KETCHIKAN -- Well known as a musician in Ketchikan during the late 1970s and 80s, Sergio Vigilato aka Sergio 2000 now is renowned for a different type of music-related endeavor.
Vigilato is the California-based taxidermist who preserved Lady Gaga's "meat dress" for display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
The unusual project has prompted a swarm of media interest in the 66-year-old former Southeast Alaska charter boat skipper who's originally from Brazil.
"I've gotten interviewed from all over the world," Vigilato told the Daily News on Wednesday. "And I'm just a country boy."
Although he left Ketchikan in 1988, Vigilato still remembers the First City fondly his truck's license plate reads "NAHABAY" and he hopes to resume residence here eventually.
"I miss that rock big time," he said.
Vigilato currently operates American Taxidermy in Burbank, Calif.
That's where he was contacted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame about preserving the now-famous meat dress worn by music star Lady Gaga during the MTV Video Music Awards show on Sept. 10, 2010. But Vigilato was aware neither of the dress nor the artist when the museum called him two months after the awards show.
"Can you do Lady Gaga's meat dress? You know, Lady Gaga?" Vigilato said the museum representative asked. "I said: Sir, I apologize. I don't.'"
He agreed to the project, however.
The dress had been designed by Franc Fernandez and Nicola Formichetti, who had bought about 40 pounds of thin-cut Argentinian flank steaks from a deli to make the gown, hat, purse and shoes, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The ensemble, which Lady Gaga said was a statement about equality, drew immediate notoriety from the mixed responses it provoked.
Two weeks after the museum contacted Vigilato, the meat dress arrived, frozen, at his taxidermy shop.
He quickly discovered that the decomposition process had begun, and, during, the next three and a half months, restored the meat to a presentable condition.
The dress went on display in June.
A Los Angeles Times story published on July 17 about Vigilato's role in the project stoked public interest in the taxidermist, resulting in the media swarm noted above.
Among the publications writing about Vigilato in recent days was The Daily Mail of Britain, which remarked on the wide variety in Vigilato's life history.
Vigilato grew up in Brazil and was a member of the band The Jet Blacks before coming to the United States. He toured the U.S. as a musician and arrived in Ketchikan in 1978.
"(Ketchikan) was, in those days, the real thing," Vigilato said.
He lived on Gravina Island first.
"Then eight years, I lived in Loring Naha Bay," he said. "So I was always at peace. I build a nice solid cabin ... . I had chickens. I had goats. And I live mostly off the land. I had a nice dog to keep the bears and the wolves (away)."
He started a charter fishing business, and continued to play music in the Ketchikan area.
"I conquered everybody's heart there at the time because I could go from country music to classic and jazz music, bossa novas and everything, and Latin rhythms," he said.
He particularly enjoyed playing what would become regular weekly gigs at the V.F.W. hall.
"Forever and ever, I love the VFW," Vigilato said. "They adopt me. Give my love to them all."
He said he didn't want to leave "the rock," but circumstances forced him to seek other horizons.
Vigilato moved to Juneau, then on to Oregon, where he began to study theology and work at a small vineyard. From Oregon, he moved to Southern California to be with a former girlfriend (whom he married) and work at a taxidermy shop he had worked at before.
He later opened his own taxidermy shop. Over time, he's done a lot of work for a number of celebrities, according to The Daily Mail.
Still, "I tell my friends here, I left Alaska, but I left my heart in Alaska,'" Vigilato said.
In a little while, the time will be right to move back to the Ketchikan area, he said.
"I want to go back and just mingle with all the people there like I used to, and lay back and play my music, and probably write books about my life," he said.