Disappeared

Back in the days before the internet, celebrities slipped out of the public eye, often for good, all the time. A singer would have a hit, see the follow ups flop, and be gone. An actress would get a few roles, become a somewhat familiar face, and then see her opportunities dry up, and, poof. Out of the public eye. Often, those folks became regular people. They got regular jobs and moved on with their lives. But, they weren’t forgotten. Because that song still got played on the radio. The old movie was still run on TV. Or, the TV series they were in lived on in reruns. And, when somebody heard that song or saw that movie or TV show, they’d wonder, “whatever happened to…”

My favorite example of this phenomenon is Skye Aubrey. If you don’t remember Aubrey, you aren’t alone, but, in the early seventies, she was on screens both big and small, guesting on TV series like “Green Acres”, “Ironside”, and “Emergency!”, doing TV movies, and even starring opposite James Freakin’ Coburn in the awesome “The Carey Treatment”. By the middle of the decade, though, things changed. An actress who’d been everywhere was nowhere. Gone. Out of the public eye.

Aubrey, in fact, would have been a perfect subject for one of the magazine and newspaper features that became popular because of celebrities of her like, the “Where Are They Now” piece. The vast majority of those articles contained information on not only what the former actor/singer/performer was doing now but also about why they left their former careers. In Aubrey’s case, the answer to the latter question was a simple one. She got married in the mid-70s and had a couple of kids, and, aside from a couple of TV guest shots late in the decade, left the business. But, of course, absent that “Where Are They Now” piece, nobody watching her light up the screen opposite Coburn would know that. They’d just wonder. “Whatever happened to…”

But. In the internet era, that’s all changed. A few clicks can normally answer most of the questions one might have when seeing that old rerun featuring an actor who had his fifteen minutes and now works in accounting at a logging firm. And, thus, the celebrity disappearance has, pretty much, disappeared. Pretty much. Because, occasionally…well. Keep reading.

Now, I’m betting almost every one of you has heard the song “Goodbye Horses.” You may not know the title, but you’ve heard the song, because it was playing behind the famous scene where Buffalo Bill begins his cross-dressing dance in “Silence of the Lambs”. Yes. It’s that song.

“Goodbye Horses” was written by William Garvey, and sung by a woman who used the name Quiana Diana Lazzarus and the professional name Q Lazzarus. Lazzarus was born in New Jersey, though, exactly when is a subject for debate. (And, as you’ll see, that kind of mystery is quite common when it comes to Q Lazzarus.) She eventually moved to New York and became involved in the music scene in the East Village. To pay the bills, she drove a cab. And, in one of those barely believable moments, one night she picked up director Jonathan Demme. When Demme climbed into the cab, a demo tape of Lazzarus’ own music, a tape that included “Goodbye Horses”, was playing. The director was impressed, and Q Lazzarus was about to get her break. Demme began using her music in his films. It started with “The Candle Goes Away” in 1986’s “Something Wild”. Then, it was time for “Goodbye Horses”, but, not in “Silence of the Lambs”. The song was used first in 1988’s “Married to the Mob” behind a romantic scene featuring Matthew Modine and Michelle Pfeiffer, before being used as Buffalo Bill’s background music in “Silence” in 1991.

But, Demme didn’t just use Lazzarus’ music, he also tried to help her career, pushing her to various record companies. She was never offered a contract, however. The reasons for that cannot be conclusively determined, but, those who knew Lazzarus at the time have mentioned that music executives believed they’d have difficulty marketing her.

Whatever the reason, Lazzarus was not signed and her career didn’t take off. Eventually, she moved to the UK, though exactly when she did so and how long she stayed, again, cannot be conclusively determined. A former bandmate confirms she moved there and both formed a heavy metal band and worked as a barmaid for a time. Reports indicate that she was working in London when Demme called and asked her to do the song “Heaven” in his 1993 film “Philadelphia”. A 1994 newspaper article about the film, an article that features quotes from Lazzarus, indicates that, at that time, she was back in the United States, living in an apartment in New York City. Said article also indicated that Lazzarus had recently taken a place on South Street in Philadelphia, which she used as a “getaway”. It’s quite ironic that the singer was confirmed to be living in two places in 1994, because, within a couple of years, nobody seemed to know where she was or anything else about what was going on with her. Lazzarus would contribute music to a 1996 underground film called “Twisted”, and then pull one of those celebrity disappearances that cried out for a “Where Are They Now” feature. From then to the present day, a period of two decades, Q Lazzarus has gone quiet.

People talk, though. A former manager claims to have seen her walking in the East Village “looking unwell” in the late 90s. He says the two did not speak. DJ Richard Blade claims Lazzarus died in the late 90s, though he provides (and appears to have) no proof of that assertion nor any details about her alleged death. Garvey, who died in 2009 and had reportedly had a falling out with Lazzarus over business matters, also believed the singer had died, since, when “Goodbye Horses” had a bit of a resurgence and he did remixes of it, she never contacted him about royalties she was due. And, the royalties issue might provide another clue. Lazzarus actually has unclaimed royalties, and, while it’s possible she’s unaware of this, it’s also possible she’s no longer around to claim them. Lazzarus’ Wikipedia page adds to the intrigue. At one time, said page listed the singer as dead (again without any proof or details). It’s since been edited to remove the references to her death.

So, is Lazzarus alive or is she dead? The fact is, we don’t really know. And, once again, that fits the Q Lazzarus story as nicely as if someone had written this entire thing as a script, because, frankly, when it comes to Q Lazzarus, we know almost nothing. We don’t, in fact, actually even know her name.

As you might have guessed, Quiana Diana Lazzarus was not the name she was born with. And, as mentioned above, there’s also some question as to when she was born with whatever her birth name was. Q Lazzarus was said to have been born in 1965. However, it’s quite possible that her birth name was Diane Lucky, and, if her birth name was Diane Lucky, she was likely born in 1961 and graduated from Asbury Park High in New Jersey in 1979. (Diane Lucky is listed as a member of that graduating class.) This certainly fits the narrative, as it’s been confirmed that Lazzarus was from New Jersey. And, there’s also a connection to Philadelphia, where she was living in 1994, as some sources say the singer was born in Trenton and that she attended Temple University before the move to New York. May have. Could have. Likely. Lots of those is what we’ve got when it comes to Q Lazzarus. Lots and lots of those. And, little else. So little that’s definitive.

So, is Q Lazzarus alive or dead? Either is possible to believe, because, while it’s much less likely for someone with even a small degree of fame to die without notice today, it’s not impossible. And, that’s especially the case with a fringe celebrity like Q Lazzarus. And, if Blade and others are correct, her passing may have come almost 20 years ago, when the world was much less connected, and things like death records were not computerized in many places, making same much harder to search today. Add in the fact that most friends had lost touch with her years before the alleged death (a situation possibly {yes, again} created by a shady character she’d befriended, described as a “Swedish cokehead” {Is this a great story or what?}, who worked to keep friends away from her in the last {???} years of her life), and, yes, it’s certainly possible that Q Lazzarus has been gone from this mortal coil for nearly a score now. Or, perhaps, even a full score. Again, no way to know, because, even those who say they are certain or “pretty sure” Q Lazzarus died don’t know when or where or how.

Of course, somebody knows. Or. Maybe nobody does. Because, it’s possible (There’s that word again.) that, while someone knew that the woman who was Q Lazzarus and was, quite possibly (again), born Diane Lucky, died, they may well have not known her as either of those people. Or as the latter and not the former. Perhaps there’s a death record somewhere with the name “Diane Lucky” on it. And, maybe a marker of some kind. Or, maybe neither of those. Maybe all of it is under another name. Or, no name at all. (And, that, frankly, would explain a lot.) Or, maybe neither exist, under any name, for the simplest of reasons.

The world is still a big place, even in this connected era. A very, very big place. People do disappear, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. But, it happens, even now. So, it’s possible (yet again), that, somewhere, perhaps in the U.S., perhaps in the U.K., the woman who used to be Q Lazzarus is still around, living as someone else, doing something else. Working behind a bar? Driving a cab? Or, maybe, the modern version of the cab, her own vehicle for some ride-sharing company? It’s not likely. But, how unlikely is the rest of the Q Lazzarus story, the parts we know are true? So. The next time you take an Uber, take a good look at the driver’s face. Especially if you hear a deep, husky contralto voice coming out of the vehicle’s sound system. No. That’s not how this story is likely to end, with a glance at the mirror and, perhaps a brief, knowing lock of two pairs of eyes, one quite a bit wider than they had been the second before the recognition hit. But, with a story that already reads like a movie script, why the hell not?

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