I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a metal related event and left the place disappointed. I can kinda tell if it is going to be cool or not beforehand. I’m often not mistaken, but I still go even if my gut tells me it’s gonna suck.
Like the time I went to see Skid Row without Sebastian Bach. As if this wasn’t bad enough my best friend got into a fight with the club’s security guy and I had to take him to the hospital while the band was playing 18 & Life. We didn’t leave E.R. until 7 AM. Or the time Joey Belladonna played as a solo artist for, I don’t know, 50 people at that same Skid Row club. After the concert, we went to talk to him and take a picture but someone stole some t-shirts from his merch booth, he got pissed and stormed away.
So I heard about this Lecture on the Life and Work of King Diamond, and I knew this was going to be great. And even if it was total rubbish (which it wasn’t) I could still try and take some pictures for my Metaleros project, so there were enough reasons for me to attend. Not to mention I love Mercyful Fate, King Diamond’s first band to breakthrough.
I remember seeing his face for the first time when I was 14. It stuck in my mind because I thought why the hell this guy has all this satanic corpse paint going on and does not shave his mustache? It gave him a fatherly look and that confused me a little because he was singing about desecrating souls (true) and looked like a cool dad on Halloween.
One of my biggest fears as a kid was to be stopped on the street by older kids for wearing a band t-shirt. That meant I was gonna be interrogated to see if I knew about this band and was worthy of wearing its colors. Rumour had it that if you are wearing, say, a Judas Priest t-shirt and couldn’t name three songs the guys would force you to take off t-shirt your and maybe even beat you up.
Actually, I was stopped twice. The first time it happened I was wearing my Iron Maiden apparel with Eddie on it and was asked from which album cover did that particular image was taken. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was my answer and they let me off the hook. Pffff, that was easy but I almost crapped my pants. From that day on I knew I had to be prepared so my rule was that I’d never to wear anything by any band unless I own at least one record so I could get away from potentially dangerous situations. I wanted to keep it metal and didn’t get my ass kicked…
When that happened again, it was a Metallica t-shirt and luckily I did well again.I remember the kid asked me for 3 song names but I couldn’t pick any song from the latest release, which was the Black Album, ’cause it was playing all the time on the radio and MTV so that would’ve been too easy. I was talking to my new Colombian friends about this and they told me that the same t-shirt situation happened in Medellín but, if you got the answer wrong, they would stab you.
The King Diamond night was the first time I’ve met Alírio and Julio. They were the organizers of the event and, judging by what I heard for the next 2 hours, they must have had similar experiences than mine growing up. The guys knew everything there was to know about King Diamond. They even said King had just become a father at age 61. That’s gossip right there. They told me it was the very Mr. Diamond was the subject of an event like that in Medellín. If they had said it was the first time in the history of humanity, I would have believed them
The thing was a lecture on the life and work of King Diamond. It took place at this very popular metal bar called Villamil Ossian that is conveniently located only two blocks away from my workplace. I’ve been there a couple of times so I became acquainted with Julian, the owner. Right away I asked him to introduce me to whoever was gonna run the show so I could tell them about my project and my intentions for the night.
Alírio seemed to be pleased to meet me. Even bought me a beer. I told him all about my Metaleros project and asked if I could take a portrait of him and boy, did he feel happy. In fact, he seemed to be so happy about it that he started walking around the bar talking to different groups of people for a little while and then moving on to the next completely forgetting about me.
He is nervous, I thought. So I gently raised my hand in the air to call him to the spot I chose to take the picture but he ignored me. Now he is out of the bar and I kinda don’t know what to do. I had finished my beer by then so I decided to go outside and call him. That didn’t help either. He nodded affirmatively but kept talking.
Eventually, he sits down, and I’m able to take the picture. Meet Alírio.
If you ask me, I’d say the lecture started in a slightly aggressive way. “This is going to last for 2 hours. If you want to talk, go outside. There are people here interested in hearing so don’t ruin it for them”. It’s not like the place was packed and still, they were trying to send people away. After that was said, a dramatic pause ensued.
When the dramatic pause ended a comic relief followed, much to everyone’s surprise: “Respect what is going to be said here after all this is a school and you wouldn’t talk during class” – The room laughed.
So far everything was going great, but then the tide turned to me. Alírio held the microphone high, like only someone who masters the craft of public speaking can do and said: “We have a very special guest from Brazil today. He is going to tell you about this very nice project he is doing in Medellín. Daniel, come over here!”
There was no escape.
I’m not sure if he understood that I am currently living in Medellín and he will see my face many more times in metal events. After he summoned me I was left with the feeling he thought I came from Brazil just to attend the lecture. Everybody was looking at me. I was, and sure enough I was standing at the opposite side of the bar, so I had to take a long walk across the hall and when I got to Alírio, he gave me the microphone and warned me with his finger up in the air as if to stress he meant business: “You have 2 minutes”.
Damn, I laughed hysterically when he said that. It wasn’t funny, I just laughed out of desperation. Now I need to speak with my broken Spanish to this crowd. I said jokingly “don’t worry, I only need 30 seconds”. I came up with a compelling talk about the project and how cool the Medellín scene was while avoiding eye contact at all costs. I could see some heads shaking affirmatively with the corner of my eye so I knew I had to finish soon to keep these heads shaking. When I was talking, I was also looking for a way out as fast as possible. It’s amazing what your brain can do to save your life.
I saw an old wooden stool and decide to take a group photo, after all, I’m doing a photo project. That’s my ticket out. So, I climbed on it and had the feeling that was I one pound stockier the thing would collapse. It turns out I got a good pic out of it.
Here’s the lecture setup: There was this video projector in a chair and a white screen on the wall right in front of it, and everybody’s sitting very close together. Because of that, the only available place for Julio to do his talking was behind the counter. He shared the space with the bartender so while the guy was pouring beer to the clients, he shared his knowledge about King Diamond.
I had already learned that Alírio is a cultural entrepreneur. He organizes events, just like this one we were at. But I failed to learn what does Julio do for a living. I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that talking about King Diamond is not his primary source of income. I’m gonna call him King Diamond Connoisseur until I find out more. This is Julio
The overall tone of the talk was as if someone was reading from the singer’s Wikipedia page. Information about King’s upbringing in Denmark and his first contact with music were being shared. After each block of data, a Youtube video pops on the screen and we’d watch an entire piece, starting back in 1976, the year King released his first musical attempt. It went like that all the way to 2017. In fact, we weren’t watching actual videos. It was some of those audios that people upload to Youtube and there’s a still picture where it was supposed to be the video. I don’t think they had any actual video clips before 1984.
Did I mention there were souvenir giveaways going on? One of them was a top hat exactly like the one King Diamond wears but made out of plastic. The criteria to distribute this gift still to this day in Alirio’s mind. He walked through the room distributing it to people randomly. I didn’t get one.
Another one was a DVD with a colored photocopy cover. To get this baby, you had to answer a quiz. During the lecture, Julio would ask questions, and the winners could take their trophy home. Had he asked, “Who’s enjoying this night to the fullest?” I would have raised my hand on the spot. But no, he asked from who did King drew inspiration to start using makeup. I raised my hand anyway and shouted ALICE COOPER at the top of my lungs.
I knew the answer. Not ashamed of it, not proud of it. It is what it is. Someone had to answer the question and I did it.
I got up from my chair as the victorious man that I had just become. A few fellas were not very happy about me taking the prize home though. I even heard someone screaming “he can’t win because he is not Colombian”. Too late, buddy, nobody is going to take my well-deserved DVD away from me. It wasn’t until a couple days later that I figured out I don’t have a DVD player anymore.
Remember that top hat I did not get at first? Well, I can tell you that after the next question was asked, I got one. By the third time I gave the correct answer, he told me that it was okay for me to answer but I wouldn’t get any more prizes. Fair enough. It was never about material things for me.
At this point, I was three beers in, had won 3 quizzes and took all the pictures I wanted, so I decided to call it a night and head back home. I met a couple of friends and we talked for a while. Outside the bar, of course. I would never do anything to jeopardize the lecture.
We probably stayed out there talking for an hour. I called a taxi, said my goodbyes and as I was walking towards the car I overheard someone saying: “Isn’t it funny that we’re standing here drinking beer for like 2 hours and that guy is still inside talking about King Diamond?”