A few years ago my landlord Sam–stage name SMAjL LiKA–was a pretty big deal in New York’s Albanian club scene. Men idolized him and women went crazy for his silky jackets and bright red face. Unfortunately, Sam suffered a stroke before making it big, and now he works as a landlord and has a weird claw hand. His favorite activity is talking about when he used to be famous. Last night the two of us sat down over a couple of ice cold Coors Lights and had a philosophical discussion about life, fame, and what it means to be a sex symbol.
When did you start singing? Sam: Eight years ago, when I was 42. But I told people I was 29. I was going to nightclubs a lot and was seeing all these assholes singing, and one day I just said, “Fuck you, I can sing too.”
Was it hard work to get so famous? No, because I make things happen. They used to call me The Hustler. You know what a hustler is? It’s a person who hustles things around. Plus it’s easy to get famous when you’re handsome. I see ugly guys trying to make it and I’m like, “How the fuck are you gonna get famous? You’re ugly mate, women don’t like you.”
You wrote a lot of love songs. What are your favorite lyrics that you’ve written? One of my songs is like: “What a beautiful night, what a quiet night/ I always think of you at midnight/ 12:00 midnight, when it’s 12:00/ I love you to the end of the world, and you’re my sweetheart.” Can someone open a fucking window? It’s too fucking hot in here.
Is that bit about the window part of the song? No.
Then that’s beautiful. Of course–that’s why they nicknamed me “Romantic Sam.”
Who is your ideal tenant? I like people between 22 and 32. They should be good looking, but not too good looking because then they have too many friends over. I like the gay people too; they’re clean and neat. I’ll never rent to a Jewish person again though, they crack my sink. If there is a crack in your sink, it was the Jews.
What are some of the similarities between being a pop star and being a landlord? There’s nothing the same, like day and night. Being a landlord is a headache. Being famous is great because everyone wants to say “Hi” to you, be in pictures with you, and be in bed with you. A lot of guys want to beat the shit out of you, too. They get jealous because maybe their girlfriend likes you, and because you have money. Albanians are very jealous people.
Were you ever nervous to perform in front of big crowds? When I first started out I was embarrassed to sing. I had to drink five beers before I went onstage to build up my confidence.
Remember that time that I asked you to take out my air conditioner, and to work up the energy you had to drink five beers first? Is that a similarity between being a pop star and being a landlord? No.
What was your beauty regime like back when you were famous? In the photo on your album cover it looks like you might be wearing some blush. No makeup, no nothing. Sometimes I used Sun-In for highlights, and I didn’t work out, I just got fatter and fatter.
You put Sun-In in your hair and got fatter and fatter? That doesn’t sound like a winning combo. People liked me.
Are you ever going to make a comeback? Maybe. I’m playing a boy’s Bar Mitzvah soon, and I played at someone’s wedding recently. It was no big deal.