Of all the live performances I witnessed, the time I saw Vanity runs as a personal favorite. In 1989, she performed at JJ Whispers here in Orlando, Florida. The entry fee was a lucky seven dollars. At the time, I was a jheri-curled, twenty year old.
First, a little info for those unfamiliar with Vanity. Born Denise Katrina Mathews, the Canadian native was the lead singer of Vanity 6, a female group created by Prince. In 1982, the group’s “Nasty Girl” hit the radio airwaves. The song reached number seven on the Billboard Black Charts and number one on the Billboard Dance Charts. Most people remember Vanity for “Nasty Girl”.
Also, many people may remember Vanity from the movie The Last Dragon. She was hero Bruce Leroy’s love interest.
When the JJ Whispers show started, Vanity walked onstage wearing all black (I think). She wore a black jacket, a black top, black tight pants and black high heel boots. Also, I noticed she was shorter than I thought she was.
That night, Vanity’s sexually charged performance steamed the room. Not only she took off her jacket, she also pretended as if she was about to take off her top. Things got so heated, one middle-aged Latin dude jumped on stage with her. He was a short, pudgy guy. With his eyes closed, the guy was on his knees his shaking his body and moving towards Vanity. You could see the sweat pouring down his face. Before the man reached Vanity, security pulled him off.
Of course, Vanity sung “Nasty Girl”. She also sung “Under the Influence”. Back in 1986, “Under the Influence” charted number nine on Billboard’s Black Chart, the highest she ever reached since leaving Vanity 6.
During the JJ Whispers performance, Vanity would sometime lock eyes with a male member of the audience. She would look the patron directly in his eyes as she sung to him. I thought nothing of it…until she did the same thing with me. Shocked the hell out of me too. I shyly waved back. Then, Vanity blew a kiss at me.
Sure, the kiss was probably an act. I didn’t give a shit. Vanity blew me a kiss, damn it. Fake act or real act, I grabbed it. Also, I was the only one she blew a kiss to that night. (At least, that’s how I was going to remember it.)
Today, I read Vanity died from kidney disease. She was fifty-seven.
In 1994, Vanity nearly died from drug usage, an event transforming her into a born-again Christian. Lying in her hospital bed, Vanity called for Jesus Christ to save her. After her nearly dying, I now see why Vanity always brought up Christ in her later interviews. Years of drug usage damaged Vanity’s kidneys.
Rest in Peace, Denise Katrina Mathews. Thanks for blowing me that kiss.