Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Surprise gift from Barbie

After much talk in recent weeks about Vanity, aka Denise Katrina Matthews (b. Jan. 4, 1959), Barbie presented me with my very own Vanity 6 record album on New Year's Eve. What a great gift and a fabulous surprise. Thanks, Barbie! It doesn't matter that I don't have a record player; it's still great to have the actual Vanity 6 album.
A few months ago, I heard "Nasty Girl" by Vanity 6 on Sirius XM Radio Channel 8. Remembering my fondness for that song in the 80s, I then began a quest to find "Nasty Girl." I was having no luck until my friend Sally told me that "Nasty Girl" was on the "Girl 6" soundtrack, which is available on CD from Amazon. A few clicks later, my copy was on its way, and I now have "Nasty Girl" in digital form.
Around that same time, Lesley was making a big deal that she and Mikel, who love bad movies, were going to see one of Vanity's movies in Los Angeles. I never got much of a report on the film, but did hear a lot of anticipatory talk prior to their going to see the movie. I don't even know which Vanity movie they went to see. The idea of going to see a Vanity film outweighed any other details.
Then at Claudia's Christmas party, Dave H. and I had a fairly lengthy conversation about Vanity and Vanity 6. As a straight guy, Dave enlightened me about some of the reasons why Vanity was so popular in the 80s. Dave educated me so that I now know that it wasn't just her musical talent, it was the fact that she was a nude model and she wasn't afraid to use her sex symbol status to sell records.
From Wikipedia:
In 1981 Prince, himself a rising musical star, suggested that his three female friends—his girlfriend Susan Moonsie, Boston native Brenda Bennett, and his personal assistant, Jamie Shoop form a girl group that would be called "The Hookers." Prince's vision was that the three women would perform in lingerie and sing sensual songs with lyrics about sex and fantasy. Prince had been wanting to mentor a girl singer or group since the late 70s when he saw the film A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
The original trio recorded a few demos before Prince met Denise Matthews, a nude model and Canadian B-movie actress, in 1982. Prince was so taken by Matthews' charisma that he decided she would be the perfect front-woman for his "Hookers" project. Around this time, Prince and Matthews began a romantic relationship. With Matthews' arrival, Shoop was dropped in a flash. Matthews was eventually re-christened Vanity. (Some versions of the name's origin have Prince suggesting that Matthews use the stage name "Vagina" (pronounced "Vageena"), she refused and renamed herself "Vanity" instead; other versions of the story suggest that it was Prince himself who coined the name "Vanity," as he said that looking at Matthews was like looking in a mirror at the female version of himself.)
With the new trio finalized, Prince renamed the group Vanity 6 (the number representing the group's breast count). He provided the group, now dressed in lingerie and high heels, with provocative songs (although within the album credits, group members were sometimes given sole writing credits). Their first single, "He's so Dull" did not do much on the charts.
The second single "Nasty Girl" was a hit on both the U.S. R&B chart and U.S. Dance chart (where it hit number one), and it also made an appearance on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. The song was featured in the film Beverly Hills Cop, although it was not included on the soundtrack. Members of the group also provided backing vocals on Prince's albums during their existence.
The third single, "Drive Me Wild," was another minor hit. Music videos were shot for all three singles. Their self-titled album (which would turn out to be their only release) was eventually certified gold. The group opened up on the Triple Threat Tour, between 1982 and 1983, which also featured The Time and Prince, as the headliner. The fact that The Time played behind a curtain while Vanity 6 performed caused a rift between the bands and friction within those friendships.
To the other group members' dismay, Prince chose Vanity to pose with him for a Richard Avedon photograph used on the cover of an issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The issue also contained a two-page Avedon photo of Vanity 6.
In 1983, Vanity recorded a demo for a new song, "Sex Shooter," and started reading for her lead role in Purple Rain opposite Prince. Prior to the shooting of the movie, later in 1983, Vanity abruptly decided to leave the Prince camp and relinquish her role in the film. Many reasons were given for her sudden departure, including money, the end of their romantic relationship, and, most importantly, Vanity having been offered a lucrative solo deal from Motown Records.
Vanity was replaced in Purple Rain by Patricia Kotero, who would later use the stage name Apollonia. She also inherited the lead role in Vanity 6, which was renamed Apollonia 6, alongside Bennett and Moonsie. The new trio also recorded what would be their only album in 1984, but that album went on to outsell the Vanity 6 album, mainly on the strength of Kotero’s new found fame, thanks to her movie role and its popularity.

In the years since the group’s breakup, Matthews renounced her Vanity persona and music and became a born again Christian. Vanity's current web site, "Blame It on Vanity," describes her conversation to born again Christianity and hocks her book. She now goes by the name "Evangelist Denise Matthews (formerly known as Vanity)." After reading the text on her web site, it would be nearly impossible to read Vanity's book. This is some seriously screwed up shit. I personally find it hypocritical that she became famous and presumably made a lot of money off her sex symbol status, but now she forsakes her past and embraces fundamentalist Christianity. Whatever. Although if you buy her book, you do get an autograph and poster.
And can you believe that Vanity turned 50 on January 4? At least we'll always have "Nasty Girl."


Anonymous Lesley said...

These photos of you and Barbie are instant classics. I love you with your hand on your heart in the 2nd one. I also love how in the 3rd pic, it's like Barbie's doing the equivalent of handing you a giant novelty check.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Sally said...

I think you may now have the largest Vanity collection ever. Kinda scary! Yeah, her new "writings" are some messed up stuff. She should totally stage a Vanity comeback!

7:57 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home