WILLY DEVILLE: HE HAD SAVOIR FAIRE
Willy DeVille, and find this tribute painful to write. (Willy died of pancreatic cancer a few days ago.) We’ll, never forget the first time we saw Willy – his band Mink DeVille performed on Saturday Night Live. He was mesmerizing. It was the height of punk music and Willy took it to another level- he dressed like a cross between a lanky English fop and a Latino pimp. A swirling pompadour, frock coats, purple and black, earrings, ruffles, the first gold front tooth we ever saw, and he managed to smoke and chew gum while he sang. It was love at first sight. He sang passionate ghetto love songs and also songs about Italian shoes and Cadillacs. We saw Willy sing “Save the Last Dance For Me” in the basement of a Sunset Strip club and will never forget his tender, yearning version of a great song. A sensitive, macho, dandy who brought street elegance to punk, he became a huge star in Europe, but America never quite understood him. We saw him perform every chance we got and were delighted to meet him and find out he was friendly and modest and loved his wife and dogs. The last time we saw him he gave us the white wife-beater undershirt off his back, and autographed it with a magic marker “Love, Willy.” We miss him terribly.