After a Fashion

Signs, signs, everywhere signs! Sigh! Is the (now) controversial Gomi Kitty really a sign?

The kitty head in question  a five-year-old resident of 
Austin – is under attack by unknown forces.
The kitty head in question a five-year-old resident of Austin – is under attack by unknown forces. (Photo By Todd V. Wolfson)

WORDS OF THE WEEK: "Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff." – an amusing but fictitious quote from Mariah Carey

THE CAT AND RAT: One of the things that makes Austin so unique is its plethora of visual art, some of it in museums and galleries and some of it on our streets and rooftops. To me, it is visual confirmation of Austin's love for art. I feel we have a historical obligation to our own roots to keep the tradition alive. The distinction between signage and art has been blurred for centuries, back to a time when a sign would have to convey information to people who could not read. We can look back as recently as Andy Warhol to see mundane signage turned into art. But is it signage or is it art? For our purposes I submit that if it has lettering on it, it's a sign – if it has no letters, then it is not a sign. Let's talk about Gomi, the stylish boutique on the chic SoCo Strip. When Gomi originally opened five years ago at its old South First location, owner John Lohse installed a whimsical red metal sculpture of a kitty head on the roof. It was charming and original and captured the spirit of the store and the neighborhood. After three years, Gomi moved to Congress and the kitty followed, where they have been happily ensconced for the last two years. Then, right before Christmas, Lohse received a certified letter from the City of Austin Waste Water Services Department telling him that he had 30 days to remove his "new" sign. One might think the "new" sign referred to would be the neon sign that he had installed last year on the corner of his building, The sculpture of the kitty head, after all, as we just pointed out, is 5 years old. But the city is referring to the kitty head, calling it a sign and saying it hangs out over the sidewalk too far. Upon inquiry, Lohse called the office that handles such violations, where he was told that they only inspect after receiving a complaint. Someone had complained. The city can't reveal the name of the complainant, and Lohse hasn't any idea of what is behind the complaint. It looks like the issue is about what exactly constitutes a sign. The kitty head bears no advertising, and certainly Gomi does not sell felines. We'll keep our eye on how this develops.

STRANGER THAN FICTION: Okay, you're going to have to figure this one out: As I mentioned last week, Dennis Hopper and Kid Rock were disinvited from attending the inauguration because the religious right had objections. Yet, which act, among others, did perform at the inauguration? The Village People. That's right … the religious right evidently thought it was just fine for a group almost entirely made up of homosexuals (whose enduring legacy is a song about anonymous sex in a gay bath house) to perform for the president. Discuss.

STAR LIGHT: We couldn't help but snicker when's newsletter reported that one of Madonna's television demands is the use of a special light called a "Faye" light, which is shone directly into the subject's face, obliterating all wrinkles. It is beloved by aging celebrities across the globe. PopBitch went on to say that the instrument is called a "Faye" light in honor of Faye Dunaway, who insists on it's being used. Then, last week's newsletter reported a flood of mail from lighting technicians who corrected them; it is not called the "Faye" but the Obie light, named in honor of legendary Hollywood star Merle Oberon, as it was invented for her by her lighting-expert husband. I wonder if it comes purse-sized?

STOP IT! Show the world just how far you'll go to defend the land you love. Go to and add your name to the petition. Together we can put a stop to Ashlee Simpson's nightmare … and our own.

SHAMELESS PLUG: If you go to and listen to the samples, you'll know that Austin is the home of one of the best synth-core bands in the country. Tungsten Coil is Eric Oberto, John Miller (hi, John), and James Holditch, and are described by one publication as being the product of Depeche Mode's having a baby with Nine Inch Nails. Whatever you call them, they're one hot, good-looking band with an edge so sharp you'll want to wear chain-mail gloves.

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Mariah Carey, SoCo, John Lohse, Gomi, City of Austin Waste Water Services Dept., Gomi, Dennis Hopper, Kid Rock, inauguration, The Village People, homosexuals, Madonna, Faye light, Hollywood, Merle Oberon, lighting, Ashlee Simpson, Tungsten Coil

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