How to be Hot: A Rock & Roll Fable

The rise and fall of a fictional rock star

Credit: Fuse

January

Mel Dorkum, a communications major at California's Fresno City College, auditions at a local club called the Pitz. Dressed in black leather, he sings off key to a small Casio keyboard. The owner, who's short on acts, offers him the Tuesday-nights-at-10:30 slot. Asked how he wants to be billed, Dorkum says, "God, I don't know." He arrives at the Pitz the next Tuesday and sees he's listed in the schedule as "god." Thus inspired, he winds a strand of Christmas lights into a blinking crown of thorns and ties two canoe paddles together to make a cross.

On the same night, British pop impresario Nigel MacAdamia – a.k.a. Nutty M. – gets extremely lost on his way to the San Francisco International Airport. He goes into the Pitz to ask directions just in time to see a performer billed as god crucified on canoe paddles by two waitresses. Amazed that he didn't think of the idea first, Nutty signs god immediately. He faxes his London office: "I have seen the future of rock & roll, and it is god."

February

god flies to London and records ten songs, which Nutty then rewrites, remixes and re-records using studio keyboardists and vocalists. Nutty plays god's first single, "i Wanna god U," continuously during acid-lambada night at his disco, the No Parking Zone. "i Wanna god U" soon tops the U.K. dance charts and then hits Number One on the pop charts.

Nutty gets god booked as the opening act for U2 on the band's American tour. "It's kinda weird coming home a star," god tells People magazine. "When I left, no one even knew who I was." From the first tour date, at Madison Square Garden, god steals the show. The finale of his set is his crucifixion, during which he is hydraulically lifted out over the audience to pulsing synth beats and clouds of smoke. No one seems to mind that he lip-syncs the entire set to a prerecorded track.

In a feud that Nutty eagerly publicizes, U2's Bono asserts that "god doesn't really believe in God." The feud creates more confusion than excitement, however, when newspaper copy editors across the country capitalize the g in both Gods.

March

"i Wanna god U" reaches Number One in the U.S. The video for god's second single, "Girls R All Foxes in god's i's," which features big-breasted models dressed in skimpy nuns' habits dancing around god and hitting him with leaky feather pillows, moves into heavy rotation on MTV.

god's first album, Meet god!, is released and immediately wins the Los Angeles Times critics' poll. GOD'S GENIAL GENIUS, reads the headline of Rolling Stone's review, which is followed by two and a half stars. "Mr.god may not yet have met the considerable expectations set for him," writes the New York Times, "but in chirpy, synth-pop renderings such as 'On the 8th Day (god Rocked),' as well as in the haunting, mellifluous vocal stylings of the ballad 'Peter (i Can See Your House From Here),' he more than shows potential."

April

god's record-breaking Peace on Earth Tour runs into a snag when a coalition that includes the Reverend Donald Wildmon, Tipper Gore and Archbishop John Cardinal O'Connor denounce the rocker at a press conference. Although they are disturbed by the concert's simulated locust plague, the crucifixion finale and the split-the-sea-of-red-smoke encore, what outrages them most of all is the giant goat skull god wears during the heavy-metal "Route 666 to the River Styx."

The next day, god releases a statement: "The allegations that devil worship has anything to do with my music is ridiculous. Leave preaching to the preachers; leave rock to god."

Meet god! goes platinum.

Before agreeing to his first in-depth interview in Rolling Stone, god demands that he be allowed to paint his own portrait for the cover and to have his mother conduct the interview. In addition to railing against rock stars who sign fat endorsement contracts, god expresses the concern that kids may take his lyrics too seriously: "When I sing, 'i am god and you know that well/Buy my album or fry in hell,' I don't mean they necessarily have to buy my albums to avoid damnation. I'm just saying what's on my mind." The interview's tensest moment comes when the interviewer asks god why he would never pick up his room as a child.

May

god announces that Sugar Shards breakfast cereal will sponsor the remaining leg of his Peace on Earth Tour – for a sum believed to be around $30 million. "Look, touring is very expensive these days," god says. "We have to use three different crosses because they take so long to set up." god will also be part of the new Sugar Shards ad campaign; the first spot will feature god jamming with Sugar Shards' hyperactive leprechaun mascot, Speedy O'Cane.

June

More controversy erupts when a British reporter digs out an old interview in which god is quoted as saying, "I am bigger than John Lennon." At a hastily called press conference, where he is flanked by his new fiancée, hand model Sheree Skiffles, and Nutty, god looks rattled. "This is a misunderstanding," he says. "I didn't say I was bigger than John Lennon. I said I was taller than John Lennon."

July

god's Peace on Earth Tour ends, having set records for merchandise sales; most of the profits result from the sale of T-shirts with peace on earth written on them in different languages. MTV's ratings soar when the network announces its "Paint god's House" contest.

... in the beginning, an album of early god tracks recorded around a campfire at the Little Indian Campgrounds, in Sierra, California, is released. Highlights include a euphoric cover of "Kumbaya," the Lennonesque use of wordplay in "Lulu Had a Steamboat (Steamboat Had a Bell)" and the driving, Dadaistic version of "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" (CD only). Various bands, including R.E.M. and UB40, make plans to record at Little Indian but are disappointed to learn drat the location is booked for the next year by the Brownies.

In a televised interview with Connie Chung, god says drat despite his wealth and popularity, he feels that many people don't take him seriously. He defends the presence of big-breasted models in all his videos as a "comment on the horror of sexual exploitation." He talks a lot about his concern over the plight of the American citrus farmer and the upcoming Lemon Aid benefit concert, which he's helping to organize. "If I can use what I've achieved to make people aware of a good cause," he says, "hey, that's what it's all about."

On July 17th, god begins recording his much-awaited second studio album. Working closely with him on the new songs are members of an Eskimo tribe, the Ukli. god explains that the Ukli are the only ethnic group in the world that hasn't signed an exclusive deal with David Byrne, Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel.

August

The Sky Is Blue Because Blue's my Favorite Colour, god's second studio album, is released to huge critical praise. GOD'S GERMINATING GENIUS, reads the headline of Rolling Stone's review, which is followed by four stars. "Mr. god may not yet have met the considerable expectations set for him," writes the New York Times, "but in chirpy, synth-pop renderings such as 'Let There B Lite,' as well as in the haunting, mellifluous vocal stylings of the ballad 'i god 2B me,' he more than shows potential." Besides the Ukli-inspired tunes, it features a cover of the Beatles' "Revolution No. 9." Sales are unexpectedly slow: USA Today runs a front-page bat graph showing that "we're buying fewer god albums."

September

The Sugar Shards Breakfast Cereal Presents god in Concert World Tour is a major disappointment to fans expecting laser-enhanced bolts of lightning and giant hollow apples filled with women dressed as snakes. god's decision to actually sing during the concerts, overriding Nutty's heated objections, contributes to the crowds' lack of interest. Greenpeace pickets the tour in every city after learning that caterers are required to provide each Ukli with eight pounds of whale blubber daily.

On September 14th, newspapers report that Japanese drug officials have busted god after discovering several ounces of ice concealed in his luggage. At a Tokyo press conference, god explains that the ice was actually frozen water, carried in coolers during long flights to soothe the sweltering Ukli, but the damage has already been done.

On September 17th, after four weeks of playing to nearly empty arenas, god cancels the remaining tour dates for reasons of "exhaustion." He also backs out of the Lemon Aid benefit at the last minute for "personal reasons." A new MTV contest, "Wash god's Car," fail to attract any contestants.

October

Hand model Sheree Skiffles announces she is leaving god, citing reports that the rocker was rubbing more than noses with an Ukli woman on his abandoned tour. Sheree is comforted at the press conference by Nutty, who says he will no longer be god's representative. A headline in Billboard blares, IS GOD DEAD?

November

In a comeback attempt, god changes his name to Mel D'Orkum and records an acoustic album, god Is Dead. It is both a commercial and artistic flop, D'ORKUM'S DEAD-END GENIUS, reads the headline of Rolling Stone's review, which is followed by no stars. "Mr. D'Orkum does not meet the considerable expectations set for him," writes the New York Times, "but in chirpy renderings such as 'Just a Man,' as well as in the haunting, mellifluous vocal stylings of the ballad 'Only a Guy,' he shows potential for at least recognizing them." In concert, D'Orkum wears a T-shirt and jeans and strums a guitar. "This is who I really am," he sings, "not a god with a leather bod/Just a man, just a man, just a man." He is booed off the stage.

December

The owner of the Pitz asks Mel D'Orkum, who has played the last three Tuesday nights, to please not come back anymore. Dorkum removes his apostrophe and returns to Fresno City College. "It was really tough when I realized it was all over," he will tell a reporter writing a "Where Are They Now?" feature four years later, "but would I trade those times for anything? No way!" g