June 30th, 2008 15:58 EST
Apollo Smile: Her Last Stand In Discoland?
Pop-rock-star soldier/ superhero Apollo Smile is Missing In Action. Whether the sultry, sexy singer is incommunicado, undercover or effectively dead is unclear.
Did the effervescently charming hero simply retire, go on hiatus, or encounter an Epic Fail against Zorg?
Born in 1967 as Paula Apollo Anne Scharf, she abandoned a scholarship at New York`s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to become a fringe pop music singer-songwriter and dancer in the late `80s. She released a self-titled album in 1991 through Geffen Records, and even had a track in the Tom Cruise movie Days of Thunder. That first record was voted number 10 in Spin magazine`s "Top 10 Best Albums Of The Year You Didn`t Hear in 1991". Due to internal strife, she left Geffen almost as soon as she signed on. But in 1999, she self-produced a second album called Love, Kisses and Grenades, soon followed by Wrecking Ball in 2000.
In the mid `90s, Apollo --inspired by her equally geeky husband-- became known as The Live Action Anime Girl--a surreal cos-play avatar of the character she wrote about in her songs. She often flashed a quirky and perky peace sign, adopted a call sign expression of "Tacha!", with a penchant for saying "groovy", and encouraging people to "Go forth and groove".
Heavily influenced by anime, science fiction, comic books and pop music, Paula Scharf created a unique niche for herself as an entertainer by inventing a live action anime character named Apollo Smile. She can even speak and write in Japanese!
During the late `90s, Apollo Smile was a frequent and popular feature at anime and sci-fi conventions, where she would sing and dance in character, performing her original upbeat "feel-good" music and demonstrating her martial art skills. In 1998, she hosted the Sci-fi Channel`s Anime Week series, which is when I first became aware of Apollo.
Her signature look was a skin-tight spandex body suit, blonde pig-tails and a big, friendly smile from which her name derives. I`ve never gotten to see her perform live, but she reportedly puts on quite a stunning and audience engaging show.
Apollo has made a guest appearance on Space Ghost Coast To Coast, a movie called Drop Dead Rock, and has also done some work as a voice actor in cartoons and video games like Battle Arena Toshinden, Megas XLR and Space Channel 5.
She published a comic book with her anime persona and her fictional "Team Smile" crew, and the Groove City fanzine. Team Smile is also what she affectionately calls her four member Apollo support staff, who help her to produce Apollo merchandise.
The official ApolloSmile.com website they established disappeared and their email is defunct, as well. A Google search reveals virtually nothing now.
In her comic book and a few of her songs, `Apollo Smile` is an intergalactic pop idol/ super agent who battles the genetic nightmares of the evil scientist Dr. Zorg.
There was talk of action figures and a live action series being made for that character, but as far as I can determine, nothing ever came of that.
Since then, Apollo began drifting away from the anime girl image she created, attempting to find small extra and stunt roles in TV/film. And by 2003, seems to have inexplicably faded into obscurity. A cult of personality, Paula as Apollo is --or was-- vibrant, enthusiastic and quite (pardon the pun) animated. Her excitement and passion for what she does is evident even in how she signs her autograph, the plethora of memorabilia she happily disperses, and the Pokeman stickers that adorn your mailed merch order.
She once stated that her goal was to bring a positive energy to the anime genre, and --as a huge fan-- spread the joy of Japanese animation among American anime fandom. Perhaps her favorite part of being an anime girl was traveling and meeting groovy fans (not just of her, but of anime).
Apollo said she considered herself lucky, and loved... fulfilling her dream of singing anime inspired songs she wrote, with dancing she choreographed with kung-fu flair.
The Apollo Smile identity/brand is a brilliant creative concept, with much marketing, artistic and story telling potential.
So where did this child of the sun go?