The President and Mr. Blowfly

Latin politics and Miami's filthiest rapper knock 'em dead in Austin

A spokesman from the Miami law firm Steel Hector & Davis, which Sánchez de Lozada has hired to defend him, declined to discuss legal strategy with Kulchur. But one can easily imagine the advice the attorneys are offering their client, or rather their client's wife: Study hardfor your upcoming finals at Georgetown University. The only thing presently keeping Sánchez de Lozada in the United States is his F2 visa, awarded to the spouses of students. Should Mrs. Sánchez de Lozada flunk her exams, the result could be much more severe than summer school.


The South by Southwest music festival, unfolding simultaneously with the confab's film component, featured three South Florida acts, each hoping to make an impact on the gathered ranks of the industry: Miami's X-rated soul singer Clarence Reid (a.k.a. Blowfly), Fort Lauderdale garage band the Heatseekers, and fellow Broward resident Vanilla Ice, still gamely trying to resurrect his hip-hop career.

Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada fled the Bolivian presidential palace and 
touched down at Miami International Airport -- like so many Latin politicos 
before him
CHRISTINE BURRILL
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada fled the Bolivian presidential palace and touched down at Miami International Airport -- like so many Latin politicos before him

Although Clarence Reid first established his funky bona fides as a songwriter for such storied crooners as Betty Wright and Sam & Dave, not to mention a string of memorably gritty Seventies R&B singles under his own name, it's his foul-mouthed alter ego Blowfly that's garnering attention from SXSW's predominantly Anglo hipsters these days. And while the sight of a 59-year-old black man donning a top hat and tights to wax scatological and rework Otis Redding's signature tune as the decidedly less subtle "Shittin'on the Dock of the Bay" may verge on a minstrel show, of such spectacles are comebacks made.

Thanks to the efforts of his new manager -- drummer and self-described "master of ceremonies" (as well as New Times contributor) Tom Bowker -- Blowfly landed a prime SXSW showcase slot in which to introduce songs from his forthcoming Fahrenheit 69collection, set for a June release on ex-Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label.

For Bowker the trip to Austin was an unqualified success, complete with a Hollywood cameo: "There were 500 people screaming our name when we came onstage, including Frodo -- Elijah Wood -- shaking his ass and trying not to be recognized. The splash we made was tremendous!" Still Bowker sees his task as simply rejuvenating and then expanding Blowfly's longstanding cult appeal. For Miami's untested groups, he counsels caution. "Some people go to South by Southwest to get signed," he scoffs. "That hasn't happened since 1993. The only reason to go is to sell your wares and promote your new album."

Accordingly, Heatseekers drummer Chuck Loose -- whose band has just broken into the four-figure sales level -- approached SXSW with a downsized vision of rock-and-roll stardom. "The dream of getting signed is not going to happen," Loose agrees, "but there's still a framework for plenty of other business opportunities on a sublevel."

A sublevel?

"The sleep-in-Motel 6, load-your-own-equipment-into-your-van sublevel," he laughs.

Vanilla Ice, however, was brooking no such talk. His manager was doggedly networking throughout Austin with hopes of landing a fresh major-label deal. But even the frosty rapper's Nineties role as critical punching bag appears to have played itself out. Despite VH-1 casting him in a reality show, industry reaction at SXSW was a collective shrug.

It's unclear why exactly Ice needs such a deal. If he's held onto even a fraction of the $18 million he's previously claimed to have amassed from the success of his "Ice Ice Baby" days, financing and distributing a new CD should hardly be an issue.

Ice himself did not return Kulchur's call, but given that he describes his new music as "high-energy skate-rock dance," that may be for the best.

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