Everyone fantasizes about being friends with a pop star sometimes. That's why Britney remains so popular with young girls; minus the red vinyl hot pants, white eyeliner, and implants, she could be sitting next to you in algebra class. Until recently, my chart-topping imaginary playmate was Joey from 'N Sync. I used to daydream for hours about whiling away the day with Joey, doing guy stuff: eating Philly cheese steaks, waxing each other's backs, wrestling. But then Fatso went and shaved off his facial hair and registered for his newborn baby at Wal-Mart, and the bloom went off the rose. Now I'm all about Melissa Lefton.
You haven't heard of Melissa yet, but you will. She is the anti-Pop Star. Her single is called "This Is My Hit Song" ("This is my image/these are my dancers/ come on promote me. . . . "). She sings like the kid sister of Belinda Carlisle and Jill Sobule, winsome and gleeful, yet every cartoon heart that bubbles out of her bow-shaped mouth has a barb hidden in its center: "Ozone" purports to avert world pollution with the power of a funky beat; the descriptions of her belching-and-farting love object in "Sugar Daddy" will set you squirming. She's cute, she's perky—and she's evil incarnate (kind of like Hello Kitty). Best of all, her forthcoming self-titled debut (due later this summer) is actually on Jive Records—home to Britney, 'N Sync, et al. It's too perfect. "I Know You Want Me (How Can I Blame You?)" sings Melissa, and I simply nod, "Yes, I do."
So imagine my unbridled glee when, during my visit to New York last week, Melissa's publicist insisted on arranging a play date for us. Because—and I quote—"Melissa would love you." Not an interview, just an hour or two shopping. I hadn't felt this special since Robbie Williams gave me the warm-up pants he was wearing.
I imagine us sipping our light-and-sweet iced coffees as we skip hand in hand along Houston Street. OK, ix-nay on the skipping—it's hotter than hell and twice as humid in N.Y.C. come late June, and even pop stars as fresh as Melissa look a bit wilted when they start sweating. Instead, we stroll leisurely over to 105 Avenue B and pop into Honeymoon Antiques to visit my old friend David (a.k.a. the Dog Boy). She marvels at the impressive array of vintage beaded purses and '60s bathing suits. After the third budding stylist in 45 minutes comes in to ask the Dog Boy if they can "borrow" some pieces for a shoot, Melissa whips a scrap of paper out and scribbles a few lines on it: something about "Curse of the Energy Vampires." Here it's only been half an hour, and already I've helped my new favorite artist court the muse!
Then we slowly, coolly, make our way over to 548 Broadway, to Exit Art, to check out "The LP Show," an exhibit featuring more than 2,500 album jackets. Normally I wouldn't dream of dragging anyone—boy or girl—along with me to such a show, but my new best friend loves the idea because she is a product. She giggles at Christian Marclay's installation of 25 different album jackets for The Sound of Music, and I recount the anecdote about my mom's decision to name me Kurt after seeing that damn movie. Melissa nods in silent agreement when I point out the similarities between the covers of Cristina's Sleep It Off and Grace Jones' better-known Slave to the Rhythm— both done by Jean-Paul Gaude. "Maybe he hates to waste a good idea," she opines. We run into exhibit curator Carlo McCormick, but my attempts to introduce them are in vain because Carlo—who also works the door at Max Fish and is a longtime fixture at Paper magazine—knows everybody. And you don't forget a girl like Melissa.
Alas, these dreams were just clouds in my iced coffee. The morning of our scheduled adventure, I get a call from Melissa's publicist: Our play date is off. My new best friend is in Atlanta, then off to San Francisco, to do the grip-and-grin with radio station muck-a-mucks. I spend my afternoon trying on gingham cowboy shirts sans company. When I spin the lazy Susan of Art Chantry sleeves for various Sub Pop and Estrus 45s, only one face stares back at me in the Plexiglas. I look up lovingly at an entire wall of Foetus LP covers, and there are only other sad, lonely record geeks to hear me exclaim, "I have that!"
But I forgive Melissa Lefton. She may not be my new best friend, but she's still my favorite new pop star—just so long as she gives me an article of clothing off her person when we finally do meet.