Klaus Sperber was born on January 24, 1944 in Immenstadt, a city in what was then West Germany. He was raised by his mother, Bettina, who did odd jobs. An affair with a soldier, whom Klaus never met, resulted in his birth. When he was a child, he and his mother moved to the city of Essen, about 400 miles away. Opera music often played in their house and that set Klaus in his path.
“The first time I heard an opera singer on the radio, I said, ‘My God, I just want to sing like this,'” he said in interview footage included in the 2004 documentary ‘The Nomi Song.’ just as fond of Elvis Presley.
He moved to West Berlin and worked as an usher at Deutsche Oper, sometimes singing for colleagues after the audience had left. But he aspired to sing professionally, and, Arias said, “he felt like he was at a dead end.”
“He wanted to come to New York because he felt it would change his life,” Arias added.
Nomi settled in Manhattan’s East Village. He worked for a while in the kitchen of the Upper East Side cafe and the famous Serendipity 3 hangout and started a bakery business with Kattelman called Tarts, supplying restaurants with desserts made in Nomi’s St. Marks Place apartment.
Nomi was known to frequent clubs after-hours, such as the Anvil and Mineshaft, where casual sex was the order of the day. There were also sexual encounters at home – Arias said he once arrived at Nomi’s apartment and found a naked Jean-Michel Basquiat drying himself.
To get a green card, he married a woman, Melissa Moon, a US citizen in 1980.
“I don’t think he was somehow something that wasn’t himself, which was pretty gay as far as I knew,” said artist Kenny Scharf. “When you create your persona, the sexuality part is clearly part of the persona. It was all part of his sense of style and that he was an artist in every way.”