Frankie Goes to Hollywood, that two-hit-wonder band from the '80s, will play Saturday at Hogue Barmichael's in Newport Beach. Okay—go ahead and crack your "what a huge come-down!" jokes now. We'll wait. Thing is, though, as an article in the just-printed September issue of SPIN magazine points out, this 2000 model Frankie probably ain't what you think. First, there are no original members—no Holly Johnson, no Paul Rutherford, no Mark O'Toole, no Brian "Nasher" Nash, no Peter Gill. Instead, you get Davey Johnson, Holly's brother, belting out "Two Tribes" and "Relax" as if it were the Reagan years all over again.
Uhhh . . . well, maybe not even that. As writer David J. Prince reveals in his SPIN piece, not only is Davey Johnson not related to Holly Johnson ("Davey" is really one R.D. Turner), but Holly has also neither heard of nor met this "Davey Johnson."
Other disclosures from the SPIN story:
•Faux Frankies Will Martin and "Davey" both claim to be "great friends" with members of the Original Frankie and that "Davey" would "do anything in the world" for Holly Johnson and former bassist Mark O'Toole—even though Holly and O'Toole say they've never met Martin or "Davey" before in their lives.
•"Davey" hits on waitresses and speaks with a Southern drawl, unlike original Frankie Goes to Hollywood front men Holly and Rutherford, who were openly queer (as well as openly British, and they spoke like it, too).
•Both Martin and "Davey" claim to have played on Original Frankie's Welcome to the Pleasuredome album, yet when pressed by Prince, both men say they were left off the 1984 album's credits and can't name the album's engineer. Pleasuredome producer Trevor Horn, for his part, "adamantly denies ever meeting either man," while Andy Richards, a session keyboardist on the album, also says he's "never heard of them in my life. There's no way these people could have contributed to the album without my knowing it."
•Clients handled by Chuck Harris, the Faux Frankie's manager, include "The Great Regurgitator" and a guy who can fart to the tune of "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?"
•Prince writes that the Faux Frankies performed more than 200 shows around the States last year, mostly in B-grade clubs and the county-fair circuit. When asked about the Faux Frankies, Holly tells Prince, "What Frankie fan who knew anything about the group could possibly ever believe in a million years that we would play steak houses and county fairs? It's so small-fry and so unstylish." He also calls the current lineup "losers" and apologizes if any fans feel like they're being played.
•If you're going to Hogue Barmichael's on Saturday, expect to hear a 15-minute version of "Relax," with forays into "Purple Haze" and "Enter Sandman."
•Perhaps most hilarious of all, the Faux Frankies hope to eventually sign to their "favorite label"—Master P's hardcore hip-hop imprint No Limit.
Can they get away with this? Apparently so—for now. "Davey," Prince reports, can legally do business as Frankie Goes to Hollywood in Alabama, where he's incorporated under that name (this doesn't, however, give him total legal ownership of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood moniker, for which he'd need a federal trademark and which the Original Frankie never obtained). The Alabama documents make the Faux Frankie appear to be authentic, though. The only way to stop them, Prince writes, would be for the Original Frankie to fight back with lawsuits, but Paul Rutherford tells the SPIN reporter they're far too splintered to do so.
Essentially, this New Frankie Goes to Hollywood is a tribute band masquerading as the real deal, as if Wild Child, a popular act on the nostalgia circuit, actually started calling themselves the Doors.
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The Faux Frankies have been through OC before. They played a show at Hogue's in February, and Hogue's owner David Cho told the Weekly that they generated a respectable turnout of around 80 paying customers—and, surprisingly, zero complaints from patrons over the band's authenticity. Cho says he was skeptical at first, "but their agent provided me with articles, and they played the House of Blues in LA and packed the place."
But Cho says the Faux Frankie's management also told him that "Davey" was Holly Johnson's brother when he booked the show, a claim the management—and the band, in the SPIN piece—now denies. When contacted by the Weekly, Faux Frankie manager Harris, a gruff-voiced gent who's been in showbiz for 55 years (and who makes it a point to say that the members of the New Frankie are "all straight guys; they're not gay," which alone is a pretty revealing comment—a bunch of straight guys singing "Relax, don't do it, when you wanna cum"?), says, no, "Davey Johnson" was not calling himself Holly Johnson's brother (contrary to what the SPIN article reports, though he clearly was at some point, since Cho was duped). Harris also says the current Frankie Goes to Hollywood lineup is "no different than the original lineup of the Village People. I don't know if you know that or not, but there are no original members in the current Village People." Hmmm. . .Well, maybe so, but the Village People never really had an easily identifiable-by-name front man; even casual Frankie fans could likely name Holly Johnson. Harris claims that Holly Johnson "doesn't disapprove" of the Faux Frankies and acknowledges that "40 to 50 percent of people who come to the shows believe that they're the original band," while quickly adding (before I have a chance to ask him about the percentage of people who've demanded refunds) that "when they see them, they're absolutely blown away." Harris also, naturally, blames the pesky media for trying to stir up trouble, saying that SPIN's Prince was "really angry," that he "had an agenda" and that things Harris told him were "taken out of context."
(Harris does admit that he indeed manages the dude with the musical flatulence. "That's not as silly as it seems," he says. "He makes $250,000 per year doing that." Pass LowBallAssChatter that Ex-Lax—we've got ourselves a new career!)
So if you're up for seeing the Faux Frankies on Saturday, go, have a great time, just consider yourselves warned. But as you stand there mouthing, "Relax, don't do it, when you wanna suck to it/Relax, don't do it, when you wanna cum," try to remember another famous line from the annals of rock & roll past: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" (Rich Kane)