Celebrity Art Party with Rob Gillaspie

Celebrity Art Party is a semi-occurring feature, wherein the artists we enjoy interpret their favorite song. The first-ever installment features the one and only Rob Gillaspie, aka Scary Manilow. Gillaspie has fronted innumerable Lawrence bands: the Donkey Show, the Spook Lights, Pale Hearts, and Witch Jail, amongst others. He’s also a writer, director, actor, and artist. He’s a cat with many interests and many talents, which is why we were really curious as to what he’d select to interpret for Celebrity Art Party.
Rob Gillaspie - Roy Orbison 'Crying' web
Song title: “Crying”
Artist: Roy Orbison
Version of song (live, album, remix, etc.): Any version, but there’s a live clip of him performing it in ’67, not long after his wife Claudette was killed, that ESPECIALLY brings on the titular waterworks.

When did you first hear it?
I first heard it when I was realllly little — maybe 5 or 6? — at my grandfather’s house. he had a bunch of country albums from the 50’s and 60’s. Most of them drove me nuts, but there was some definite overlap into early rock and croony stuff that struck a chord with me back then. CRYING was the first song I ever heard that made me actually, physically sad when I heard it. And I LOVED it, I wanted to hear his voice everywhere. I honestly thought it was a woman singing when I first heard him, ha ha ha.

How does music such as this inspire you in your work?
I’ve always had a tremendous camp sensibility that I’ve tried to incorporate into my work. Even when I was a teenage punk, screaming in shitty hardcore bands, I’d do shit like come on stage in a dress, or write songs about old romance comics… As I’ve gotten older and more savvy with my influences, I’ve found myself embracing the roots of that camp sensibility more and more. Old soap operas, lots of tragic, overwrought vocal groups. Roy was definitely a large factor in shaping that for me.

How has this song changed for you since you first heard it?
When I first heard “Crying,” I was aware that it was coming from a place that I wasn’t acquainted with yet, that crybaby side that everyone indulges in when they hit their early teens. Now I’m an old fart that appreciates it more in the context of the time it was written, where it fits in my own personal tapestry of influences, and what an iconoclast Roy was. A guy like him would NEVER have made it in today’s market. He’d be getting beer cans thrown at him on the Replay patio or something.

What upcoming projects do you have?
A little of everything. My wife Emily and I have a surf-punk band called Witch Jail that will hopefully be ready to play again soon. We’re also working on a recording-only project called Frankie Razer & the Wristcutters, which will be more 60’s teen-tragedy and mopey lounge tunes than you can wring a hanky at.

We’re working on a series of shorts called Teen Troubles that are adapted from the pages of old Charlton heartbreak comics. I’m writing a detective novel about wig addiction and psychic cats. Something about a dumpster diver in love with a killer slime he finds in an old Walkman. Something else that I don’t even want to talk about because I’m worried I won’t ever finish it.

I’m the busiest guy in KC right now, and nobody knows my name!

In addition to all the stuff listed above, Gillapsie can be found by the lucky as faux-Lux Interior in the Cramps tribute band, Stay Sick.