Jobraith A.D.: Stellar Rock Doc On '70s Would-Be Star

by Pete Crigler

There have been hundreds of rock documentaries over the last couple of years, covering everything from Klaus Nomi to Pearl Jam. Some have been good, some have been very modest. This one, without a doubt, is one of the best. Jobriath was one of the most hyped (some say over-hyped) rock stars of the ’70s. He was openly gay before that was accepted in pop music. He was signed by a Svengali who wanted him to be the next Bowie. This film tells that story in the tremendous, fascinating detail.

jobraith_dvd_150Drawing from exhaustive research and interviews with associates like former manager Jerry Brandt, friends like Wayne/Jayne County, and admirers such as Ann Magnuson of Bongwater, the film presents the definitive story of this trailblazing artist. Narrated by Henry Rollins, the film follows Jobraith’s life chronologically from his beginning with the folk rock group Pidgeon in the late ’60s to his discovery by Svengali Jerry Brandt and getting signed to Elektra Records, to his final years as cabaret singer Cole Berlin living atop the Chelsea Hotel in NYC. This is one of those documentaries filled with great insight and amazingly great archival footage of Jobriath, performing on The Midnight Special in front of a befuddled Gladys Knight, and interviews done towards the end of his life.

Jobriath was one of the first rock stars to succumb to AIDS, but his story is so much more than that. The story of the hype machine that was working in overdrive to make him a success in the ’70s is priceless information. Svengali Jerry Brandt comes off as a bit of a dick throughout the proceedings; when Jobriath failed to make a splash as big as Bowie, Brandt walked away and the relationship between the two became very acrimonious. Towards the end, Brandt talks openly about Jobriath and how he misses him and wishes he was still among us. The unanswered question of whether these comments were intended to gain pity or sympathy from the audience or were genuine is part of the film’s charm. It does answer a lot of other questions and allows the viewer to find out more about Jobraith than they might ever have thought possible.

Without a doubt, this is one of the top ten most informative and entertaining rock documentaries ever made.

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