Robert Melee


Everything changed after my introduction, at the age of 8, to Brenda Lee. My Aunt Minnie, in last night's makeup and a teddy, with her long, movie-star legs and a towering, sculpted platinum hairdo, chain-smoking Pall Malls, would lip-synch to Ms. Lee. This was the first performance-art piece I witnessed. Always in touch with the latest in electronics, Minnie sang along with her eight-track tape stereo and held a professional mic (not plugged into anything) with her phantom band. There was a drum set and electric guitars, but they were never played. I remember the itchy multicolor shag carpeting against my skin as my cousin and I watched from the floor in our underwear. In the parlor, there was a Venetian-esque mural and a gorgeous white velvet sofa suffocated with plastic slip covering. The baroque coffee and side tables made of real marble and gold-painted bronze had small lights inside that lit up. The centerpiece was a tall, freestanding lamp, the base of which featured a replica of the classical Greek sculpture of Venus de Milo, with a garden of plastic ferns at her feet. The faux-marble sculpture was encircled by thin plastic wire that dripped beads of oil. My first request when visiting most weekends was to turn Venus on. Fake is real.