The first time I saw a picture of quirky chanteuse Nellie McKay, I expressed doubts that the whimsical cabaret-rapper popstar was a mere 19 years old. In her album photos, she could pass for someone in her late twenties or even early thirties.
Well, it turns out I was way off. She's 22, a Buffalo News reporter wrote today. Also, most of the stuff she's been spouting about her childhood has been a little, as the Brits say, sexed up:
McKay has also been stretching the truth about other things. She told [a reporter] she spent her childhood in a drug-infested area of Harlem, is the granddaughter of a murderer, the great-granddaughter of a bullfighter and a cousin of Dylan Thomas.Well, I suppose the truth had to come out. Artistic personae, alas, are personae non gratas these days.
[Time Out New York] reported McKay's Forrest-Gump-esque claims in [a] 2003 story, under the now-ironic headline, "The Real McKay."
While neither Nellie McKay nor McKay's mother, Robin Pappas, returned a call seeking comment for this story, her father denied many of these claims. Dylan Thomas' daughter, Aeronwy Thomas, denies that the McKays are related to her.
That's the problem with the world today, my blogochildren. An entertainer is no longer allowed to create poetic myths about him or herself anymore. Imagine Leonard Cohen emerging today, his romantic lady's man image slowly picked apart by journalists reporting each time he prematurely ejaculated...
Nellie's fictional upbringing -- muggers and children sharing the same paradise -- is part of her art, I'd say. The age fib, mind you, is a little different: It points to the pressures of women entertainers to have success ridiculously young, when they still have that magic suffix "-teen" attached to their age.
I recognize that this demythologization was inevitable... And, yes, Anne Neville has done a fine job of tracking down the right date of birth, etc. -- that is her duty as a journalist.
It's her "liar, liar, pants on fire" tone that I find annoying. This isn't catching the President in a prevarication about a war, Ms. Neville. It's going up on stage and taking off the magician's cape to show the hidden pockets inside. An illusion is not the same thing as a lie.