Toronto Sun (Ca), August 27, 1995
KEANU, YOU BEAUTIFUL CANADIAN BOY
by Liz Langley
The Edge is an alternative club on Livingston Avenue in Downtown Orlando, one of those big, dismal warehouse affairs with black wrought iron candle fixtures that Dracula's decorator would have loved.
The music is so loud you can't hear anyone, the light so minimal you can't see anyone and the bartender has a liberal hand so after awhile you can't make sense of what's being said anyway. So it's a great place to socialize with people you aren't sure you want to see, hear or speak to.
We made the trek down the hall into the club at 9:45 one Tuesday recently and heard the kind of screams that are usually reserved for those who get a cockroach in their hair. "My God, it sounds like the Beatles are in there," my friend Amy said, and yes there were four guys onstage but only one of them was generating the kind of knock-kneed, slack-jawed, palpitating attention all four Fabs used to merit.
The screams were for one of your own, Toronto's favorite son (because this is Toronto's favorite Sun, right?) Keanu Reeves.
Reeves is a great big huge movie star and he could do anything he wanted to do and what he wants is the most normal thing any normal guy wants: To be in a band. Dogstar, which you probably all know about by now, is that band and they had just taken the stage, with Reeves playing bass. The urgency, excitement and attention of that audience was thick enough to caulk a bathtub. Amy compared it to seeing the Pope play Detroit. If Catholics were this attentive we'd start turning out saints like talk show hosts.
Less than 10 days ago we were standing in the exact same club getting loaded at the Fetish 2 party, a celebration of S&M culture and couture and it was filled with, as the Cramps might call them, creatures from Black Leather Lagoon. There were plenty of your standard corsets, hip boots, clear plastic mini-skirts, riding crops, duct-tape-as-bra (Victoria's real secret), nipple, tongue and eyebrow piercings, and us, jaded enough to regard the whole thing as pretty passe.
We saw a guy in a priest get-up being authoritative, a stage show filled with the kind of boot-licking we thought only went on in offices and a guy who looked just like Topol wearing nothing but a hat and a pair of chaps. They were the kind of pervert wanna-bes you wouldn't want to have to explain to your mom or your little sister. Tonight the crowd was your mom and your little sister.
Women, girls, dames, broads, little girls, chicks, ladies, they had come skittering out of every age bracket, social stratum and every degree of taste to see him. There wasn't a dry pair of underwear in the house. And the name "Keanu" hung on everybody's lips like Kool-Aid at Jonestown.
Well, you didn't even have to say "Keanu." You could just say "him." Can you see him? What's he doing? Do you think he'll sing? Do you think he'll talk? Do you think he takes his fair share of the door, now that he makes umpteen million dollars a picture?
I wasn't immune. In fact I was wallowing in the sickness. I may be a bright 30-year-old with a full social life and places to go, but it doesn't mean I'm not a moron. At least not when something like this pulls into town. While I was trying to crane my neck to see that perfect smile, a wave of screaming went through the throng on the floor closest to the stage. "What did he do?" I asked. Amy said, "He moved."
You had to feel a little sorry for the other guys in the band. They all could have died and no one would have noticed. And they were good, too, kind of Green-Dayish hard, edgy rock, a few rough spots, just like all live bands. They were better than any of us expected them to be.
If they hadn't had a megastar at stage right they might have gotten their fair share of attention, but the fact of the matter is that Keanu Reeves has that indefinable something that turns rational people to fawning idiots and happy to have the privilege. Reeves could sit on a crate on a stage and read The Cat in the Hat, silently, and people would pay to come look at the crate.
Some people resent that kind of fame, say it's just group hysterics and a pathetic comment on anyone who would idolize a mere actor like that. To this we say "Envy is a sin and Baby Jesus hates you." I've never seen more people made so happy by anyone who wasn't charging $ 25 a hit.
And we haven't seen that kind of thing in awhile, not since Menudo started shaving. Pop music has matured to the point where the music really matters, it's got messages and anger and social responsibility and the guys can look like they just crawled out of a grease duct and who the hell needs that?
Sex appeal vanished from music when it got all serious, and swooning fandom is left to the old lady crowd who started screaming over Sinatra and now keep Michael Bolton from having to do anything for a living. And it was a beautiful thing to see so many so smitten by someone so ... unassuming.
No doubt that's half of Reeves' appeal. A Vanity Fair cover story from August credits the fact that he's Canadian: "His upbringing north of the border explains a lot about him: they're nicer up there." Reeves doesn't have that "Love me love me" neediness of other thea-tah types. He seems so normal. A band started by hockey buddies, not a marketing expert.
The girls at the exit - the ones buying up all the Dogstar T-shirts, posters, bumper stickers and paying $ 25 for membership in the Dogstar fan club - didn't care why. Two of them asked us for our wristbands, which were circled with big blue stars, just like on the Dogstar T-shirts. They wanted more souvenirs. "My eyes saw him," Amy said. "You want my eyes, too?" Look, we can't promise that every Canuck will get this kind of tittery reception from the locals, but at least one did. But not every Canadian has that smile of Cerberus, the Dogstar, the brightest star in the night sky, the one that made a sellout crowd feel like all was right with the world.
At least until they went home and looked at their boyfriends on the couch and thought, "Oh my God. I'm stuck with that."
Thanks Keanu. Thanks a lot.