Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Dying Hard at the Apollo
July 15, 2007 11:58 PM   Subscribe

I contend this house-swaying performace at the Apollo Theater earlier this year, purporting to feature soulful everyman Brad Prowley ("real life homeless man . . . who makes a living singing classic R&B songs on the streets of major cities not just to get by, but out of a true, life-long passion for music"), actually showcases this man in disguise. You be the judge.
posted by azaner (71 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, he aint all that good.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:14 AM on July 16, 2007


Bru...No.

That dude is simply not shaped like Bruce Willis. I can see where your suspicions come from, though.
posted by chudmonkey at 12:18 AM on July 16, 2007


He sure resembles Bruce Willis, a little. Not sure about the double chin and a few other features, but it's nothing a good bit of makeup work couldn't do.

He even sounds a little like Bruce Willis. Except that he can sing better than old Bruno.

But, if it is Bruce Willis, what's the joke, if he doesn't show his true identity by the end?

In other words, he is not Bruce Willis. He's Brad Prowley!
posted by newfers at 12:19 AM on July 16, 2007


He does sound like Bruce Willis, except that he sings better. The only problem is that the hair isn't a wig. No way.
posted by team lowkey at 12:24 AM on July 16, 2007


It is definitely someone in disguise. As I watched, I continually was reminded of someone but couldn't quite identify who it is. The coke-bottle glasses are a dead giveaway that its a disguise, imho. I wasn't that impressed with his singing, to be honest.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:33 AM on July 16, 2007


Perhaps Brad Prowley is like the Chris Gaines / Bruce Willis combo.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:35 AM on July 16, 2007


Nick Cage. First thought.
But he's got Willis' Jersey accent...
posted by From Bklyn at 12:35 AM on July 16, 2007


I mean: Perhaps Brad Prowley is like the Chris Gaines / Garth Brooks combo.

/Had a few beers.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:37 AM on July 16, 2007


Second thought, Adam Savage.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:41 AM on July 16, 2007


I wonder who it really is. The production values on those two "Brad" "Prowley" YouTubes are excellent.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:03 AM on July 16, 2007


The problem is that he doesn't look or sound like Willis. But apart from that, congratulations.
posted by A189Nut at 1:04 AM on July 16, 2007


I'm not sure who it is (though I am sure it's not Bruce), but it is definitely a "getup".

The look is too intentional in just about every detail, almost like someone's idea of what a white, homeless, soul-junkie should look like... It's borderline convincing until you look at his sweet manicured hands and über-smooth mug in the park performance video, then the whole facade comes crumbling down.
posted by numlok at 1:07 AM on July 16, 2007


Documentary on Brad Prowley.

Part 2.
posted by basicchannel at 1:08 AM on July 16, 2007


Bah! Missed those two links! They bore repeating, no?
posted by basicchannel at 1:10 AM on July 16, 2007


If you want to know whether he's real, ask people in and around the Bereket Turkish Kebab House (Manhattan, Lower East Side) whether they can confirm this:
My fave performer, “karaoke man” Brad Prowley, sometimes sings in front of Bereket Turkish Kebab House at three in the morning.
posted by pracowity at 1:56 AM on July 16, 2007


That doesn't mean anything, he could be a well-known figure who just gets his kicks doing that in disguise at 3am as part of the put-on. I mean, if you're going to do a thing like this, you do it right, yeah? Gotta get the backstory happening. It wouldn't be the first time a celebrity had some kind of eccentricity of that nature.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 2:03 AM on July 16, 2007


APOLLO! SHOW YAH LOVE!!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:16 AM on July 16, 2007


I've never heard anyone's version of "Let's Get It On" whose name wasn't Marvin Gaye that was any good whatsoever. Aping Marvin's unique phrasing is pretty much all anyone ever does with it, but never with the understated finesse, calm grace and coolness of Marvin. This guy is no exception to the rule. I don't care if he's an actual street person or the goddamn Duke of Wellington, he just doesn't have what it takes to get this song across. And why try? It's an exercise in futility. It's utterly pointless.

Damn, those Apollo audiences have gotten easy to please.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:28 AM on July 16, 2007


he could be a well-known figure who just gets his kicks doing that in disguise at 3am as part of the put-on

It wouldn't prove anything, but if he's been seen on the street doing this a lot and for a long time (as a real Brad Prowley would be seen) and no one has caught on, it would make it a lot less likely that he's a fake. I'm pretty sure there aren't many rich, pampered Bruce Willis-type stars who get dressed up in dumpster clothes and sidewalk makeup several times a week to work the street at 3AM for drunken jeers and small change. I can imagine they might very rarely do something like that to get the feel for a part or to feel real again or some such shite, but they wouldn't have a frequent and ongoing gig out in spitsville. They're already certain that they're great and they wouldn't settle for the scorn if they could use their stardom as a shortcut to something more comfortable, like playing in disguise in a decent bar with a friendly crowd.
posted by pracowity at 2:50 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't stand the endless blues-scale arpeggio thing that R&B singers do these days. I miss good old Soul :-(
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:50 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Damn, those Apollo audiences have gotten easy to please.

Seriously, that was my first reaction to the clip. The difference between this guy and Marvin Gaye is staggeringly vast. I'd say it was partially the "freak show" aspect, but that crowd look genuinely enthralled. I would expect this kind of reaction after a night of listening to extremely bad, drunken karaoke--you know where that one guy with half a voice gets up and everyone gets a "Paul Potts" reaction--but at the Apollo?

I miss the good old soul, too.
posted by AmberV at 3:21 AM on July 16, 2007


It's not Bruce Willis.

But it's still someone in disguise.
posted by SansPoint at 3:51 AM on July 16, 2007


"...but if he's been seen on the street doing this a lot and for a long time ..."

And though I can't say it categorically, he has not been singing on the streets of NYC, not for "years". (that should provoke someone into saying 'Assclown, I've been listening to him since before he was cool'...)

And seriously, it could be Adam Savage.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:07 AM on July 16, 2007


Maybe if Adam got a nose job and an added dimple in his chin. Not sure who it is but I agree there are some shenanigan afoot.
posted by toddbass10 at 4:23 AM on July 16, 2007


Is it possible it is more than one guy? Say a shared disguise?
posted by toddbass10 at 4:25 AM on July 16, 2007


toddbass10: Until now I've never heard of a singular shenanigan. I like it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:33 AM on July 16, 2007


My first thought before he started singing was that it was the cabbie guy from those old MTV commercials.
posted by emelenjr at 4:33 AM on July 16, 2007


I have seen this man perform, "years" ago.

At Collective Unconscious, on Rivington, at Reverend Jen's Anti-Slam, on the night in 2003 the war in Iraq was announced. He showed up out of nowhere and rocked the house with "Let's Get It On", the best I've ever heard. I was in the third row and can verify that he was not Bruce Willis, and though I can't say for sure whether he is actually homeless, he didn't seem to be in disguise-- it just didn't have that feeling.

After he finished two songs, he vanished. Later, on my way home, I saw him singing in front of the Kabab House. We joined the crowd dancing in the street.
posted by hermitosis at 4:46 AM on July 16, 2007


When I say his version was "the best I've ever heard," I wan to clarify that it was because of the element of surprise, his intensity, and the fact that when the audience interrupted him with wild cheering after he hit one particular note, he responded by unleashing a five-second belch straight into the microphone.
posted by hermitosis at 4:51 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I was a famous guy and going to pull something like this off, I'd make sure I had submarine accounts on a bunch of sites like metafilter, I'd pay a college kid to keep 'em all ticking over for a year or two before hand (or just buy a used account), then I'd post that I totally saw me playing at Collective Unconscious back in '03.
posted by markr at 4:58 AM on July 16, 2007


If I knew famous people, would I dress like this?
posted by hermitosis at 5:02 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I once saw David McCallum dressed as a filthy, unshaven tramp in a Victoria Station, London, cafe in 1978. He knew we recognised him, too, because he gave us that look, then quickly broke eye contact and walked away with his cup of tea. I never found out if he was researching a part or was just on a bender.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 5:17 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I once saw David McCallum dressed as a filthy, unshaven tramp..."

Sheesh. What part of SPY do you not understand???
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:29 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I dunno. The longer it went on, the more it looked, and sounded, like Willis to me. And this definitely seems like the type of thing he'd do, "not just to get by, but out of a true, life-long passion for music."

Willis in Hudson Hawk
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:32 AM on July 16, 2007


"I have seen this man perform, "years" ago."

Ask and you shall receive.

thanks for refraining from using 'assclown,' that always stings.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:39 AM on July 16, 2007


It's not Bruce Willis!!!
posted by lee at 5:48 AM on July 16, 2007


Paging #23392!
posted by googly at 6:31 AM on July 16, 2007


He's way, way, way too big to be Adam. Adam is a trim, sexy ginger, yes he is. Not a rather large, greasy soul singer.

I'm not sure I buy the "disguise" thing. I've known people with glasses that thick, there is no way you could get a wig to look like that hair, and the sort of makeup that would make that "look" work on film wouldn't work live. And I don't think that hermitosis has any reason to make up his story about seeing the guy years ago at the kebab house.

I dunno, I'm willing to believe it's a homeless guy with a solid range. I guess I don't understand why that's so hard to believe.
posted by dejah420 at 7:23 AM on July 16, 2007


It sounds A LOT like Willis' voice when he's talking not singing... to me, anyway. Singing voice, not so much.
posted by Heminator at 7:34 AM on July 16, 2007


-I've never heard anyone's version of "Let's Get It On" whose name wasn't Marvin Gaye that was any good whatsoever.
-The difference between this guy and Marvin Gaye is staggeringly vast.


So the problem here is that Brad isn't Marvin?
People should never, ever sing a Marvin Gaye song- why bother?

IANA music connoisseur, and am only slightly familiar with the song, so I went to youtoob to compare. The difference I heard was that, yes, Marvin was more understated. But I thought Brad was great. He certainly can sing (better than Bruce- and miles above Jack Black). I don't see the vastness.
posted by MtDewd at 7:34 AM on July 16, 2007


Whoever the hell he was, I need a bit of Sexual Healing to put me right after the assault on Marvin
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:38 AM on July 16, 2007


MtDewd writes 'People should never, ever sing a Marvin Gaye song- why bother?'

Normally, the point of covering somebody else's song is to give it your own reading or interpretation. Brad's covers aren't much more than competent Kareoke covers. That type of cover is often a pleasure for the singer and his or her friends, but rarely so for the audience.

Also, when somebody has done what most people regard as a definitive reading of a song (and that may well be the case with pretty well everything Marvin sang -- with the exception of I Wish It Would Rain, on which The Temptations might have the slight edge), then the bar is raised still higher.

So if you are going to cover a classic song like Let's Get it On, you need a way of making it your own. A different vocal treatment, or a different arrangement, for example. Simply copying the Marvin Gaye version when you lack Marvin's ability, Marvin's soulfulness, Marvin's sexuality will invariably result in a widespread utterance of 'Meh!'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:59 AM on July 16, 2007


At the end of the ten-minute mini-doc, the guy (not Willis) gives a great performance of the schlocky "Ben." Great because it's given a straight unironic falsetto treatment that is an island of beauty in the hurry-up world of the NYC street, and it makes people smile.

On the other hand, when the frame for his performance is a theater (the Apollo, no less!), his singing is terribly underwhelming. As noted above, he does little more than ape Marvin Gaye's phrasing and gets applause just because he's taking us back to a monster classic.
posted by kozad at 8:10 AM on July 16, 2007


Actually, on a side-by-side comparison, I think Marvin's version of I Wish It Would Rain *is* the better one of the two, precisely because I prefer Marvin's arrangement -- but you've got to love that Tempts line up with David Ruffin singing lead, though the subsequent line up when Ruffin lost it to cocaine arrogance may well have been even better!

OK, I'll stop derailing now.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2007


He's a very unshowered guy with a very good voice for singing in the shower.
posted by pracowity at 8:16 AM on July 16, 2007


I think it's Bruce Willis
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:21 AM on July 16, 2007


Makeup can do a lot, but it can't make a nose too small.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:26 AM on July 16, 2007


He's a very unshowered guy with a very good voice for singing in the shower.

Maybe it is Bruce Willis after all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:34 AM on July 16, 2007


flapjax: I know the Apollo audiences are notoriously tough, but from what I've seen over the years on the weekly TV show, they can be tough, but they also reward genuine effort as long as it is sincere and at least somewhat capable.

This guy is no Marvin, of course, but he is modestly capable, and I would say he appears sincere.

I think that's why he was not booed off the stage.

Also, it's a ballsy move... a white man going to the Apollo to sing Marvin Gaye. He gets some props based on sheer testicular fortitude alone.

The glasses look very fake to me, like novelty glasses, and he didn't appear to be "comfortable" in them considering how many times, and how awkwardly, he pushed them up his nose.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:37 AM on July 16, 2007


My first thought before he started singing was that it was the cabbie guy from those old MTV commercials.
That would be Donal Logue.
posted by jrossi4r at 9:07 AM on July 16, 2007


Clearly the title of this post should have been "The Return of Bruno?".
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:32 AM on July 16, 2007


"Clearly the title of this post should have been "The Return of Bruno?"
That precedent has been set.

There is no doubt in my mind it's Willis. Great little ruse.
posted by mikeinclifton at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2007


MtDewd - have you heard Ben Harper cover Marvin Gaye? It's not the real thang, but it's very respectable.
posted by gnutron at 10:30 AM on July 16, 2007


Ynoxas writes "Also, it's a ballsy move... a white man going to the Apollo to sing Marvin Gaye. He gets some props based on sheer testicular fortitude alone."

That's exactly why he got applause. He's not terrible (not that great), but good enough, and he gets up there and just does it. That's about half of your Apollo cred right there.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2007


Maybe it's Jack Black.

I think the guy in the Apollo is Bruce Willis in disguise (the pants and jacket look padded to me), and the guy in the park is someone else in disguise. They look like different people to me. And who wears their glasses like that?

The pudgy/greasy-white-guy-singing-soul thing is reminiscent of the Commitments' Try a Little Tenderness.

Speaking of "Try a Little Tenderness," I'd always thought it was an Otis Redding original and didn't realize it was a standard until I heard Bing Crosby's version recently, with the "ba-ba-ba-ba-boos" and all. Totally different sound.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:05 PM on July 16, 2007


I thought he (whoever he was) was pretty dang good ... though he needed polish and kinda fell apart quite a bit toward the end.

Was it real? I kinda got Borat vibes; like when he did that rodeo thing before anyone knew who he was or that a movie was in the works. Might be viral advertising.

Might be Willis, but every time I've seen him perform, it was usually more guttural and jazzy stuff; stuff that casual fans wouldn't recognize (ie: showing off his "deep" knowledge of the genre, hehehe-he). I'll say "no" and if it turns out to really be him I'll be impressed.
posted by RavinDave at 12:09 PM on July 16, 2007


And now that kirkaracha articulates it ... yeah, that seems like a likely scenario. Two different guys. Park guy seemed to lose tempo quite a bit.
posted by RavinDave at 12:11 PM on July 16, 2007


Here's some more links that may help narrow things down:
IMDB - Karaoke Man
IMDB - Director - Adolfo Doring
Adolfo's YouTube channel
Adolfo's Director Page
Let's Get it On (not @ The Apollo)
posted by numlok at 12:33 PM on July 16, 2007


Anyone remember the one-album band Life, Sex and Death? Their lead singer was (supposedly) homeless, but he could deliver quite an interesting metal lyric.
posted by davejay at 12:39 PM on July 16, 2007


It's Tony Clifton.
posted by jrossi4r at 12:49 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think the director is the star

Take a look and compare to Brad
posted by A189Nut at 1:04 PM on July 16, 2007


It's Tony Clifton.

Man, whoever broke this missed a great chance to birth a meme. This should have been reported as a recent Andy Kaufman sighting. That'd be good for a week or two of feverish posting.
posted by RavinDave at 1:09 PM on July 16, 2007


And this - I call a performance artist
posted by A189Nut at 1:12 PM on July 16, 2007


I did this, like, over a decade ago back in college. I didn't dress in an elaborate disguise, and instead of the Apollo, it was a Friday night karaoke jam. I didn't embarrass myself, and in fact got cheers from an audience full of strangers, not because I could pretend to have Marvin's pipes, but because I loved the song and I poured my heart into it.

This was years ago, back before "Let's Get It On" started appearing in every fourth TV ad and every third comedic film. I thought the High Fidelity film adaptation was pretty good, but I was a little disappointed when I heard it performed in the film.
posted by britain at 2:12 PM on July 16, 2007


Dude,

That is so not me.
It's not me. As much as I'd like to be spending that much time in Manhattan, I don't get there that often.
and...
I can sing better than that.

Adam Savage
posted by asavage at 8:32 PM on July 16, 2007


Oh,

I agree, I think that it's Bruce.
posted by asavage at 8:34 PM on July 16, 2007


There are Bruce similarities, but in the end it really does look like that Adolfo director guy in a cheap disguise.
posted by mathowie at 8:55 PM on July 16, 2007


Freeze the video at 1.48 and it sure looks like Willis in disguise.

Lots of vocal similarities too.
posted by bwg at 10:02 PM on July 16, 2007


But then, this video contradicts that.

What if it's Willis disguised as Brad Prowley?
posted by bwg at 10:08 PM on July 16, 2007


PeterMcDermott- thanks for politely answering my question and not flaming me. I appreciate that the bar is high. If I had listened to Marvin's version a hundred times when I was younger, I'd probably feel exactly the same way. But I came to this with only a slight familiarity and it grabbed me.
I have been known to sing other people's hits in front of strangers, and have had the same reaction that britain mentioned. For me to get up and sing like that, I have to be in love with the song. And when I perform, people can tell I'm in love with the song. And so they respond, even though I have nowhere near the talent Brad does. He clearly loves this music. He tells the audience 'I love this song', and the audience comes right back and says 'We love this song too'.
I think he's just what the documentary says he is. It looks too honest to me.
(Unless I've been fooled again... he does have pretty good teeth for a homeless guy)
posted by MtDewd at 10:12 PM on July 16, 2007


It's a different voice, different outfits, different gestures, between the Apollo and the Bad Brad version -- after many, many watchings, my money is on Bruce doing a version of Prowly. With permission and collaboration?
posted by dbrown at 8:34 PM on July 19, 2007


« Older Battleship Extreme, Operation Tiger, Operation Thu...  |  Feed the head... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments