If the notion of being cosmopolitan could be epitomized by an individual you’d be hard pressed to find a better candidate than the late Farrokh Bulsara. Now you might know Farrokh better by the band he helped found, Queen. Farrokh personified the very essence of being free of local, provincial, or even national ideas, prejudices, or attachments. He was born and raised in Zanzibar where he started taking piano lessons at the age of seven. By seventeen, he and his family had fled revolution in their homeland only to settle in England, where the young man earned himself a diploma in art and graphics. Farrokh also worked at Heathrow Airport, sold second hand clothes and eventually decided to change his first name to “Freddie.” Over the years, Freddie joined (and left) numerous bands, searching for the one that could somehow contain whatever it was that defined who he was. Young Freddie was so cosmopolitan that he even had trouble choosing when it came to his sexual orientation, enjoying many intimate relationships with both men and women. Still, by the time he finally decided to replace the last of the names he was originally born with it was his music that fully showcased the wide-open approach that would eventually anoint him a rock and roll god.
The highs and lows his voice was capable of reaching alone was almost shocking, but it was his unique ability to float within such diverse musical genres as rockabilly, progressive rock, gospel, heavy metal, disco and even opera that truly set him apart. He composed dizzyingly complex songs with so many distinct key changes and intricate harmonies that his musical genius was almost impossible to disguise. Truly, you would have to go a long way to find a better mascot for absolute cosmopolitanism than Mr. Freddie Mercury.
So imagine my intense appreciation for a recent television commercial produced for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (a hotel and casino) that made brilliant use of Freddie’s most famous composition “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The commercial opens in an outdoor lounge where a vividly dressed young man slides a champagne flute housing an origami creation to a swim-suited enigma far down at the opposite end of the bar. A piano flourish tinkles as his head nods while the lovely assesses her situation. Then it begins.
A group of perfectly groomed, and well-dressed toughs are noted. The blond leader in their midst speaks:
“I see a little silhouetto of a man “
His partners then join in, still using spoken word.
“Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango”
Our vivid young man answers back “Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening.....me.”
“Galilleo” is then pin-balled around between the men until Vivid Man declares “But I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me.” By now the “situation” is truly building And it is – as the assorted characters in the bar and surrounding pool area start getting involved.
“He's just a poor boy from a poor family”
“Spare him his life from this monstrosity.”
“Easy come easy go - will you let me go.”
“Bismillah! No - we will not let you go - let him go! Bismillah! We will not let you go - let him go. Bismillah! We will not let you go - let me go. Will not let you go - let me go (never) Never let you go - let me go Never let me go - ooo
And then the music for which Freddie appears to have been born finally begins, at crescendo no less, as the simple pool lounge confrontation becomes a fully formed (and completely overwrought) daylight opera.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no – Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me for me.........
The music is ramping, the people are vamping and it’s some good old-fashioned communal head-banging that finally closes out the spot on the words: The Cosmopolitan: Just the right amount of wrong.” Wow....cool ad.
What a great commercial. Taking a spoken word approach to a song most folks my age associate with the Wayne’s World gang of nitwits somehow raises it back up to its somewhat ethereal position of weirdly enticing drama and vocal excitement. Heck the bizarre ad alone somehow makes visiting this Vegas hotel almost something to be aspired to. It’s literally a vacation goal rather than some overnight destination to rest your head. I want to be cool, I want to be interesting, I want to be Cosmopolitan. Well, saddle up and you too can stay at the Cosmopolitan, the next best thing to actually being worldly yourself.
Now I‘m not naive enough to believe the hotel can actually deliver on the suggested promise it makes. The reality of most Vegas hotels is acres of fat, sweaty sun-burned tourists looking for a few good pictures to help their photo albums justify the upcoming fifty weeks of work that’ll precede next year’s vacation. That’s fair enough of course. But just the idea of trying to turn the everyday into something operatic is appreciated by me.
Obviously being cosmopolitan will always be “cool” for the simple reason that being open to all and aware of everything gives the easy illusion of intelligence with experience. Contrast this with those fixed or set in their ways and the choice of many is clear. Who seeks the smell of boredom and routine? No one, but somehow Judge Judy’s ratings continue to grow. Maybe she’s more cosmopolitan than I thought.