In 2009, after a long night of drinking free drinks, Handelsman got a double-felony DUI for hitting a pedestrian. This tragedy led to others -- the loss of his job, getting kicked out of his house, and being dumped by his girlfriend. Homeless, Handelsman moved into a foreclosed townhouse in Kendall. And thus was born his new persona ... The President.
According to Handlesman, "The President is a conceptual multi-media extravaganza. It is punk rock with a mature ideology and sound." He explains, "The President is about self-transformation."
Besides an encounter with a crack addict on 6/6/06, HR of Bad Brains and Rick Ross both helped guide The President toward salvation. "One night at Rick Ross' house, I got really high, and I told him that I was going to be as rich and famous as him. He asked me what I was going to call myself and I said, 'The President.' He said, 'If you really want it, it will happen. You gotta hustle.'"
HR recommended two books to Handelsman, Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, and the Bible. As far as the beginning of his relationship with Jesus on the devil's day, the musician was smoking crack outside of Churchill's and one of his smoking companions began preaching the gospel. "He said that anything I wanted I could have if I asked Jesus Christ. Crackheads love preaching the gospel. It's funny."
Handelsman continues, "I thought about this woman that I had had a crush on, who I had met about a month before at a party. I asked Jesus if He would make her my girlfriend. I stepped into Churchill's high as a kite, and the first thing I heard was, 'Hey, remember me?' It was her! She was sitting at the bar by herself, waiting for some guy that stood her up. At that moment, I told Jesus that He had won, and I accepted Him as my own personal savior right there. I ended up in a relationship with that woman for almost four years. She helped me get a job as a music journalist, and I was no longer sleeping under bridges and smoking crack! Thank you, Jesus!"
The thing about The President is that it's not just an act or an idea with no end, there's a plan in action here. "America loves entertainers that evolve into politicians," he says, naming Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, and even Donald Trump. "We love celebrities, and The President has decided to become one. I will put out music with a positive message, explaining my political platform until I am organically forced to run for President of the United States in the early 2030s. I love America!"
As The President, Handelsman, who's played left-handed guitar for over 20 years, has two albums out on Roofless Records, Lebron and Experience Sobriety. The first album was "focused on getting all of my skeletons out of the closet. As Justin Timberlake said, 'The old me is dead and gone!'"
And his lyrics are amusing, nuanced, funny, Miami-centric, and uplifting. "For God so loves the world that he gave us chocolate and vanilla ice cream," The President sings in "Chocolate and Vanilla," continuing, "God loves the Heat, brought LeBron to Miami."
Handelsman also makes art. He had an exhibition up for the month of March as part of the nomadic art project The End/Spring Break's time at the Bas Fisher Invitational. Though the work is unrefined, it draws the viewer into an imperfect world, offering up the magic of innocence. "It's low-budget art that brings joy to the viewer. Lots of found objects that somehow fit into my life in a sentimental way. Lots of drawings. Lots of scribbles on paper with pen. Lots of Masonic brochures and pamphlets."
Jacob Katel's short documentary on The President, entitled "Telephone Baptism," will be screening at Roofless Records' Cinema Sounds #8 as part of the Borscht Film Festival this Thursday. Bands Meat, Acidosis, Gorilla Pussy, and Viking Funeral will be performing live scores to films they've chosen. Also, Abel Folgar will be presenting "Roosters," a poetry video.
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Download The President's newest album Experience Sobriety.
The President at Roofless Records' Cinema Sounds #8 as part of the Borscht Film Festival. Thursday, April 21. O Cinema, 96 NW 29 St., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. Visit rooflessrex.com.