Almost two years later, people are still well-aware of the obnoxious "Gangnam Style" phenomenon, and a French-Korean guy named Denis Carre can still go to any posh party he wants to and get free drinks just because he looks like Psy.
Last year, a French-Korean guy named Denis Carre went to Barcelona Fashion Week and was mistaken for Psy almost everywhere he went. Yes, Denis was wearing the sunglasses from the "Gangnam Style" video, but that clip has been viewed more than 2 billion times—you'd have thought people would be able to differentiate the real Psy from a slightly tubby French-Korean man in a suit and black sunglasses. Could the cult of celebrity really make people this blind? And, perhaps, even a little bit racist? Or was it more that they just wanted to believe that they were looking at the most viewed face on YouTube?
Denis is a friend of mine, and I was accompanying him that year, taking photos of the whole thing. So I witnessed—among other surreal moments—club owners offering him bundles of cash to perform, and car dealership managers trying to hand him the keys to sports cars, just "because it would be cool to see him drive."
A year later, we returned to one of this year's Barcelona Fashion Week parties to find out if everyone would still be excited to see Denis in a suit.
According to the op-eds, our generation's cultural attention span looks something like an endless loop of "smack-cam" Vines. So we figured people might have forgotten who Psy was, or why they ever gave a shit about him in the first place. To jog their memories, we had a bunch of stickers, T-shirts, and temporary tattoos made up that read: "DO ME GANGNAM STYLE."
It turns out that this was probably a waste of money; people generally seem to remember global epidemics that dominate popular culture for an entire year.
Once the groundwork (trying to convince fashion editors to put "Gangnam Style" stickers on their $1,500 Balenciaga bags) was done, Denis arrived, flanked by loads of flashing cameras, and posed for photos with these two ladies. Everyone started pointing, obviously thrilled that a South Korean man was in the same room as they were.
This security guard took the initiative and ushered Denis and the models into the club.
The whole thing at this point was a weird blend of funny and depressing. It's kind of funny that people thought Denis was Psy, but it was also depressing because the only stuff they really have in common is that they're both Asian and often wear sunglasses inside buildings.
Denis was taken straight through to the VIP area, where lots of people posed for photos with him while incorrectly re-enacting the "Gangnam Style" dance. I felt somewhat bad, but there's something about seeing beautiful people embarrass themselves that never gets old.
A sidenote: Evidently, wearing sunglasses indoors at clubs in Barcelona turns you into a sure-fire lady-killer—look at this! And then look what happens when you don't wear any. I think we all owe the pick-up artist community one huge apology.
While the security guard was busy flashing devil horns in this group photo, this guy on the right ordered a few bottles of champagne to the table.
This is where it started getting kind of ethically dubious. Do you drink booze people have bought for you purely because they think you invented that dance they did at their uncle's wedding? Or do you fess up and buy your own bottle of marked-up prosecco? In the end, we didn't say anything, because it would have probably been more humiliating for them if everyone realised they'd just mistaken a random guy in a suit for someone who's been all over everything for the past year and a half.
In fact, since the whole "pretending to be Psy" thing took off for Denis in a big way, he's always getting offered free champagne—it comes with the territory when you look a bit like a famous person and hang around with drunk people. His "liver is fucked" now, apparently, so mostly he pretends to drink it or just stands around with a full glass of whatever it is that people want to get Psy drunk on.
We decided to leave the first club because we'd heard that Pierre Sarkozy—flaxen-haired son of Nicolas—was DJing down the road, and we all know there's no better night out than one soundtracked by the offspring of a former world leader. Before we left, the queue of people who hadn't been let inside yet all started taking photos, shouting, and continuing to incorrectly do the "Gangnam Style" dance while grinning at us.
And here's Denis with Pierre Sarkozy (long-haired, smiley). He was very excited to be standing next to a South Korean man with a "Gangnam Style" sticker on his shirt.
The weirdest thing is that Denis pulled exactly the same stunt in exactly the same place last year, and he was all over the internet for it. Yet, this year, nobody even questioned that he wasn't the real deal—everyone just took him straight to VIP areas, bought him bottles of champagne, and wanted to take a photo with him.
Then Pierre put "Gangnam Style" on and Denis was shoved onstage, where he took his shirt off and danced around a bit while people took photos and grimaced. He didn't do the dance—he just sort of flailed his hands around and did a pretty mediocre impression of someone riding a horse—but that didn't seem to bother anyone. They were all perfectly happy to point their phones at him.
Either way, this felt like the apex of the night's crescendo—a whole room of people celeb-worshipping a man whose only link to fame is looking moderately like Psy when he wears exactly the same clothes as him.
I've never seen so many people so excited about so little. It was how I imagine a Beatles crowd looked in 1964, only with iPhones and shark-tooth necklaces instead of pleated skirts and wet knickers.
Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was the giddiness of seeing someone they thought was famous. Maybe it really has been long enough for people to forget what he looks like, or maybe they're all just a bit racist, but about 800 people at this point were convinced that the man in front of them was Psy.
Imagine these people finding the photos they're taking the next day. Maybe once they'd sobered up, they would notice he wasn't the real guy. Maybe they wouldn't. Ultimately, though, would it really matter? They thought they were seeing a celebrity and were very pleased about it. In the end, they got what they wanted, and Denis gets to keep sipping free champagne.
See you next year, Barcelona.