetings worldwide, losing oneself in the Universe that surrounds a movie series; in my circle of friends we call a person like that a nerd, and that’s not meant to be a compliment. I understand that very well.
Don’t you have mini Kirks and little R2-D2s standing on your dresser at home yourself? No, but I was up to my neck in books for five years. I was a nerd, too. Collecting, like any other passion, is hard or even impossible to control and can take over your life. In some cases it does forever. A collector wants two things; firstly, he wants to hold what he reads about, what he sees and what he loves. And secondly, he wants to be complete, an urge that drives every collector. That’s why he even buys the 34th Darth Vader action figure edition, wishing he lived in a sports center, where he could finally have enough room for all of his treasures.
Family is supposed to be a good therapy for a collecting addiction. A spouse and children are an effective remedy, yes, because then being a collector becomes annoying pretty quickly. Since I’ve been clean, the dawn of paradise on Earth would be nearing. However, for the majority of fans and collectors, the technical aspects such as spaceships and the magic bullets of the future, and the possibility of establishing contact with alien cultures is more important.
What got you interested in these things initially? A movie from 1954, The Creature from the Black Lagoon by Jack Arnold, a science fiction horror movie about a Gill-man, which opened up the world of fantasy to me. Being six years old at the time, I saw it with my mother at the theater. Until I hit puberty, I used to devour dime novels nonstop, and then girls became more important. In my twenties, I began to collect those dime novels and fantasy literature. I found myself compelled to buy them, which eventually resulted in my 80 sqm apartment being 90% filled with 6,000 books. I crossed the flat along narrow aisles between the high stacks of book. Out of the need for more room and because my future wife wanted to finally sit on the couch once in a while, I started trading my treasures. I also read a lot of classic world literature, but I still consider science fiction to be the most innovative genre, with a lot more happening in it.
And what led you to make the transition from books to action figures? Well, when customers at my first shop frequently asked for devotional objects and memorabilia, primarily items from the Star Trek series, I did some research and found out that just such figures and various other articles were produced in the United States, what we might call merchandise these days. In the early 90s, I collected the first consignments from the United States at the customs office with a pounding heart because, at this point, we were pioneers in Germany. When the television channel Sat.1 started to broadcast the Star Trek series over and over again, we suddenly found ourselves at the center of the boom. All of a sudden there were fan clubs with about 10,000 members. Nowadays, the hype has really calmed down. Too many follow- up series, too many spin-offs: which story hasn’t been told yet? Maybe 40 years of the Enterprise and other ships is simply enough. We’ll have to wait and see whether the new blockbuster can revive the whole thing.
And then there was Star Wars. I remember, those ran at the same time as the Star Trek series, but initially I regarded them as dumb. The story was too simple for me. Not until I saw the first movie on the big screen again, when the second movie was launched, did I finally grasp why everybody was so excited. Now that was something – just the first two minutes, when star I’ve become aware of a personal trait of mine: Like former smokers tend to become militant non-smokers, I also must take a deep breath in the presence of some overeager hardcore collect
ors, watching them not find satisfaction because their tenth brand-new figure has a nearly invisible crease in the packaging. What about fans that dress up as Borg on the weekend, and go on galactic missions with their Enterprise buddies in city parks and pedestrian zones? Why not? Character players have fun, get out in fresh air and do no harm to anyone. And many of the Trekkies, who reenact stories in highly elaborate costumes more than other collector communities, could operate power stations with the energy they put into their hobby. People like that can quickly draw the exact layout of the Death Star on a napkin, too. What really strikes me is the quite pronounced, almost physically noticeable desire of many Star Trek fans to be beamed somewhere at least once in their lives. These guys would give anything for their homemade spacesuits to begin to flicker just once.
I understand this longing, even if it occasionally drives me up the wall to get involved in a conversation about the construction details of fictitious spaceships several times a day. These people also ask William Shatner at international fan conventions what he felt like when the blade warship, Bird of Prey, appeared behind him. Shatner then usually returns good-naturedly: “That was just a bloody movie. I didn’t see the thing at all; I just stood in front of a blue screen.” Sometimes these legendary actors simply make something up, just to make their fans happy. At the moment, alternative types of investment are in demand. Do fantasy figures represent a good investment? Not anymore, unless you have real rarities on your display case. But because of scores of relaunches and the permanent worldwide availability and networking via eBay, a loss in value is most likely. In addition, for maximum prices, which few pieces still achieve, the figures must be in their original packaging and in perfect condition. The Action Figure Authority (AFA), which is located in Roswell incidentally, provides transparent grading criteria. No, the figures are not a financial investment. They’re more of an investment for the heart.
Describing Lady Bunny as a drag queen doesn’t do this multi-talented entertainment powerhouse justice. Yet with her looks – Dusty Springfield meets Barbara “Jeannie” Eden meets Attack of the 50 Foot Woman – she flaunts all needed attributes. A heeled height of 7 feet 4 inches (2.26 meters) in self-designed short A-line dresses in psychedelic 60s colors that easily makes her every event’s main attraction. Among lip-synching to pre-recorded pop song parodies Lady Bunny is famous for performing with Cyndi Lauper and Britney Spears and starring music videos. Oh, and she is a sought-after top DJ, too.
So one night, sitting at my dull desk, I called her up for an exclusive interview for Qompendium talking parties, politics, and … porn, and got beamed right up to a fascinating planet called Lady Bunny.
Lady Bunny, you’ve got a lot going on right now: A stage play, a duet with RuPaul and you also auditioned for a part in a reality show … … and I didn’t get it, so let’s move on. Well, on the one hand I hate these shows, because they are all based on competition. I’m tired of all the bigger, faster, but not better. We have had the “We’re the best, don’t fuck with us” attitude for eight long years! At the same time, if you want national exposure on television, eating insects or worse on Fear Factor is a sure bet. Even Faye Dunaway, one of the last living icons of Hollywood’s Golden Age, participated as a judge on the horrible The Starlet. Meanwhile my dear pal (and drag “supermodel”) Ru-Paul hosts the Drag Race, a quest for the fiercest drag queen. I certainly don’t blame him – you just cannot buy that kind of publicity. But he doesn’t ask me how I like the show …
You grew up f a r away from the glamorous world of celebrity, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee with roughly 170,000 inhabitants, an Altoids mints factory … Okay, but I need a Valium first … Don’t forget that Coca Cola was invented nearby.
Now why on earth did you attend a Quaker high school in York? There were two reasons. My parents who are very religious Quakers wanted to expose me to their belief. And there was some friction between my father and me because at age sixteen I was already developing into a queen. Some time apart seemed like a good idea to them, I guess. Instead, my time in England, from 1978 to 1980 introduced me to alcoholism because everybody over there is a drunk. I also fell in love with the androgynous looks and crazy hair styles of the New Wave and Punk kids in London where I sneaked into gay clubs. So, their strategy kind of back-fired …
In this issue of Qompendium we commemorate the first manned moon landing, Apollo 11 with Buzz Aldrin. Do you remember that moment? No, I don’t even know what year that was. Apart from very campy, ridiculous science fiction movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space, Barbarella or Flash Gordon I’m not a real fan of outer space. I’m more interested into getting high. And that I’ve always enjoyed immensely.
It seems like you were fascinated by women’s clothing from an early age. Who inspired you and when did you first put on a dress? In the sixties I was obsessed with Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie. So in first grade my mother dressed me for a costume party in a pink chiffon harem outfit with slanted eye make-up and a turban, not yet a wig. The costume, including a flute, was supposed to be that of a Moroccan snake charmer …
Please, don’t elaborate on that, this is a serious publication and a family-friendly one too … … but in essence I looked like Jeannie. My eye make-up now is still based on that exotic look. When I was eleven I put on full drag for Halloween and made my best friend go as my husband. I looked hideous, like a matronly ugly old woman with a short grey wig.
Years later you landed on that strange, amazing, pulsating planet that is – and especially was back then New York. What was the first thing you did? I blew the cab driver because I didn’t have any money. Haha – no, but here’s the story: Back in the early eighties I was sharing a dump of an apartment in Atlanta with RuPaul and we were backup dancers for a band called The Now Explosion. One day they asked me to entertain them on their 20-hour car ride to a gig at the legendary Pyramid Club in Manhattan. Oh, and it amused them greatly to see me shave through my make-up in the restroom of a gas station or drug store. On a stopover in Washington D.C. I got lost. There I was, a penniless drag queen, wind blowing the wig of my head because I didn’t use pins. There were no cell phones, remember? I finally found them and after we arrived at the Pyramid we started drinking, although we had to perform that same night. I was so bombed that I fell off the stage lip-synching to I will survive. I lost a shoe, lost my wig but barely made it back when Gloria Gaynor sings “go on now, go”. The audience cheered, I became a resident go-go dancer – and never once looked back.
The first promoter who hired you to DJ was, of all people, Michael Alig who later became infamous as the “Party Monster” – involved in an axe murder! First of all, let me say that I truly miss Michael’s parties! They were beyond wild and brought together every element of the city: foreigners who tried to make it, uptown socialites and down town drag queens, Puerto Rican hip-hop boys and high school girls. Michael’s enthusiasm and his magical flair made it all happen. Sure, that magic turned out to be quite tragic in the end, let’s not forget that.
Will New York with all the dire realities of a recession regain some of that magic? The bohemian funkiness is probably gone for good and I feel sorry for those who did not experience that adventurous era. But at 46 I might also not know which clubs are all the rage among 22-year-olds today. My hope is that the crisis drives lots of bankers and other boring people out of Manhattan. Also: enough with the insane $ 500 bottle service at night clubs, because all the fun, crazy, talented people can’t afford these ridiculous prices anyway.
In a song from Wigstock, the legendary drag festival you organized for over two decades, there is the line: “ I saw the drag queens spraying hairspray in the sky and it made all the yuppies die”. Are you sad Wigstock folded before the banks did? Well, we didn’t found Wigstock as a yearly event till the end of time. Back in 1984, I just thought the immensely talented performers at the Pyramid Club, impersonating the Mona Lisa while every wigged man in the country was still doing Tina Turner, deserved a much bigger audience. Then Wigstock grew and grew. We finally attracted up to 50,000 people. Then we got rained out two years in a row – a ruinous affair. So we made 2001 our last and sunny Wigstock – and barely broke even.
Now politics are extremely important to you. Do you remember what you did on American presidential election night 2008 when the African-American Democrat Barack Obama was about to make history? I watched the coverage until the first two states were announced and one went to Obama and one, which had more electoral votes, to McCain. Then I took several Xanax pills because I could not sit there watching our country going to the dogs once more &nda
sh; and hating my fellow Americans for it. When I awoke late that night I heard people cheering and celebrating everywhere and I smiled, rolled over and went back to sleep.
Did you become a Obama groupie? Well, I definitely wanted him to fuck me. But my first choice from the Democratic candidates was (Ohio Congressman) Dennis Kucinich, because he was the first one to promote a prompt exit out of Iraq. He also said: “I support your (gay) marriage, so please support me!” Hillary Clinton did not publicly say that! Seriously, it infuriates me that the movement for gay rights in this country is practically dead and that most gays are the shallowest people in the country.
But you’re one yourself. How do you deal with that? I write a blog and tell them they’re shallow. And I sneak in serious bits and pieces in between my comedy act. Whenever I appear at a Gay Pride event that is held on a Sunday, I say: “It’s great to come together once a year, but the people who want to take our rights away meet EVERY Sunday in a church house! Guess who is winning?”
After re-creating yourself, giving birth to Lady Bunny, building your own brand of entertainment, do you feel fulfilled? No! I’ve probably not even done a quarter of what I’m capable of doing. But we all get derailed sometimes in our lives. Getting over romances, feelings of insecurity, dealing with alcohol abuse … Not all of these are my own obstacles, but common ones that slow us down. I love what I’m doing, though. That’s why I said a couple of weeks ago „Fuck recession“ – and designed and ordered ten new gowns, some gorgeous new wigs and jewellery. Maybe during the next Paris fashion week they’ll marvel at my outfits and ask “Christian Lacroix, who?“
Ein Anruf aus Wiesbaden. Im Frühjahr. Multitalent Kimberly Lloyd erzählt mir von einem neuen Magazin ihrer Kreativ-Plattform Qompendium, dass sie lancieren will. Thema: 40 Jahre Mondlandung … und alles, was sich irgendwie daran anknüpfen lässt. Ob ich Lust hätte, dabei zu sein. Mit was genau?, frage ich. Mit allem, was Du schon immer mal machen wolltest, antwortet Ms Lloyd. In diesem Jahr feiern wir aber früh Weihnachten, denke ich, und wir brainstormen am Hörer wild weiter. Klar hat man als Journalist & Modetante zig Ideen auf Halde, die für den day job zu schräg, risky oder einfach textlich zu umfangreich sind. Und Bilderstrecken, für die man mit großartigen Kollegen und Mini-Budget „rumspinnen“ kann. Ein paar E-Mails hin und her und die Projekte, die ich beisteuern würde, standen fest:
1. Eine Accessoire-Produktion mit Science-Fiction-Spielfiguren unter dem Titel „The Fun Is Out There“ (s.u.; entstanden in Zusammenarbeit dem wunderbaren Stylisten Bernd Steingass und Top-Fotograf Jens Boldt. 1000 Dank, guys!!!), 2. ein begleitendes Interview mit „Andere Welten„-Gründer Richard Meyer und 3. ein Interview mit Drag-Queen-Legende Lady Bunny aus New York.
Auf letzteres bin ich besonders stolz, weil es meine erste komplett in Englisch realisierte Veröffentlichung ist :)
Die Interview-Texte stelle ich noch in dieser Woche hier online, zunächst mal die kleine Fotostrecke. Wer alles auf luxuriösem italienischem Papier sehen und lesen möchte – und wer Lust auf ein 300 Seiten starkes, intelligentes, freigeistiges, innovatives Magazin hat – solltejedoch nicht warten, sondern lieber zum gut sortierten Kiosk schlendern und Qompendium Voume 1
K.A.U.F.E.N. ! ! !
Thanks again, Kimberly, for letting me be part of this amazing project!
Beim sonntäglichen Aufräumen und Staubwischen, oder heißt das jetzt „swiffern“?, blätterte ich noch einmal durch zwei Magazine, in denen u.a. auch ich einst zur Berichterstattung über Luxusprodukte und -dienstleistungen sowie den deutschen Markt für selbige gequotet wurde. Bereits damals wurde gerade für good ol‘ Germany betont, wie wichtig Konzepte wie „timeless value“, also beständige, qualitativ hochwertige Klassiker sind, um dem eher kopfbetonten Käufer hierzulande ein Objekt begehrlich erscheinen zu lassen.
Und jetzt im Auge des Krisensturms vergeht kaum ein Tag wo man nicht in neuerlichen Strategiepapieren und Absichtserklärungen von Konzernen eben jene ehernen Marketingprinzipien wieder und wieder liest. Ich bin nun wahrlich kein Marketingexperte oder BWL-Crack, but maybe, just maybe braucht es diesmal ein klein wenig mehr Originalität, Chuzpe und out of the box thinking, um die Geldelite und vermögende Mittelschicht weiter bei Kauflaune zu halten oder erneut zu bringen. Mich jedenfalls beunruhigen solche Déjà-vus mehr als neue Ideen, die man beim ersten Hören für total besch….. hält.
Nur so ein Gedanke.
(Quelle: Insight. Markt & Management für Journalisten, Dez. 2005)
Der zweite Text unter dem Titel „Vom Feinsten“ erschien in der Ausgabe 10/05 Dezember/Januar des Magazins Pressesprecher und kann [hier] nachgelesen werden.
„Bunte Schuhe stiften Unheil“, sagt Modeunternehmer und Stil-Kolumnist Jeremy Hackett – und findet in unserem Gespräch für a passion for fashion, das Mode-Spezial von how to spend it, noch weitere deutliche Worte zum Thema „Männer und Farbe“.
„Ich bin sicher, Soziologen haben eine schicke Theorie parat, warum Männer angeblich plötzlich nach bunten Schuhen verlangen. Vielleicht liegt es tatsächlich daran, dass ihr Alltag enorm reglementiert ist und sie nach Ventilen für ihre kreative Seite suchen. Aber wenn bunte Schuhe die Antwort auf ein tristes, graues Leben sein sollten, ziehe ich trist und grau allemal vor.“ [weiterlesen]
„Mit dem Reichtum fertig zu werden, ist auch ein Problem“ (Oscar Wilde)
Nach knapp sieben Jahren ist es vollbracht: soeben haben wir die 50. Ausgabe von how to spend it, dem Luxusmagazin der Financial Times Deutschland, auf den Weg zu Abonnenten, Vielfliegern und Kioskkäufern gebracht. Wer hätte gedacht, dass eine kleine Truppe aus Redakteuren und Grafikern, angetreten im September 2001 eine deutsche Ausgabe der überaus erfolgreichen FT-Beilage zu entwickeln, in kurzer Zeit zu die Branche bewegenden ‚Revoluzzern‘ werden sollte?
Die überregionalen Magazinbeilagen in deutschen Tageszeitungen waren damals, vom wackeren SZ Magazin abgesehen, mindestens scheintot. Und nur zwei Monate nach dem 11. September – überhaupt im Krater der Dot-Com-Implosion – eine Lifestyle-Publikation zu lancieren, die den Luxusbegriff ganz wörtlich nimmt? Träumerei, Wagnis oder Dummheit, je nachdem welcher Expertenmeinung man lieber glauben wollte.
Wir durften (!) träumen – und hatten gleichzeitig jede Menge Hausaufgaben zu machen. Organisches Wachstum, redaktionelles Freischwimmen und ganz, ganz viel lernen über die Welt der Luxusgüter, ihre Hersteller und den deutschen Markt für Schönes und Kostspieliges. Etliche Konkurrenten und Nachahmer später können wir mit ein klein wenig Stolz behaupten, eine Nische begründet und geprägt zu haben, die es so vorher in Deutschland noch gar nicht gab.
Wir haben ein Lifestyle-Magazin geformt, das einen sinnlichen Kontrast bildet zu den harten Wirtschaftsnews und Politiknachrichten, wie sie die FTD börsentäglich liefert. Und das sich auf journalistisch wie optisch hohem Niveau mit Themen beschäftigt, die man unter dem Stichwort „intelligent high-end consuming“ zusammenfassen könnte. Oder einfach mit how to spend it.
In den nächsten Wochen möchte ich an dieser Stelle in kurzen Streiflichtern zurückblicken auf einige der interessantesten Persönlichkeiten und Geschichten, die ich in den vergangenen sieben Jahre an Bord von htsi treffen bzw. erleben durfte.
Ich wünsche Ihnen – und mir – viel Vergnügen!
P.S. Keineswegs versäumen möchte ich an dieser Stelle, allen zu danken, die das gesamte how to spend it-Team (und mich ganz persönlich) unterstützt, gefordert und gefördert haben, uns mit ihrem Know-how zur Seite standen und uns halfen, auch in heißen Phasen nicht den Kopf zu verlieren. Statt einer langen Liste, auf der dann bestimmt jemand fehlt, greife ich auf eine beliebte, aber ganz ehrlich gemeinte Floskel aus Oscar-Dankesreden zurück:
You know who you are!!
Herzlichen Dank & Cheers to you all!
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