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LONDON - What is it about a dead genius which attracts such frenzied speculation? Examine the myths surrounding any icon and a conspiracy theory is never far away. Never was this more true than in the case of Klaus Harmony, the German maestro of erotik cinema or, as he is more popularly known, the "Mozart of Porn."
Raised in postwar Berlin, Harmony played the accordion to accompany his "cabaret performer" mother and moved to London to find success as a rock musician. In 1969 he returned to Europe and met Friedrich Wohlfäht, a photographer for clothing catalogues and an aspiring filmmaker; the rest, as they say, is history. Harmony's "tone erotiks" (as he preferred to call them) set the mood for a total of eleven movies and have earned him and his literate, funky music cult status.
The real boost to his credibility, of course, came in the form of his death in 1984 in an east London record store. The police did not find a body and the composer was assumed to be dead.
His fifth wife--and actress widow--Suzanne Watkins-Robb, has often ventured the opinion that he wanted to eschew the pressures of fame and return to his accordion playing in a touring European "art circus," a theory not supported by the composer's colleague and confidante Jan Sink, who has also been openly skeptical about "sightings" of the porn genius.
"Yeah, they say he was maybe running away to play his accordion, you know? But I think it is not the case. Some crazy stuff came up some while ago about him being an agent for the KGB perhaps, just because he was wearing dark glasses and carrying a Lugar and briefcase in a hotel lobby one day. He was meeting me for lunch and I looked exactly the same. They never mentioned that!"
And just last year a story focusing on a vagrant claiming to be Klaus Harmony hit the headlines. What turned out to be a scam caused something of a sensation. Not so much because of an epic police chase down the California highway to apprehend the tramp but for the involvement of rock superstar Sting.
"Sting contacted us about the guy," shrugged Jan Sink in a recent interview. "He said he was Klaus and stole a Winnebago that he wanted in return for the music rights. Crazy. But it wasn't him. I'd know Klaus' beautiful eyes anywhere. Sting is a funny guy, you know? With Sting around . . . boy, crazy s**t happens!"
But rumors will be rumors and, as such, they persist. Little Steve 'Streve' Deevey, a London music studio runner and white rap-artist, has published photos taken at an industry event attended, he claims, by the late Klaus Harmony himself.
"The guy was like way cool. Something about him, yeah? He was well charismatic and had a nice smell and everything. I thought he looked like someone I'd seen and then I remembered Klaus Harmony. I Googled him and he was like exactly the same. Well freaky!"
Almost a quarter century has passed since Klaus Harmony disappeared. Now, with the re-release of his catalog on iTunes underway, he has an international fan base; European DJs play his music at their clubs; musicologists publish essays on the soundtracks; advertising agencies want to enhance their brand with his artful, vintage funk; American religious groups want to ban his online presence and he is a talking point for journalists around the globe.
Whether the man himself is dead or not, the Klaus Harmony legend is alive and kicking.