Friday, February 11, 2011

Booji Boy

Booji Boy is a character created in the early 1970s by American New Wave band Devo. The name is pronounced "Boogie Boy"—the strange spelling resulted when the band was using letraset to produce captions for a film, and ran out of the letter "g". When the "i" was added but before the "e," Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh looked at the odd spelling and reportedly remarked that it "looked right."

Booji Boy has traits of a simian child and typically wears an orange nuclear protection suit. He is portrayed by Mothersbaugh in a mask and is the son of another fictitious Devo character, General Boy. The intent of the figure is to satirize infantile regression in Western culture, a quality Devo enjoyed elucidating. This character was officially introduced in the 1974 short film The Truth About De-Evolution.

According to the book We're All Devo!, the roots of the character come from discovering a baby mask in an Akron area novelty store. Mark developed the character's distinctive high pitched falsetto almost instantly. Mark Mothersbaugh kept a supply of Booji Boy masks for several years, but due to improper storage, many of them ended up ruined from dry rot. A similar, half-head mask was used in concerts during 2004 and 2005, and a new mask based on the original was created and used beginning in 2007.

Booji Boy was incorporated into Devo's 1996 PC CD-ROM video game "Adventures of the Smart Patrol." His name was simplified to "Boogie Boy" and the game claims his "real name" was "Craig Allan Rothwell." (Coincidentally, this is also supposedly the real name of the dancer known as "Spazz Attack" who appeared in Devo's music videos for "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Peek-A-Boo!," and who played Booji Boy on a Devo tour.)

The game's booklet contained more information about the character's back story:

Obsessed with the idea of genetic mutation, Craig submitted to a botched operation in an effort to land a media deal with Big Media. Viola! Boogie Boy - a bizarre adult infant freak with pre-adolescent sexuality and Yoda-like wisdom.

Booji Boy has been featured in the band's visual imagery throughout their career. For example, he plays a prominent role in the video of their 1981 single "Beautiful World." He also appeared in the 1982 Neil Young film Human Highway in a very comical yet unsettling role predicting the end of the planet. Booji Boy publicly announced his pending resignation on multiple occasions, most recently on August 13, 2007, yet he appeared at a Summerfest concert on July 4, 2010 and on July 8, 2010 at the Town Ballroom In Buffalo, NY. Booji Boy continues to appear in concert regularly to perform "Beautiful World." In recent years, Booji Boy's concert appearances have seen him dressed in modern "hip hop" attire (including a sideways ball cap and sporting "bling"), with Devo member Jerry Casale introducing him as "Boogie Boyyyyyy."

Beyond Devo's works, Booji appeared in the Zabagabee home video by Barnes and Barnes demonstrating how to wax a carrot, and in the music video for "You Ain't Fresh" by Rap duo Boogie Boys.

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