Back in October of 2006, I landed a job with Live Nation in Buffalo and began my search to find an apartment in the Queen City. With one day to apartment shop, I explored the one-way streets of the Elmwood Village and found myself outside of a giant white house with a posting of “For Rent.” I called the number and met the landlord that day. Weeks later she would call to say that my application had been accepted and that I should also know that a celebrity lived in the house on the top floor. Struggling to find a pen and a piece of paper, I said, “What’s this person’s name?”
I moved to Buffalo the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I remember after unpacking finding only one restaurant close by that was open for dinner, The Elmwood Lounge. I said to the waitress, “What are all of the instruments and lights for?” She smiled and said “Lance Diamond performs here every Friday and Saturday night.” My Mom laughed and said, “Isn’t that the man who lives in the 3rd floor of your house?”
The first few weeks, Lance got over the disappointment of the apartment not being housed by a female and started taking a liking to me. Since I didn’t know anyone in town, I regularly found myself at the Elmwood Lounge watching Lance’s set. Considering the demographic that hung out at the lounge, I remained single for quite some time.
For eight years we sat on the porch swing, drove around in his town car, sat outside Louie’s on Elmwood, played music on the porch, talked about women and ate pizza at 3AM. Then on a cold January evening, I no longer heard footsteps in the apartment above me.
The weeks after Lance’s passing, I put faces to the names he always mentioned, finally realizing that all his stories he told me were true. I thought that maybe there was more to this man then anyone really knew. A feature-length film documentary, “A Diamond in the Buff” has been started by former Buffalonian Kevin Polowy and co-producer Brandon Rae to tell the tale.
It all started as a scripted comedy titled “Me and Lance Diamond. Polowy and Rae casted Diamond to play an idol turned mentor to a twenty-something who aspires to be the next Soul King of Buffalo. Shooting concert footage and various interviews, the two filmmakers created a sizzle reel to push towards possible investors. The project stalled towards the end of 2014, then Lance passed just after New Year’s in 2015. Polowy explained, “We were heartbroken, not only that we’d lost this incredible man who had become a friend but also that our collaboration with him would never see the light of day. And he was so excited about the film, which made it even sadder. So we knew we had to do something for Lance…we had to tell his story.”
He spent everything he made on his suits and his bands.
The Lance Diamond that I knew was a very quiet individual (off the stage). Even though he had connections to the Goo Goo Dolls and Rick James, he was committed to the stage presence and persona of Lance Diamond. “We’ve talked to so many people who knew him both personally and professionally, and have connected a lot of dots and put a lot of pieces together. There’s going to be a ton in the movie that will really surprise people,” Polowy explained. “The biggest impression Lance has made on me, above everything else, is that he was a guy who sacrificed everything to entertain people. He didn’t do it for the money, he didn’t do it for the fame, though he enjoyed the recognition. Here was this local celebrity, yet he lived in a tiny 3-floor walk-up apartment on the West Side for 45 years. He spent everything he made on his suits and his bands. He put it all back into his shows.”
While we think Lance’s story is universal, this is first and foremost a film for his fans in Buffalo.
Polowy, who works as a writer and on-camera correspondent for Yahoo Movies, spends most of his time interviewing actors and directors in Beverly Hills. Co-director Rae works as a producer at Maker Studios working on Disney-related items. The two met in New York City working together at MTV, later both relocating to Los Angeles. The two have recently started a Kickstarter to raise enough funds to produce the Lance Diamond project. Polowy explained, “While we think Lance’s story is universal, this is first and foremost a film for his fans in Buffalo, so we’re hoping that they’ll help us support it in the making of it.” Those who would like to donate can visit this Kickstarter link and see an early clip, featuring snippets of concert footage and interviews.
Polowy and Rae are hoping to raise $18,000 in funds to support the films production. So where does the $18,000 go, you ask? Polowy clarified, “The budget will go to our production crews (we’ve already completed two shoots in Buffalo, and plan to film more), feeding said crew, gear and equipment rentals/purchases, travel costs, editing, sound mixing, color correcting, and the licensing of various music and footage.”
So where can we see the documentary? Polowy explained “We’re planning to finish the film this year, then premier it at a major film festival in early-2017. We’re also planning to do a major local premier in Buffalo around the same time. From there we hope to take it on the film festival circuit in hopes of securing national theatrical distribution and/or video-on-demand platform partnership. We’ll eventually released the film on DVD also.” Polowy noted his favorite Lance quote while filming as “I live to love, and love to live,” explaining it as the “essence of his legacy.”
I live to love, and love to live.
“There were some very tragic elements to his life that we explore as well… but ultimately it’s a success story,” Polowy summed up the project mentioning, “He loved the city with every fiber of his being. It’s as much of a love letter to Buffalo as it is a story about Lance Diamond.”
At first it was music that connected me to Diamond. It then became trust and friendship. Whether it was the time he showed up to my birthday at The Thirsty Buffalo and sang “Suspicious Minds” with me on Karaoke night or the time he and a cop pushed my broken down car off of Main Street.
Buffalo has countless symbols that help evoke memories of the man who sung late into the night in his 3rd floor apartment. As of today (Monday), there are still 17 days left to donate, with over $10,000 left to be raised. Diamond Girls and Beastie Boys are asked to share the project via Facebook, Twitter and the always productive word of mouth.
It’s as much of a love letter to Buffalo as it is a story about Lance Diamond.