Years before Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips began exploring the electronic-music frontier with childlike eyes and decent hearts, there was Bruce Haack. A musician/inventor with a penchant for building his own electronic instruments, Haack had a successful career in the '60s and '70s crafting deliriously strange children's albums, yet he remained largely anonymous. Which is baffling, considering the brilliance of his songwriting and the unique sounds he wrought from his homemade synthesizers and proto-samplers. And then there was the issue of his lyrics: "Now undoing a button, unless you're a mouse, can mean welcome to my shirt or blouse, or it's much too hot inside this house," from "Bods," a song about body language, should have raised at least a few eyebrows. Even appearances on The Tonight Show, a strange performance on the game show I've Got a Secret (Haack played music by simply touching a collaborator's forehead, thanks to the Dermatron, a Haack-created instrument that harnessed the human body's conductivity) and a legendary appearance on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood(that's Bruce on the left) could not raise his profile with the American music-buying public. And so his concept album, Electric Lucifer, remains a cult item, along with his prodigious output of children's albums (any one of which is more inventive and charming and beautiful than anything currently in the Top 40).
Filmmaker Philip Anagnos (a Webster alum) explores the myth and truth of Bruce Haack with his documentary, Haack: King of Techno. Utilizing archival footage, interviews with friends and fellow musicians, and animation, Anagnos reveals the almost-lost history of one of music's great minds. The film screens in Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; 314-968-7487) at 8 p.m. Friday, June 11, through Sunday, June 13. Anagnos will be present to discuss the film on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $4 to $6. -- Paul Friswold
Daniel Raedeke was named "Best Local Artist" in the 2003 Riverfront Times "Best of St. Louis" issue, and now he has an exhibit of his new "polychrome foam sculptures" at Laumeier Sculpture Park (12580 Rott Road; 314-821-1209). No sophomore slump or SI cover jinx here, folks. Raedeke's work, which is so modern as to border on the futuristic (but like six months in the future, not light years or anything crazy like that), is based on the idea of consumer needs; often his creations seem like they might be high-tech packing material for a truly boss digital toaster or some other cutting-edge home device. Raedeke showcases his latest products with a reception at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 11, and the exhibit remains through July 16. -- Paul Friswold
It's been almost a year since Candace Bushnell visited St. Louis to promote her book Trading Up, and now Sex and the City (the show, which was inspired by Bushnell's book of the same title) is over. So we know how much you're probably in need of a stress-relieving frivolity fix (especially since The O.C. is in reruns, and we're at war). Take a load off and revisit Trading Up as Bushnell revisits St. Louis for a free reading and signing at 7 p.m. at the St. Louis Public Library's Schlafly branch (225 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-4120). The novel's protagonist, Janey Wilcox (also from Bushnell's Four Blondes), drives a Boxster and worries about her social status (and lipstick sometimes). Ah, bliss. -- Alison Sieloff
Jessica Simpson is not nearly as stupid as you think she is. In the great tradition of tying celebrity to marketable commodities, Ms. Simpson has appended herself to Dessert Beauty, a "Kissable Fragrance and Body Care Collection." The line includes "Body Gloss" and "Belly Button Scents" that come in a range of flavors from "Juicy" to "Creamy," which would be fine if Ms. Simpson's fans didn't include a lot of pre-teen girls who need not know that flavored "Whipped Body Creams with Candy Sprinkles" exist. If you call 314-821-5200, you could reserve a (very limited) free appointment to try out these items (as long as you're not the niece of a certain calendar editor) at Sephora at Westfield Shoppingtown West County (I-270 and Manchester Road). -- Paul Friswold