Lawrence Rothman: The Ego Will Have the Linguini with Clam Sauce, and the Alter Ego Will Have the Lobster Bisque
The fact of the matter is good things come in threes, and even though at times the outside world feels like a smattering of sixes and sevens, when dressed to the nines there are no two ways about it: it’s sublime to feel your oats.
That is the emanation I have watching as singer-songwriter Lawrence Rothman is photographed as their opulent alter, Elizabeth, in the garden of a Los Feliz mansion that neighbors Angelina Jolie’s glitzy Cecil B. DeMille estate. A twenty-four million dollar property that looks to the Griffith Observatory which itself looks to the stars.
“Everyone has different versions of themselves that shine through in particular moments, with particular people, and in certain circumstances,” the 35-year-old St. Louis native postulates. “Everybody has a masculine side, an effeminate side, a mean side, a sad side. You might be a different version of yourself at work than you are with your friends. And so I’ve divided myself into nine different variations, my alters, and I’ve just chosen to wear them on my sleeve.”
There’s Elizabeth, Kevin, Orion, Nantucket, Christopher, Hooky, Truman, Aleister, and last but not least, Darrel Bitchboy. Each alter has a completely different lewk, evokes different emotions, and is featured in Rothman’s self-directed music videos.
“I always had different sides of myself. One week I would be a metal-head and then the next I would be a jazz-head. Then I’d listen to techno for two weeks straight, then shave my head, then grow it back, then dye it red,” Rothman tells me, pointing their hands back and, back and forth. “So over the years I would give each personality and character a name, and by my late teens I had established them.”
Rothman is an enterprising performer with nine unique alters that compliment and participate in songwriting and performance. They follow the informal (and at times unrecognized) tradition of alter-ego performance, though Rothman offers homage to the embellishments of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust rather than the indiscernible (forgotten?) alters of modern times: Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce, Minaj’s Roman Zolanski/Harajuku Barbie, and The Weeknd’s Starboy.
“Maybe there are a few more than nine,” Rothman admits, “but those are the nine main, recurring alters. Others develop. Others come and go. But there are nine consistent sides of my personality.” All nine alters can be seen dancing a melancholic celebration of self reliance in Rothman’s “Wolves Still Cry” music video, where the singer emits in harrowing vocals, "Come let me adore you/ Adore your imperfections/ Come let me adore you/ Wolves still cry to get attention."
While Rothman (portraying Orion) plays the piano beneath a white veil, the little wolf pack of eight dancers behind them depict their alters in a swaggy sway dance in a drained pool and later, down the spur of a golden hill. The music video and accompanying song reminisce on the tradition of disco-cellist Arthur Russell, but are made memorable by moon-bleached modernities.
For Rothman’s shoot, they choose to spotlight the alters that they have felt the closest to over the past few months during the release of their latest album, The Book of Law. And so, without further ado, welcome Elizabeth, Orion, and Kevin:
Inspired in part by the spirit of Elizabeth Taylor, Liz (as she is known for short) represents the highlights of golden era glam, the opulence of ritzy evenings and famous friends. Her Snapchat filter is the one that sparkles all around her as if she walks through rooms of floating diamonds. Best of all, she indulges: “I mixed my entire recent album myself for about three months, and by the end of it I thought I was going to jump off a cliff,” Rothman says. “So I decided as a reward that I would live as Liz. I did all the things I wasn’t able to do before. I went to Disneyland as Liz, I went to Ojai, and Big Sur. I did a full two week trip, spent all the money in my bank account. When I’m Liz, I experience the fruits of life—well at least, as much as I can afford.”
Orion walks on Lou Reed’s “Wild Side.” He has long black hair, wears ornate robes, and wants to feel butterflies in his stomach. “He’s the side of me that is more free spirited and will put me into dangerous positions. We all have that side of us that loves to get on a roller coaster or get in a car and drive a hundred miles per hour down Mulholland Drive.” Orion lives quick and big and shoots for the moon. He hunts for cosmic thrills.
Deep in the cranking underbelly of Berlin, Kevin is most at home. Although shy and introverted, he lives for the night, sleeping the days through, soiree-ing only in darkness. “We got to go to Hansa Studio where David Bowie did the Heroes and Ziggy Pop albums. Depeche Mode also has done a lot of work there. I got to work there for a little bit while I visited and got some recordings. Kevin was thriving! Often my alters will write songs from their perspectives or styles.
The songs produced there were a very cold electronic group, and “Kevin” (the song) came out as a single from the trip.” The best way to meet the six remaining alters is to see a Rothman show live. Like the recent performance that began their U.S. The Book of Law tour at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where fans came dressed as all nine of Rothman’s alters. Each decked out in their own interpretation of the singer’s personalities, vacationing from themselves, blending their personas, and telling us what Hydra has been telling us since antiquity: many heads are better than one.
Written by Mile Griffis.
Photographer: Floria Sigismondi at ECHO LAKE Entertainment.
Stylist: Deborah Ferguson.
Hair: Nikki Providence using Bumble and Bumble at Forward Artists.
Makeup: Sandy Ganzer using MAC Cosmetics at Forward Artists.
Photography Assistant: Alex Dickinson.
Videographer: Nadia Bedzhanova
Location: Maaven House.