Frans tells the story of the clown's demise and eventual death. The children sing at the corpse and leave, chastened.
The Godlike genius of Frans Bauer. A strange, somewhat lurid statement to make I grant you. And not to everyone's taste, let alone accord. I know people of an equable, genial disposition; in all other respects Nature's Guardsmen and Guardswomen who will turn purple with rage when the subject of Mr. Bauer is mentioned.
However, the reason I write the Rant column is precisely so I can counter unreasonable behaviour and attitudes such as this. It is the one place, safe enough, no doubt, where I can vent my feelings with impunity. It is the literary equivalent of a moment's grace.
Mr. Bauer is cast aside by the cognescenti as somewhat of a joke; a reassuring sap to old ladies. In addition, especially in the eyes of Dutch Youth, he is something of a pariah. His hair is thinnning, and his waistline is more corpulent than is necessary for pop stars. His mascara and eyeshadow is of the wrong sort to be fashionable. Dutch Youth, in its coccoon of scrubbed, gelled and white toothed anonimity, disapproves.
I can't deny that Frans is entirely blameless in this. I admit that his music is formulaic and sentimental, chocful of sweet nothings. It is fanciful in strain, somewhat mawkish in sentiment, playful in intent. Mr. Bauer sets his sights firmly on being a light entertainer. His songs are, let us be honest, pastiche driven. Yet there are moments to cherish in all of them.
You must, at this point, be aware that I cannot name any of his songs. I do know that one is about the death of a clown. Another is about skiving off work and putting flowers in your window. But I doubt it is relevant to name them.
His visual performances however, whether live or on video, are to treasure. I can never forget the look of unease as he skipped warily but gamely through a crab infested rock pool; wearing a white shirt, rolled up slacks, and brandishing a small bucket and spade. Of course he was following a lithesome young lady. A young lady, mind you, that you would be hard presssed to find walking the streets of any European city. Rather an old lady's idea of what a young lady should be, with her flouncy skirts and lightly permed hair.
Or who could forget his careful, precarious, nervously grinning, white knuckled descent in a hot air balloon, this time in a hall full of clapping German geriatrics.
His live performances at the Ahoy are the first thing I reach for when I am ironing. (My girlfriend chooses Eastenders, I chose football or Frans). I have them videoed and carefully annotated. I especially enjoy the tableau that is presented with the unveiling of the death of a clown song. A sole street lamp is revealed, lit by a single spot light. A clown appears, followed by children, who sing in accompaniment to Frans. Frans tells the story of the clown's demise and eventual death. The children sing at the corpse and leave, chastened. This is true theatre and ensures there is not a dry eye in the house; (seriously, you should see the sight of big gruff tattooed Dutch guys crying to this track). On a lighter note, his Grease song medley is a delight, with Frans acting hard on a large motor bike; a sight that is somewhat compromised by his rather dainty choice of footwear.
You may mock, but he is an entertainer down to his dainty shoes; in some ways he is an entertainer of genius. He may or may not take himself too seriously in private; what makes him special is that we never know as he keeps his pop star ego in check in his public performances. He is the real thing, not manufactured, and genuinely popular, which is more than can be said for the likes of Di-Rect etc etc etc. Viva Frans!
Words: Richard Foster