By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
Everyone stares at Kenny 5 in public. Resistance is futile. Uncommonly handsome in a rock-star way, Kenny's bright brown eyes are as piercing as collapsing stars. His sturdy arms are completely sleeved in tattoos. His not-quite-black hair is a sculpted thicket of pointy angles and hazardous cliffs.
Today, he's wearing long olive-green army shorts. Even more of his tattoos -- like a polka-dotted Betty Boop -- are visible than usual, since he's also sporting a gray-blue gas-station mechanic's shirt with slashed sleeves. Its sewn-on patch reads "Vince." This getup provokes a few odd stares in Toojay's Deli today. But Kenny, excitedly rambling on about UFOs and aliens, is oblivious to his fellow Lake Worthians. He catches the eye of a mousy blond waitress.
"Excuse me, Susan? Do you remember me?" he asks loudly. "Remember? I thought the guy from the Dick Van Dyke Show was sitting right over there?" He points to the next booth.
"Oh, yeah," Susan says hesitantly. "Yeah."
"Was it him?" Kenny asks. He looks disappointed. "Aw, you never asked him!"
"No," Susan admits. "I never did."
Unfazed, Kenny continues smiling at the memory. "Man! I'm telling you, I saw Morey from the Dick Van Dyke Showright over there."
Since several of the elderly Bermuda-shorts-clad gentlemen at Toojay's could pass for Morey Amsterdam, this tale doesn't sound completely outlandish. That changes, however, when another waitress approaches to take our order.
"What would you like today?" asks Kathy, graying hair curled neatly, glasses dangling from a chain next to her nametag.
"A small portion of chopped liver," Kenny replies. "With challah bread. Sliced thinly, please! Pretty please! And a small side of fruit."
As Kathy records the order, Kenny continues: "Can I ask you one other question? Do you live in Lake Worth?"
"Um-hmm," Kathy says.
"Do you know that lagoon that's up there?"
"Have you ever seen anything in there? I'm not saying, like, an exact Loch Ness monster..."
"Manatees, I've seen," Kathy answers, "but..."
"Never seen anything that could be construed as... maybe something?"
"No, and I've lived here since I was a kid."
"And you've never heard anything?" presses Kenny. "Not even a story?"
"Nope," Kathy says. "But it is dirty. I wouldn't swim in it anymore. I did when I was a kid."
Not much stands in the way of Lake Worth latching onto the idea that there is, in fact, something unexplained living in the murky lagoon separating downtown from the Atlantic Ocean. Kenny 5 knows how to make a myth. In a past life, Kenny and a few cohorts suggested that John Tesh -- a new age "musician" also known as "The Commentator Who Ruined the 1996 Summer Olympics" -- was actually a space alien. The tall tale grew from a local phenomenon into a hypodermic of hype that spiked a national nerve. The Detroit media jumped on the bizarre story, and radio talk shows pumped it up even more. "The biggest kicker was being on the front of USA Today," Kenny beams.
Back then, Kenny's flirtation with fame didn't end with USA Today. It included national tours with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Bad Brains, and the Boredoms; a promising career in the underground rock video field; plus enough ambition and raw talent to do anything, go anywhere. Exploring punk rock, grunge rock, art rock, experimental rock, noise rock, and, finally, nothing but noise, the iconoclastic Kenny 5 has latched on to lofty associates since arriving in South Florida in 2000. He's working with local legends like Guggenheim Fellowship-winning modern dance guru Demetrius Klein and the world-renowned Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art. And soon, he plans to bring a traveling sideshow of internationally acclaimed weirdness to the subtropics.
The moment Kathy returns with our food and sets it on the table, the air conditioning quits in midhum. All the lights go out. The electricity in the restaurant stops dead. Outside on Lake Worth Avenue, every traffic signal is dark. Nobody downtown realizes it yet, but a construction crane installing sound panels on I-95 has just fallen, taking down Lake Worth's power grid with it. "Weird, huh?" Kenny says with a wink. "Told you we shouldn't have been talking about Tesh!"
Ken Greenbaum was born and raised in Detroit. He ended up in film school there in the mid-'80s. Undaunted by the massive canon of music the city had produced, Kenny jumped right in, determined to make a mark even though he didn't even play an instrument. By 1987, he was lead singer for Loudhouse, a metal band cultivating a small but fervent army of Detroit fans. Virgin Records took notice, and the following year the label released For Crying Out Loud, which provided Loudhouse a substantial promotional push.
"At the time," Kenny recalls, "Virgin had Iggy Pop, John Lydon from the Sex Pistols, Ziggy Marley, Paula Abdul, and the Rolling Stones. I thought to myself, 'I'm doing the right thing. I mean, Iggy? Fuhgeddaboudit!' I thought, 'I'm exactly where I want to be. I'm going to be a rock star. '"
Decorated with a nose ring, tattoos, and long crimson dreadlocks -- very 1988 -- pipe-cleaner-thin Kenny fronted the group. "Virgin marketed us as Jane's Addiction meets the Red Hot Chili Peppers," Kenny comments.