A couple of days ago, a friend sent me a link to the below video, with the instruction "Click through to some random points in it." Here's an embed of it, if you'd like to do the same:If you don't want to watch the whole thing, just know that it shows a nerdy 16-year-old named Eddie Oliver Smith putting on an amazing 70-minute DIY tribute to Lady Gaga in an empty theater. Also, it is an utter joy.
I have a soft spot for anyone who pours their time and energy and money into recreating something because they love it so much. The kids who remade Raiders of the Lost Ark, the guys in Bangkok who recreated that Rihanna video, and the kids who did their own live-action version of Toy Story are all personal heroes of mine.In the description for his video on YouTube, Eddie says "be your own Hollywood." Which is what all of these people have done.
Where Gaga was introduced to the stage by a rotating, animatronic replica of her head surrounded by neon, in his video Eddie was introduced by a projection of his face beamed onto a sheet and surrounded by rope lights. Where Gaga had a full-size motorcycle, Eddie rides a miniature Power Wheels version. Where Gaga wore custom-made Versace, Eddie wore a sheet."It was obviously inspired by her costumes, but I created them in a way that I wanted to," Eddie told me when I called him earlier this week.Eddie first discovered Gaga in 2008 after hearing "Just Dance" on the radio. Shortly after, he launched a YouTube channel where he made video tutorials on replicating Gaga's costumes and props. His videos started racking up thousands of views.At the time, Eddie was being bullied badly at school. "No one really spoke to me at all," he said. "I went through school literally ignoring everyone… People didn't like the way I sounded, they would call me gay, call me this and that. It was really heartbreaking."
While school was miserable, when Eddie got home he could retreat to a place where he was popular. "Lady Gaga was my world to get away from everything that was happening," Eddie told me. "People liked me on the internet… It was so weird."Eventually the bullying got so bad that Eddie's mom, Bonnie decided to transfer him to a private school. "I was concerned for his welfare," she told me."I thought I was going to be able to leave it all behind," Eddie added. "I was going somewhere where nobody knew who I was or what I did and I was trying to keep it that way." But eventually, kids at the new school found his Gaga videos and Eddie, once again, became the unpopular kid.Eddie made the decision to recreate the Born This Way Ball, Lady Gaga's third concert tour, after Gaga broke her hip and canceled the Chicago concert that he had been scheduled to attend. "I was like, Chicago didn't even get to see the Born This Way Ball, so then and there I decided," Eddie explained, "I'm gonna make it happen."
Eddie filled his mom in on what he planned to do, and she told him that he could put on the performance if he could find a venue in which to stage it. She did this under the assumption that he probably wouldn't be able to find one. "I, looking at a 15-year-old said, 'Sure, find a venue,'" Bonnie told me.Eddie wrote to the Beverly Arts Center, a 400-seat theater on Chicago's South Side. The director liked the idea so much that she agreed to let Eddie use the theater for free. He just had to pay the insurance and for the services of a technical director.
Using money he got from his family, as well as donations made to an Indiegogo campaign he created, Eddie set about making his props and costumes, which he built at home after school and on weekends using things from thrift shops and hardware stores. His granddad helped him make the giant castle set, and his grandma helped him with the costumes. Eddie estimates that he spent about $1,500 making everything over the course of two months.
Eddie put on his concert in early 2013. On the day of the performance, Eddie called in the entire family to act as a crew for his show. "He utilized everyone in our family and darn near every waking minute to pull this off," Bonnie told me.He brought in his grandparents, parents, and a couple of kids from his school to act as a 20-person crew on the production, badgering them into helping him put on his one-man-show. "I bugged them to death," Eddie said. "Each had their own little roles, like costume or crew or moving the staging around or being camera people."Though he had a whole theater, no audience was invited to watch his show apart from his family/crew. "I wanted to go into it like an HBO special, with no audience," he said.
Though it hasn't been seen by that many people, the video has received a fair amount of criticism online. One Lady Gaga forum user called it "One of the most embarrassing moments in the history of our fan base." Another's review was much more succinct: "hahahahahahahahaha." A YouTube commenter wrote, "Gaga probably watches this when she's sad so she can laugh hysterically at how much this sucks."
But, Eddie explained to me, he doesn't care about the naysayers. "Obviously there's critics and there's tons of people who have hated on it," he said. "It was for me and not for anyone else. It was something I wanted to do."I was worried that the kids at Eddie's school might have seen the video. And as much as I like Eddie's performance, kids are fucking assholes. And if school is anything like it was when I was there, uploading an hour-long video of yourself recreating a Lady Gaga concert would be a really efficient way of making an already miserable school life even more miserable.But miraculously, nobody at his school, with the exception of the kids who helped him produce it, saw the show. "I couldn't believe he pulled it off as successfully as he did with no backlash," Bonnie told me. "I've always been proud of the fact that he takes a stand that he's different and he doesn't let kids bully him into becoming a recluse."She was also a fan. "It was breathtakingly beautiful to be a part of something like that," she said. "The entire family encouraged him, and we were all very, very proud of him. It was impressive to be there, to be a part of it, and just to watch him be so proud when he went out there and performed all those songs."Eddie isn't entirely happy with what he shot. He told me that he wished he could've gotten a full-size motorcycle and that the castle had looked more like real brick. But, he explained, "I don't know how many other 16-year-olds can say that they put on their own show at a huge million-dollar theater."Follow Jamie Lee Curtis Taete on Twitter.