Move aside, Mahir. Fly away, Peter Pan. Ze Frank is shimmying his way into the hearts of millions of Webheads as a birthday invitation meant for a score of friends has mushroomed into the Internet sensation of the week.
Frank, whose nickname is short for his first name, Josea, decided last Thursday to invite 20 or so of his friends to his 29th birthday party this Friday at a bar in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. Rather than relying on Hallmark, the inventive freelance interactive designer created a special invitation page on his Web site, www.zefrank.com, that included a preview of one of the party's attractions: Frank's incredibly bad dancing.
"I seem to be able to make people laugh by making an ass out of myself," Frank said in a telephone interview from his Brooklyn apartment Wednesday. "I've certainly danced like that with a few beers in me before. I have no natural style."
Frank and his girlfriend threw a sheet over a wall in his apartment and filmed him showcasing 10 of his worst moves. People who received the e-mail were directed to a special Web site page, where they could enjoy such spastic delights as Who's Your Daddy, Ride the Pony, Stir the Pot O' Love and Make Love to the Crowd.
"A humorous parody of popular dance and culture, a poignant deconstruction of dance and theater critics, a parody of art by turning 'artless' arm-and-hip gyration into established movement forms, much in the same way old-school ballet labels and names the dancers' steps and moves," Tim P. Fox, a former professional dancer from Montreal, wrote in an e-mail.
"If I designed this piece, I might call it 'The Rage Inside' or 'The True Man,' he continued. "It would be an investigation into the dark psyche, anger and insecurity of man."
But when Frank 'made love to the crowd,' he had no idea how seductive his jerky dance-floor stylings could be. The original 20 recipients sent the link to their friends, and in a classic chain-letter progression, complete strangers all over the world were watching the Albany native twirling around in a circle like a drunken daisy.
Within the first couple of days, Frank's Web site got tens of thousands of hits a day. On the following Tuesday, it got 1.3 million hits. On Wednesday, it received over 2 million hits. People had logged on to see Frank's demonstration of Smackin' That Ass about 4 million times in a single week.
"It's so bizarre that this has spread so quickly," he said. "I guess it's one of those weird phenomena of the Web. It's definitely a flash in the pan."
Frank decided to milk his 15 minutes of fame, though.
Of the 2,700 e-mails he's been sent, he's managed to answer the first 1,600 and is losing sleep responding to the rest. He designed a hidden button that brings up a special film. (Click on his cat, which can be seen in the lower right corner of the Elaine dance). And he has been fielding interviews from radio stations, reporters and the simply curious "who think they've stumbled onto a secret site or something."
And while Frank has changed the site of his party, he plans on stopping by the original venue to see how many of the millions of people who invited themselves to a gander at his dance films will try to crash his birthday celebration.
But his favorite aspect of his sudden fame is when he hears from friends who have no idea how quickly the Ze Frank take of Old School has been making the rounds.
"They're like, 'You're an ass, I hope no one else saw that,'" Frank said, laughing.