THE BUSTER BEAT: Buster Poindexter has the movie bug--and he's given it to David Johansen. Or is it the other way around? Pardon our confusion, but after ex-New York Dolls leader Johansen re-emerged several years ago as saloon-crooner smoothie Buster Poindexter, it hasn't been easy to figure out where the raucous rock artist ends and his penthouse pop alter-ego begins.
As it stands now, Buster's gets the high-visibility nod. He's got a new album on RCA Records, an Amaretto endorsement contract and--best of all--performed two songs and chatted with Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show." Buster also made his L.A. debut with three sold-out Roxy shows where he sang, sipped martinis and spun hilarious show-biz tales of an abortive Debra Winger movie project and a loopy Ocho Rios encounter with Noel Coward and reggae star Eek-A-Mouse.
(Buster even volunteered a few Off-Off- Off Broadway cosmetic tips, suggesting that bleary-eyed early morning auditioners hide those unsightly bags by rubbing some Preparation H under their eyes--he called it the Detroit Eye Tuck.)
But wait--soon it'll be Johansen's turn in the spotlight. While Buster's toiling on the nightclub circuit, David has been brushing up on his acting chops. He has roles in three upcoming films, including from an oddball Robert Frank project ("Candy Mountain"), a Jonathan Demme comedy ("Married to the Mob") and the upcoming untitled Bill Murray Christmas film, where he plays the ghost of Christmas past.
"I'd always gotten offers, but they were the typical pop typecasting stuff--the rock star who turns into a vampire or the ghost of the Fillmore East," explained Johansen, relaxing at the Roxy before one of his shows. "Anyway, I figure that coming into acting at my age (37) that I've had lots of years of character building--and I've read Stanislavsky's book, which is great, right?"
Johansen acknowledged that his part in the Demme film (as a mob priest) is just a cameo, while he's typecast as a rock star in Frank's film. "It's not something I want to do all the time--but it's really a great part. I'm the personification of all evil!"
He figures to make his biggest impression in the Murray film. "How could I refuse the man who toppled David Puttnam?" Johansen asked, flashing his trademark impish grin. "Bill used to come see my show and we got to be pretty friendly. Now he's my motion-picture guru. He's taught me all the important stuff--like to be real nice to the cameraman.
"The funny thing was that I'd picked out a character in the script who I really loved, but when I came down to audition, it turned out I'd gotten an old script and they'd totally written that guy out of the picture. So when Bill suggested I do the ghost part, I went out in the hall, read it over a few times and then went back in and--wham--got the part."
Geez, we said--don't think it'll always be that easy.
Johansen laughed. "I do!"