Tomi Kita — Pg 2 of 3

Kita represents a new kind of artist born for success in the age of global multimedia deals. Their stock in trade is attitude, visual style and exhibitionistic displays of primal urges. Their genius lies in perpetually remaking themselves to stay just far enough ahead of the social change curve to provoke without alienating. This kind of chameleon must be tough enough to rip out his own quivering innards for the cameras. Their real medium is the mass media, with their own voracious appetite for cleavage and confessions. Top multimedia artists, like Madonna and Prince, know instinctively what will set the media salivating and just how much raw meat to throw at them to keep them hanging around.

Such artists also display a cool, precocious head for business. Kita admits he used to dislike Prince but has lately come to appreciate his genius at building up his personality cult. He particularly admires the way Prince created Paisley Park, his own wholly owned record label, which enjoys the backing of a giant like Warner. Kita’s other role model is Madonna who he thinks is a less-than-beautiful girl with a mediocre voice who has managed to turn herself into a multimedia phenomenon.

“I’d like to do video,” Kita says of the offers he is getting, “play with the media, show my face to the world. That’s what Madonna is doing.” Which would he rather be — a male Madonna or an Asian Prince?

“I’d rather say,” answers Kita without missing a beat, “Madonna and Prince get stuck in an elevator and have incredible sex. For some strange reason Prince is the one who gets pregnant. I would be that child.” Then Kita orders linguini with clams.

Kita’s own ambitions for rock stardom are channeled through an entity called Ra Falcon whose offices are on Sunset Boulevard, right across the street from the Mondrian. Kita is founder and sole owner. He denies that the money for the venture came from his father, a successful construction contractor in Hawaii. When I press him, Kita says it came from investors who are “family friends”. A few days later, Kita tells me he got around a million dollars as a token of appreciation from a gang boss for whom he had performed an important service. What kind of favor could be worth a million dollars? Kita refuses to elaborate, hinting only that it involved helping the friend gain a crucial edge over a competitor.

Kita’s refusal to discuss particulars suggests the favor may have involved something illicit like drugs, white-slavery, maybe even murder-for-hire. When I suggest those possibilities, Kita keeps a poker face as he denies involvement with murder or drugs, seemingly conceding that it did have some connection with gang activities. Kita invested some of that mystery money in the Las Vegas house he sold recently for over a million, earning a big profit. That money seems to be one source of his startup capital.

Kita isn’t anxious to dispel the mystery about the source of his money. Whatever activities his finances may involve, there is no question Kita is very hands-on. Summer answers a call on the tiny Motorola portable she carries and hands it to Kita. With no apparent effort at disguising his conversation, Kita tells the caller that he is expecting some payments. He names several four- and five-figure sums. Loan-sharking occurs to me as another possible source of revenue. Kita’s preternaturally gentle, almost androgynous, voice and manners add to his air of danger and mystery. To look at him you could suspect he has ice water running in his veins. He never lets himself get excited enough to raise his voice, never lets himself become surprised enough to raise an eyebrow.

Even so there are times I am tempted to dismiss Kita as just another 25-year-old with a rich uncle and a smooth style. After all, he hasn’t even been signed by a major label. His first CD won’t even be released until January though Kita tells me “Desire” is getting air play in Europe, New York and Washington state.

The most distinguishing thing about Kita’s musical career is that he became something of a rock star in Guam at the age of 14. Admittedly Guam is a tiny place, but Kita says he enjoyed a lot of status and recognition there. At the age of 17, after his family had moved to the States, Kita played with three heavy metal bands in Orange County and L.A. Anticipating a big career ahead and wanting to keep artistic and financial control, he formed Ra Falcon four months earlier. Legendary rock producer/promoter Kim Fowley, associated with the likes of the Beatles, Helen Reddy, Guns-N-Roses and Motley Crue, is cited as a credential by Kita. In fact, Kita’s most significant step toward ultimate success may be having Fowley call him “the new pig on the block”. That kind of compliment doesn’t easily escape the lips of Kim Fowley, known for his offensive directness.

“You need cash to talk to me,” Fowley told Kita at their first meeting. Kita pulled out a hundred and layed it on Fowley’s hand. “Fowley has been screwed over a lot in the past,” explains Kita, “but we understand each other.” He has become a big fan of Fowley’s blunt ways and has retained him as a consultant, a big wheel in the star-making machinery. Another is the big-name publicist working to get Kita into European and American magazines. It is a measure of Kita’s ambition that he wants more than writeups in music magazines; he wants to be trumpeted in mass-market fashion and general-interest magazines.

Tomi Kita has three commodities to offer the media — looks, talent and most importantly, heavy-duty balls. As befits an aspiring rock star Kita is handsome verging on pretty. Judging by his CD and demo tape his singing voice is reminiscent of David Bowie and, on occasion, Eric Clapton. Kita writes all his own songs. The lyrics could maybe use a bit of discipline but they actually say something, a rare commodity in today’s music scene. One song even borrows from William Blake: “Tiger, Tiger burning bright/In the forest of the night.” Kita is proudest of his guitar playing. According to the credits he is a one-man production studio who arranged and mixed every cut. The only other credits go to a bass player and a drummer.

Ultimately what may raise Tomi Kita above a big field of hopefuls is his ballsy willingness to lay himself bare. With titles like “Masturbation” and “Loneliness is Fear by a Different Name”, his songs aren’t limited to pop sentiments. At the same time he doesn’t have the immature musician’s fear of the sentimental side, the eternal song themes. Some Kita songs are frankly about nostalgia and lost love. Sexuality is the unmistakeable current that drives his music and his ambition to become the male Madonna, but Tomi Kita’s ultimate talents are solid enough to withstand artistic scrutiny.

I find Kita appealing as a profile subject because his choice os ambition and lifestyle represents, to maybe too many talented Asian American males, the road not taken. Kita helps gut the stereotype. Where the stereotype has us being nerdy, he is convincingly ultra-hip, where it has us being respectable, he is proudly a freak, where we are supposed to be docile, he is clearly his own man, where we are supposed to be sexless, Kita is frankly oversexed and very much in command. At the moment he has three steady girlfriends, two of them models. His once-in-a-decade true love is a Swedish model. He tells me this in front of Summer, not unkindly, just matter-of-factly. She knows and accepts the fact that Kita doesn’t believe in monogamy. Kita tells me that he subscribes to the ancient Asian tradition in which men are allowed to keep as many wives and mistresses as they can afford.

Several times during our conversations, the subject of S&M and bondage comes up. Each time Kita leaves no doubt that in his bedroom scenarios the woman always plays the slave. He expresses the idea of male sexual dominance in the same gentle, cool way he might talk about breakfast. When posing with Summer at his photo session, gently but firmly Kita suggests that a good way to depict his philosophy toward women would be to have Summer fellating him while he grips her hair. We politely insist that Kita keep his pants on and that Summer’s lips stay a decent distance from his crotch.

Some could mistake Kita’s gentleness for some kind of new-age pacifism. In fact, Kita holds a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo. By age 16 he was already good enough to be instructing U.S. Marines on Guam. “They were all twice my size,” Kita says with an easy chuckle. “Any one of them might have kicked my ass but there’s the spiritual side of it.” Confident of his sexuality and physical prowess, Kita feels no urge to prove his masculinity with loud talk or aggressive behavior. His easy physical confidence adds to his aura of mystery and mastery.

No doubt his money adds something as well to that easy confidence. Few aspiring rock stars have the money to live for months on end in a hotel like the Mondrian or to drive a midnight black BMW with bulletproof windows which he had bought for $60,000 from a drug dealer or to keep a Sunset Boulevard office staffed with a receptionist, secretary and other retainers. As we walk two other members of Kita’s entourage seat themselves at the next table. One is a tall thin white male with long brown hair, another is a short-haired female. Neither are dressed for corporate success. Though they are sitting only a foot away, they studiously avoid looking our way. Our conversation is only interrupted when Summer hands Kita calls coming in over the tiny Motorola.

After we have been talking for some time Kita excuses himself to the men’s room. On the way back he stops at the grand piano and plays a few bars before padding back to our table. Giving off the vibes of some gentle free-spirit strewing daisies along his path, Kita stops to greet some people on his way back to the table.