The Human Fly

Gilberto Tomici, The Human Fly is more fly than man in appearance, but he dresses well, and so he’s accepted. Like a black celebrity in the 60s, alien to the whites and straights, he’s other, but the recognition of fame bridges the gap. Few black celebrities actually crossed over, but here is a race of only one. Or as he said it: “The world’s only Fly-Italian American”

He’s hard to shake hands with, bristly palms, with fingers diminishing into velcroed tendrils. The girls kiss him on his big shiny green eye, and they give him an affectionate squeeze, but he’s never seen embracing anyone. There are certainly some strange groupies who dream of getting physical with the star, but reality is always stranger than the dream. I’ve been told stories of some drunken encounters from the wild years after Gilberto finally got out from under his father/manager’s domination. Those stories end with awkward apologies from Gilberto, and nothing more.
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That was a brief period, that transition from circus freak to debonair entertainer, and now the fly is never seen drinking anything stronger than orange juice.
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He’s invented his own instruments to suit his physiology, and he’s an excellent singer, getting amazing tones and range out of his snout, and the voice is certainly distinctive. He’s done guest chorus on a number of hip-hop records, but at greater length the buzz is too much to take. So he’s a guest and a sideman.
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He has an exercise DVD, but that’s more an elaborate joke than a business, though a few hundred sell every year. He has a book of poems which weren’t savaged when published, though they weren’t hailed, and the book sells worse than the video. No, it’s his autobiography that’s been his cash cow. Ghostwritten and not too revelatory, it sells nonetheless, just outlining the basics of The Human Fly’s life. Face it, the guy’s had and has an interesting life.
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I met him in a studio session for a Stuart Murdoch solo album, recorded in New York. He was playing the triple trombone (He plays the slides like a trumpet’s valves; it sounds like a French Horn through honey) and I was laying down some dobro, live in the studio together. It was a relaxed session, a lot of joking as I recall. Murdoch and the Fly were very professional and neither said much but in between takes I remember the engineer accidentally knocked over Gilberto’s fruit smoothie, making quite the mess.
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“Hey man,” Gilberto squawked, “I’m a friggin’ human fly. Those smoothies are all I’ve got.” We all laughed, not because it was the funniest line of the day, but because of the obvious overstatement, and because of the brutal truth. The man had fame, he had music, he had friends, but he didn’t eat solid food like the rest of us, and sucking on a smoothie was one of the few ways he came close to regular human behavior.
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After the session, we had some drinks and smoke. Stuart and Gilberto abstained, but they got caught up in the silly banter and war stories musicians love to tell. As we left for our cars, we got to see something very few people outside of a circus have ever seen. Gilberto, struck by the warmth of a beautiful spring night, stripped off his suit and underclothes and stood before us, looking like a monstrous fly.
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“See you gents,” he said, and flew back to his hotel. Somehow no one caught it on camera. He hadn’t flown in public for fifteen years.
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We all agreed it was quite a thing. We all talked about what it must be like to fly, and to not fly. It had to be nice to let that out, but the guy didn’t fly, accept that one time. I don’t really know the guy, but I guess he just doesn’t want to be thought of as flying, as a fly.
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–Dan Kilian

The Polar Turtle

From Space to Destroy

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One Response to “The Human Fly”

  1. […] –Dan Kilian Another Musical Inventor […]

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