Sweet Micky's masquerade

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"Ou La La"

Life is good for me, and everything I have is for you,

When I'm by your waist, I never feel like leaving.

Martelly's allegiances became clearer after the 1991 coup d'état against Aristide, a popular priest who was elected after promising to combat poverty. Martelly opened a Petionville club called the Garage, where he entertained many of the coup's main architects, including the much-feared chief of national police, Michel François, later convicted in absentia for massacring Aristide supporters. François liked Martelly's music so much that he allegedly lent the singer his own nickname: "Sweet Micky."

The two were close enough that Martelly played free of charge for François during a 1992 protest against the arrival of Dante Caputo, a UN representative in charge of negotiating Aristide's return. The koudjay (jam session) brought several hundred people to the airport. As they danced and cheered, Martelly rallied the crowd with a slogan from the Haitian revolution. "Grenadier! To the attack!" he yelled. "If anyone dies, that's his business!"

In a 1997 interview with New Times, Martelly said he didn't regret the incident. "I didn't accept [the request to play] because I was Michel François's friend," he explained. "I went because I did not want Aristide back... You want me to be a de facto [supporter of the coup]. I'm a de facto. It's my right. It's my country. I can fight for whatever I believe in."

Sweet Micky's politics soon began creeping into his songs. After the coup, he made an album whose title captured his ambivalence: I Don't Care. When UN soldiers reinstalled Aristide in 1994, "Go fuck your mother, Aristide!" became a common refrain at Martelly's concerts.

"By then it became clear that Micky had really strong Duvalierist inclinations," Averill says.

"Even back in the day when I said that, I never meant it," Martelly now claims of his divisive lyrics. "That was the type of [rhetoric] we had in Haiti, and I just used it."

"I Don't Care"

If I catch them on Bicentenaire

We're going to spank them

Ruthless, Micky is ruthless

When they attack me, Micky gets ruthless

That's how we are

If you don't like it, get out!

Martelly toned down the political messages after Aristide left office in 1996. But the singer also upped his outrageous onstage antics: dressing in a diaper and leading the Port-au-Prince Carnival in a dress and pink wig. He also began talking half-jokingly about becoming president one day. By the time Aristide was re-elected in 2000, Sweet Micky was "a musical figure in the halls of power in Haiti," Averill says. When a coup once again deposed Aristide in 2004, it was Gérard Latortue — a friend of Martelly's — who took over.

At the time, Martelly was living the high life in South Florida. He and his wife had bought a 6,000-square-foot house in Royal Palm Beach for $910,000. But in 2007, Martelly officially retired, stopped paying the mortgage, and moved back to Haiti — defaulting on more than $1 million in loans and losing three properties to foreclosure.

"I Remember My Country"

If one day you have to travel far

Just remember it's life's problems that brought us here,

Haiti is my country.

There is nobody that is going to make me leave and not come back.

Last summer he announced his candidacy for president. He hired Spanish marketing firm Solas — which had worked on John McCain's 2008 campaign — to transform him from a reactionary into a political maverick with pop-star name recognition. It wasn't difficult.

"There wasn't much education about Martelly's background," Pierre-Louis says. "Besides, no one was really paying attention to him in the first round. He had no chance." Indeed, he came in third in a November 28 election, a couple thousand votes behind Marlene Manigat, a former first lady, and Jude Célestin, President René Préval's chosen successor.

But Martelly supporters refused to accept the results, alleging massive fraud. They constructed flaming roadblocks in Petionville and Port-au-Prince, and demanded Sweet Micky's inclusion in another round. Under international pressure, Haitian election officials threw out Célestin, paving the way for Martelly's commanding March 20 victory.

Paradoxically, Martelly says that despite his bad-boy act, voters elected him because they saw he was a real person, not a phony politician.

"Onstage I had that character — Sweet Micky — that was run by Michel Martelly," he says. "People enjoyed it and saw the persona for what it was. It definitely helped my [political] career because people were able to see my DNA. They were able to say, 'Who's that guy who's running for politics now? At least he is [independent].'"

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.

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