"I had a stroke and an aneurism two years ago, and my doctors said don't stress. Now my arm is getting tingles... I passed out yesterday."
Local club promoter Bryan Pollard is talking about the effect that the now-infamous "Björk scam" has had on him personally. Two weeks ago, rumors began floating through the local music scene that Icelandic star Björk was going to play the smallest of small San Diego clubs-the lesbian bar in Hillcrest known as the Flame on Jan. 15. (CityBeat reported on the show.)
It seemed too good to be true... and it was.
DJ Liquid Groove (real name Alex Conate) had been in town for a month and a half, claiming to be from Sao Paulo, Brazil where he owned a club called Liquid. He frequented the Flame, and became friends with Pollard.
"Keanu-the name he went under-approached me and the Flame with Björk," Pollard says. "Björk is one of our favorite performers, and we go, "Hell yeah, what promoter wouldn't do the show?'"
Conate told Pollard he had produced the Icelandic version of Björk's album, Homogenic. Excited by the experience of his new friend, Pollard went to record stores and searched online to find the album. He found a Japanese release, an English release, and a U.S. release, but could not find an Icelandic version.
Pollard became more suspicious when Conate supposedly left town, saying he had to return to Brazil to take care of his daughter. Conate assuaged his concerns, however, claiming he would return to the States on Jan. 12. Yet Pollard had received no confirmations from Björk's management that she was playing, and no contract.
Remarkably, however, Pollard overlooked the suspicious events, saying, "[Conate] was so nice and we just all believed it. We got e-mails from Björk, for god's sake."
For his scam, Conate set up an e-mail account under Björk's name and sent messages to Pollard and other members of the Flame reassuring them, under the guise of Björk, that she was coming to their club.
"Little do you know to check e-mails out," Pollard ruses. One of the fake e-mails read:
I have spoken to [my agent] and told him that this show is not part of any tour. And we now have the official thumbs up. The show will go on as scheduled. I am sorry for the scare. I am a little bit late for a dinner appointment, sorry for the rush. Kisses, Anna Lee.
Conate had also insisted that he needed to use Pollard's website, www.klubs.com, to promote the show. By doing so, Conate assured that the only electronic link to the scam would lead to Pollard himself. 400 tickets were sold both through the site and at the Flame box office. At $40 per ticket, $16,000 eventually made its way to Conate, and then he disappeared.
"I called the Sheriff's Department in North County, because [Conate] always had to go up to North County," Pollard says. When the Sheriff's Department claimed not to have any information on Conate, Pollard called the Probation Office. The answering officer admitted that he knew Conate and inquired why Pollard was looking for him. The officer legally couldn't release any specifics about Conate's record, Pollard says, "but he said he had some felonies out and to watch out for him."
The officer also informed Pollard that Conate was scheduled to meet his probation officer on the morning of Jan. 7. There was hope, then, that Conate would be caught when appearing for his probation.
When contacted in the afternoon of Jan. 7, however, a representative from the Flame said that Conate had not shown up for his probation meeting. Ironically, it was Pollard's search for the alleged crook that probably alerted Conate to his potential arrest.
Pollard had remembered a DJ taking a picture of Conate and posted the photo on www.klubs.com with the caption: "Have You Seen Me?" The site asked anyone with tips to contact the Flame or Pollard himself. Conate undoubtedly would have seen the site-since it was the same place he advertised his scam-and thus not shown for his probation meeting. As well, many television news programs, including Fox and NBC, reported on the scam over the weekend, which may have tipped Conate off.
The Flame and Pollard are offering to refund every person who bought tickets to the show, which would put them out $16,000.
"It ruined my name," Pollard says. "It ruins the Flame's name, it ruins Björk's name. A lot of people are hurt by this. He played the sweet, nice guy. He always said to people, "Hey I love you.'"
When Pollard finally got in touch with Björk's management, the singer herself took the call. "Björk said she didn't know [Conate], and I told her, "He is a famous DJ from all over and he DJ'd with you on tour, and he did your Icelandic remixes.'
"And she said, "I don't have an Icelandic version.'"
For Pollard, the personal apology from Björk-who was in no way responsible-was a small, sweet moment in the whole ordeal.
"It was really nice to hear Björk's voice," he says. "It was nice and soothing."