Overlooked No More: Klaus Nomi, singer with an otherworldly personality
Klaus Sperber was born on January 24, 1944 in Immenstadt, a city in what was then West Germany. He was raised by his mother, Bettina, who did odd jobs. An affair with a soldier, whom Klaus has never met, resulted in his birth. When he was a child, he and his mother moved to the city of Essen, about 400 miles away. Opera music often played in their house, and that set Klaus on his path.
“The first time I heard an opera singer on the radio, I said, ‘My God, I want to sing like this,'” he said in an interview clip included in the 2004 documentary “The Nomi Song”. As a teenager, he also fell in love with Elvis Presley.
He moved to West Berlin and worked as an usher at the Deutsche Oper, where he sometimes sang for colleagues after the audience had left. But he yearned to sing professionally and, Arias said, “he felt like he was at an impasse.”
“He wanted to come to New York because he felt like it would change his life,” Arias added.
Nomi settles in the East Village of Manhattan. He worked for a time in the kitchen of Upper East Side cafe and celebrity hangout Serendipity 3 and started a pastry shop a business with Kattelman called Tarts, Inc., supplying restaurants with desserts made in Nomi’s St. Marks Place apartment.
Nomi was known to frequent after-hours clubs, such as the Anvil and the Mineshaft, where casual sex was commonplace. There were also sexual encounters at the house – Arias said he once arrived at Nomi’s apartment to find a naked Jean-Michel Basquiat wiping himself off.
To obtain a green card, Nomi married a woman, Melissa Moon, an American citizen, in 1980.
“I don’t think he was anything that wasn’t himself in any way, which was pretty gay as far as I know,” the artist said. Kenny Scharf said. “When you create your character, the sexuality part is obviously part of the character. It was part of his sense of style and the fact that he was an artist in every way.