Every so often a rare work of art comes along that has just about everything wrong with it. This week, I found the apotheosis of this in Sir Ivan’s “La La Land”.
How did I come upon this obfuscated gem? I assure you, it was quite by accident. I, like most of the civilized world, was blissfully unaware of Sir Ivan’s existence until yesterday, when I received an email inviting me to attend what his publicist promised would be the “most memorable Hamptons event ever!” Intrigued by such a mysterious solicitation, I read the whole, mammoth invite, all 2,000 or so words of it, offering a detailed description of who Sir Ivan is, why I should care about him, and exceedingly complicated instructions about how to attend (exotic creature dress mandatory) including where and when the “luxury buses” (a serious oxymoron) would be waiting to pick me up and transport me to Sir Ivan’s magical West Egg retreat.
My Nick Carraway tendency reared its ugly head at this, as it tends to do at the slightest mention of Hamptons and luxury buses. “Who is this nouveau Gatsby,” I asked myself, “who asks an obscure member of the press to join him in the Hamptons for a mandatory fancy dress party?” But shortly I remembered: there are only two “sirs” I trust within the musical knighthood: Sir Mix-a-Lot and Sir Elton John–and Sir Elton just barely. Despite my misgivings, I did a bit of research, just to make sure I wasn’t jumping to unfair conclusions.
I wasn’t. What I found on SirIvan.com was a gilt-edged portrait of perfect bad taste–so abundant as to be bordering on baroque. The visual cornerstones of Sir Ivan’s celebrity persona are peace signs, a Liberace cape, the color hot pink, and the long-extinct ‘Broadway’ font. The featured video on his website is the 4-minute “La La Land”, which takes you through a kind of edenian garden wherein a band of extras from the musical Cats have been able to find comparable work for the first time since the show closed in 2000. They are headed, of course, by the be-caped, somewhat geriatric Sir Ivan himself (we’d guess he’s at least 60). The point? To paint a gaudy picture of “La La Land”, a utopian community wherein all manner of taboos are smashed daily. Unfortunately this is somewhat hampered by his vision of the world as a world having no greater problems than ones that can be solved by dance extras in full body paint getting smacked on the ass in slow motion. Maybe it is, after all, a simpler world than most of us like to think.
Yet the thing about something this bad is that its own badness renders it fascinating. So much so that neither wild horses–nor a fleet of luxury buses–could tear me away from watching it through to the end. And was I ever glad I did. The pay off is a bit too exquisite for me to describe in words. ”La La Land” is something of a miracle of bad taste. Offensively ugly images pelt across the screen, with a dizzying impact that makes the viewer put their face to the desk and mutter: “Tell me this is self-parodying…please let it be self-parodying…” It goes against every intuitive determinant of taste in such a way that is almost unapproached by preexisting media: even R. Kelly has the decency never to go quite this far.
I don’t think I really need to say it, but I just can’t stress it enough.
Sir Ivan, SASHAY AWAY. Far, far away.