Who was Stanley?

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   I remember watching a show on MTV about up and coming bands, it must have been 1991, and they profiled a few bands that later found fame, like Live and Blind Melon, but they also covered two bands that were unlike anything I’d ever seen before, a group of insane, battle-ready aliens who called themselves GWAR and a very odd band called Life Sex & Death that appeared to be fronted by a homeless schizophrenic named Stanley. The concept of the band seemed ludicrous and had to be a stunt but Stanley certainly looked homeless and his behavior and mannerisms were definitely eccentric. Also, who else but a homeless nut would take the catchiest song on his band’s album and call it “Fuckin’ Shitass.”

     But was Stanley really a homeless mental patient or was this all just a gimmick or publicity stunt? In 2008 someone posted an early promotional video on Youtube that makes me lean toward the latter. Check it out:
     Let me start out by saying: I like the song! It’s no masterpiece but I dig that kind of shit. And also: that’s Stanley!!! He apparently went by Chris Stann at the time but that’s him. As far as I can tell Life Sex & Death formed in Chicago with a singer named Chris Stann and it wasn’t until after they moved to L.A. that Stann morphed into Stanley. How and why Stann turned into Stanley has never been explained. Gimmick or no gimmick it worked, the band reportedly were the subject of a bidding war between labels that resulted in a huge advance when Warner Brothers prevailed and signed them. Reprise wound up releasing the band’s album The Silent Majority in 1992 and it sold hundreds of copies.

     If it was a gimmick it appears as if Chris Stann took the role of Stanley quite seriously, as many of those who came into contact with him at the time remarked on a foul odor. The band disappeared not long after the album’s release and we can only assume that Stanley wound up back out on the streets scrounging for food, right? Wrong. Supposedly Chris Stann had rich parents and later ran his own rehearsal space/recording studio outside Chicago. Alex Kane, the band’s guitarist, embarked on an eery repeat of the LSD story when he was enlisted to work with another reality-bending character, infamous MTV hanger-on Jesse Camp, on his major label cash-in album, which was a tremendous flop but actually contained a couple surprisingly good songs. I like “Sloppy Kisses.”

     Alex Kane had this to say about Stanley in a Legendary Rock Interview:

“He is fearless, he is inspired, he is one of kind, he was miles before his time, he made some very interesting choices in how he chose to live his life and, I assure you from the inside, everything you heard is, in this rare case, absolutely and utterly true.  And trust me as well, what we didn’t let you know is much much more weird and fucked.”

     Honestly I don’t know what to believe. Watching the video for “American Noise” you can see that Stanley was once a perfectly normal glam metal frontman. Are we supposed to believe that the guy from that video had some sort of severe mental breakdown yet managed to remain at the reigns of his rock band? No one tried to help the guy, quite the opposite they exploited his affliction and its results for publicity and a record deal? I don’t buy it, but who knows.

     Alex Kane eventually formed an interesting group called AntiProduct and found limited success in Europe.

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