Savannah lost one of it’s most fascinating and creative souls when Nicodemus Hammil, the popular tour guide and performance artist, passed away unexpectedly on September 19th.
Nicodemus, who was raised in Sydney, Australia, was a part of the Manhattan club scene in the 80s and 90s. It was during this period that he met his partner of 37 years, fellow performing artist Anitra Warren, better known as Anitra Opera Diva. The couple met in 1982 at the nightclub Stillwind where they both performed regularly. “I was part of this group called Andronix and we did a residency there for 3 months on the weekend,” said Anitra. “That’s where I met Nicodemus because he was also a performance artist there on his own. He introduced me to Kraftwerk...he introduced me to everything, pretty much.”Get Savannah arts & culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and our Dine newsletters
The two performers immediately fell for each other and began performing together, eventually forming the band Men Smash Atoms, a hypnotic blend of gothic industrial electronic music and avant-garde, operatic vocals. The duo performed all over the world including Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Australia.
Nicodemus and Anitra also produced the New York City cable access show Krash Boom TV from 1993 to 1995 for infamous club promoter Michael Alig, who was later portrayed by Macaulay Culkin in the film “Party Monster.”
“We documented all the club babies, the little kids,” Anitra said with a laugh. “They were crazy, but they were absolutely fabulous and Michael was absolutely fabulous, when I knew him then. The people were always decked out to the hilt. At night, they were these amazing creature. that’s what I love, that you can change your identity.”
In 2007, the couple moved to Savannah where they continued to perform as Men Smash Atoms, and separately with Anitra performing non-traditional opera and Nicodemus acting in plays and films including the short “A Darker Shade of Grey” which won an award at a film festival in Scotland. Anitra’s cat, Ariel, is named after Nicodemus’s role in a Savannah production of “The Pillowman.” “It’s a very heavy role, he plays a cop, but he’s a bad cop,” said Anitra. “Of course, he played it to the hilt. Everyone would see him on the street afterwards and they’d go, ‘Oh no, that’s the guy from that play. Stay away from him!’ They were afraid of him, literally, because he played it so perfectly.”
In the 37 years they were together, Anitra and Nicodemus always inspired each other with creative energy with no boundaries. “Nicodemus would say, ‘Let’s just do something magical and crazy.’ and I’d say ‘Let’s do it!’ and it didn’t matter what we did,” said Anitra.
Nicodemus was also well know in Savannah as one of the best tour guides in the city for his work with Ghost City Tours and his Beyond Good and Evil Tour, which incorporated his interest in the occult and metaphysics. “He was also teaching other tour guides how to do tours,’ said Anitra “He was perfect at what he did because enjoyed it and he always reinvented himself with the material he had to work on.”
A tribute show for Nicodemus Hammil is being held on November 9 at Sulfur Studios from 6 to 9 p.m. The tribute is open to the public and is an opportunity for people to see his body of work including Krash Boom TV, his short films, music videos, and his sculptures. There will also be a re-enactment of one of his performance pieces to be performed by his longtime friend and collaborator Skippy Spiral.
“We really want it to be a tribute to him, not necessarily like a funeral,” said Becca Cook, Nicodemus’s friend and co-organizer of the tribute. “We wanted to show people his art. People who may have missed meeting him can come and learn about him.”
“He was encouraging to other artists,” said Anitra. “He supported other artists. He would go to events and he felt there were limitless bounds to creativity. He was very generous with the people around him and very loving.”