By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Over the following weeks, industry people would ask me what musicians I had met.
"Christy Darlington came by the office," I'd tell them.
The response was always the same: "Of course he did."
See, Christy has something of a reputation around town for relentless self-promotion. He is part musician, part agent, part businessman, part gonzo promoter who refuses to take no for an answer. So when I didn't mention his CD in print, he wrote me a frustrated e-mail. When I asked him to tell me more of his frustrations, suggesting it might make a good story, he sent me three e-mails; they totaled more than 6,000 words.
"i know i come off as brash or abrasive," he wrote. "people in this town are probably sick of me harrassing them--haha."
Dallas is full of guys like Christy, musicians who almost made it and keep plugging away. Guys with record deals that ended up in the trash, videos that never found airplay, albums that were supposed to break but didn't. We could complain about all this for hours--and one night, over beers, we should--but it's old news that success in this business has less to do with talent than it has to do with luck, persistence, timing and good hair. It's maddening: Labels drop good bands, deals go sour, and after a while, if you're not careful, your dreams get kicked out of you.
Somehow, that never happened to Christy Darlington.
"In terms of motivation, he's probably one of the top five people I've worked with," says Tami Thomsen. Though she now works at Kirtland Records, Thomsen collaborated with Darlington at Deep Ellum's Last Beat Studios, where the band recorded its first two albums, Pretty Ugly (featuring "XMas" and "Marcia Brady") and Girltroversy, a sugar shock of funny, moony songs like "Jodie Foster" and "Judy Jetson." "The most random idea, if it comes in his head, he'll do it," she says. "The list of stuff he would send me to do--I wish I still had it, because it would be funny--but he would want me to send stuff anywhere, from Maximum Rock n Roll, which is obviously an appropriate arena, to Cosmo Girl. If I didn't do it, he would."
"No one's gonna do it for me," Christy explains. "You can't expect people to discover you in a club. Anyone who says they don't want to be popular and famous and have as many people listening to their music as possible is full of bullshit, 'cause that's the only reason you leave your house and play at the club. You just gotta do promotion. And it works. Well, it hasn't worked yet."
But that's the key word: yet.
Christy once left the CEO of Toyota a voicemail about a tie-in with his song "My Corolla." He pitched Hard Candy cosmetics about packaging an eye liner with every copy of his CD. Once, during our interview, he stopped in the middle of a question and told me to save the tape; it might make a good extra on a CD one day. His Web site boasts an endorsement with Daisy Rock Guitars--"for the Rock goddess!"--but do they realize he's not a girl? (He says they do.)
In 1998, he got another big idea--to legally change his name to Christy Brigitte Darlington. (He was born with the first name Chris. His last name, Greek in origin, he asked me not to print.) This was around the time the band had to switch names as well, and though Christy has since told me that he "took a woman's name to challenge the way society tries to take individuality away from the American male," other people recall it being a lot less serious.
"The way I remember it, it was the names of our two favorite models--Christy Turlington and Brigitte Hall," Visneau says. "The joke was, we wanted to be these fashionistas playing pop punk. We used to read women's fashion magazines and go to the mall all the time and buy all these nice clothes. If there was some other motivation, it was locked up inside his head."
Visneau laughs now thinking about that day, about the look on the face of the woman at the courthouse as she processed his paperwork. "You want to change your name to Christy Brigitte?" she asked. "Are you crazy?"
"Yep," Visneau told her. "He's crazy."
"I've got a new job at--no joke--Abercrombie and Fitch," he wrote me by e-mail.
Over the years, he's had a slew of these gigs. A short list of retail outlets he's worked at includes Old Navy, Gap, Rampage, Contempo Casuals, Urban Outfitters, Claire's, The Icing and Hot Topic. One Christmas, he worked at UPS for a few days and quit. He didn't last much longer as a telemarketer ("that job just made me hate the world"). He's mopped the floors at Club Clearview, worked State Fair food concessions. He's made almost $4,000 in two clinical research studies. His is a life of eternal starving artistry--or slackerdom, depending on your perspective--in which he can hop in the van at a moment's notice.