-January 8th, 2014
-written by Julie Garisto
-appeared on cltampa.com
Local musicians Gina Vivinetto and Jeremy Gloff were born on the same day as the rock ‘n’ roll icons. Coincidence? Maybe not.
Way back in the days of Kurt Cobain, Seinfeld and pre-downsized media, Gina Vivinetto, the local writer, musician and UT assistant professor, and I worked as copy clerks at the newspaper formerly known as the St. Petersburg Times. I left the paper after two years of shuttling items to editors. Gina stuck it out and stayed on to become the Times‘ pop music critic. Between her gig and playing guitar in her catchy-cool band, The Peabodies (with ex-Trib critic Curtis Ross), music always seemed to be etched in Ms. Vivinetto’s DNA.
During one of our slow afternoons at the Copy Services desk, she shared that her birthday, Jan. 8, was on the same day as David Bowie and Elvis Presley.
“The holy trinity of rock,” she proclaimed, beaming like a kid.
Come to find out that other music legends share the birthday: The Doors’ Robby Krieger, Little Anthony Gourdine of Little Anthony and the Imperials, R. Kelly, Terry Sylvester of the Hollies and the indomitable Shirley Bassey were also born today. Locally, another force of nature was born on Jan. 8: Jeremy Gloff. The prolific singer-songwriter has put out 18 albums and is a writer too, and has had his byline in local publications.
My astrologer friend Victoria Wenners looked at Gina’s and Jeremy’s respective astrological charts to gain some insight about how their birthdays might have influenced their endeavors.
About Jeremy: “He’s got the writer aspect — very intuitive.” He loves talking, writing and is hard on himself. Gina: “When she’s hot for something, she’s driven. … She’s spontaneous and rebellious but can work comfortably within the structures of society for change. Also, Gina has “lofty ideals.” For her, “mere mortals may not measure up,” and “she can be overly critical of herself. … “A great wealth of creativity, both of them.”
And their connection to Bowie and Elvis? To find out, I devised questions, which the birthday kids graciously answered.
Elvis and Bowie have various personas. Bowie: Ziggy Stardust, etc.; skinny Elvis, fat Elvis. Do you have different personas you’ve adopted? If so, what are they?
Gloff: I think growing up we always try on different hats, so to speak. There was Hippie Jeremy, Punk Jeremy, Folksinger Jeremy, Gay Jeremy, Bi Jeremy, Asexual Jeremy. I suppose my 39th birthday is a good time to mark just being Jeremy.
Vivinetto: I was obsessed with Bowie as a teenager in the 1980s. I was fascinated by his personas — Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke. I also came of age in the Madonna Era, which had a gigantic impact on my adolescent social circle. We had lengthy discussions about it every time she changed her look, which was pretty much weekly. So, I grew up with a healthy appetite for hair dye and weird clothes — and aesthetic change. I think everyone interesting in my generation has been, at least early on, a chameleon. We had our New Wave period, which was all about artifice, and, later, our grunge period, which was lack-of-artifice-as-artifice. We embraced the idea that one can constantly reinvent one’s self.
Having said that, probably the most outwardly obvious phase I had was more in line with Elvis’s Fat Years. For about a decade I had a somewhat rare hormonal disease called Cushings Disease. It was not properly diagnosed until doctors found the tumor that was causing it. It made my weight balloon. It changed everything about me from my physical appearance to my behavior. But it was useful to me as a writer: Not many get to live as two people in one lifetime, especially two people who are so diametrically opposed.
What do you know about Bowie and Elvis’ lives? What do you have in common?
Gloff: I think something David Bowie and I have in common is we are both eager collaborators who work with a great range of people. And Elvis — we both love to eat. And eat.
Vivinetto: I grew up boasting about sharing my birthday with them. Then I read some books and it’s like, Wow, these guys are pretty weird. They both have periods of their lives where they just did everything to excess: eating, screwing, drugs, shooting TVs. Just purely hedonistic lost periods. But they also each have these very boring, regimented, workaholic sides to their personalities. So there is a duality there that, because of my time with Cushings, I understand. Beyond that duality, there is a certain sense of humor we all share. And, Bowie’s appreciation for literature and art is certainly something I share. I remember reading interviews with him as a teenager and making a point of doing further research about every German expressionist painter and literary work he mentioned. So I owe him a huge debt in that department.
What are your favorite Elvis/Bowie songs?
Vivinetto: It’s easier for me to talk about my favorite Bowie albums. I love the Berlin Trilogy — Low, Heroes and Lodger. Nearly 40 years later, they still sound breathtakingly fresh and new. I love that he collaborated with Brian Eno, who is another one of my musical heroes. I’m also a big fan of the Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory albums. As for Elvis, who doesn’t love all those great singles? There are so many and they are all simply and perfectly executed. Having said that, I do have a soft spot for “Suspicious Minds.”
Gloff: “Modern Love” by Bowie; “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis.
What are your favorite Elvis/Bowie movies?
Vivinetto: I never got into Elvis movies but there’s no denying his charm. He was so beautiful and he had a sweetness onscreen. And for whatever reason, I don’t really like to watch Bowie in movies although my teenaged friends and I wore out our VHS copy of The Hunger. I am a fan of his cameos. I could watch his cameo on Extras on a loop all day long. Sheer hilarity. Poor Ricky Gervais!
Gloff: I haven’t seen a movie by either, but I will say Bowie was sure unattractive in Labyrinth. No thank you ma’am!
If Elvis were to cover a Bowie song and vice versa, who should sing what?
Vivinetto: Well, Elvis would have to sing “Golden Years” since, legend has it, he wrote the song for Elvis to sing but Elvis turned it down. On the flip side, Bowie would have to sing “Hound Dog” because he would nail the camp in it.
Gloff: Elvis would do a really kick ass “Let’s Dance”! Picture it! And Bowie would do a nice take on “Always On My Mind.”
If you were given a chance to speak to them, what would you say?
Vivinetto: So many of my guy friends teased me for always asking rock stars questions about food. But I think you can figure out 70 percent of a person’s personality by learning what he or she eats for lunch or breakfast. I actually encourage my fiction-writing students to think about the food their characters eat and what that reveals about them. Is the character ritualistic? Is the diet fussy or Spartan? Who’s a vegetarian and why? Are we juicing greens or eating Pop-Tarts? Elvis is the perfect example. You know a tremendous amount about a guy whose favorite dish is a deep-fried peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich on white bread! Elvis’s appetite was legendary. That says so much about his approach to life, right? He overate, he over-screwed, he overdosed. So, while I would ask both of them questions about music and art and books and all of that, my second question would definitely be, “What did you eat for breakfast today?” Because then, I would already know quite a bit.
Gloff: I’d invite Bowie back to my apartment and show him just how unafraid of Americans I could make him — and Elvis — I would tell him to please take better care of himself so he could have prevented his daughter from marrying Michael Jackson.
See Jeremy Gloff and wish him a happy birthday at Florida Avenue Ales, 4101 N. Florida Ave, Tampa, with Sandra Lolo, Y Los Dos Pistoles and Nickole Hanna, Thurs., Jan. 10, 8:30 p.m. Event on Facebook.
Read more from Gina Vivinetto at articulatesuncoast.com.