This past week, Eric served as a judge at a downtown bar's gong karaoke contest, so he asked a few of his friends to come along for the experience. I agreed to go, but wouldn't commit to singing because I had lost my voice the previous day and my throat was sore.
We show up at the bar, but it's kind of sketch-ville, since we all got searched for weapons on our way in. You gotta let me have at least one drink before patting my crotch, scary bouncer. I know the point of the search is to make everyone feel safer, but oddly it just made me feel all the more in danger.
We assumed our positions near the stage and encountered this guy who was a total flamer. By flamer, I mean that he was a fire breather. Also, he was very gay. In the process of doing his admittedly impressive bar trick, he managed to spit alcohol into my eyes, causing the to sting. A few minutes later, he hot-boxed the photo booth in the corner of the room. What a character.
Afterward, the contest started. The prize was a huge bong, so I had even less incentive to get in on the game. The first few participants performed adequately at best, a couple getting gonged after a minute or so. Eric was clearly having fun critiquing the contestants like the true Randy Jackson he is. He almost made one poor girl cry and have an Amy Winehouse meltdown after berating her failed attempt at Amy Winehouse.
Since not too many people had signed-up and they kept begging for more singers, Stacy put her hat into the ring and performed the best song up until that point, Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker." It looked like she might have the night's winning score, until the last judge scored her lower for not dancing to his satisfaction. This judge was performing in character as some exaggeratedly flamboyant sea captain. Though sometimes it was funny, his motivation was definitely to say something witty and give a score corresponding to his one-liner more than scoring fairly.
The next girl came on right after Stacy and stole the show with a slow oldie. She sang as well as Stacy, but also had the benefit of hearing Stacy's critique and therefore danced provocatively, caressing her genitals. After receiving the highest score of the night, she advised Stacy that she "should have grabbed [her] boobs more" in order to win. Indeed, the next guy sang terribly, but took his shirt off, so the gay sea captain predictably gave him a 10.
They were so desperate to fill up time that they weren't even gonging anyone anymore. Even though my throat still hurt, I decided the atmosphere was right to put in the funniest, shortest song I know, "Indian Reservation." It's a somewhat forgotten Paul Revere & the Raiders #1 song from 1971, and hilariously offensive. It's a first person narrative about the plight of a Cherokee (yet sung by white people, yay!) relegated to a reservation and how awful his life is now. It's simultaneously earnest and campy, and though it shows no vocal range (which I needed in this moment) I love performing it to get a rise out of people, particularly the lyric, "I'm still part redman deep inside."
Going into the song, I had two thoughts: A) it's such a short song, I could easily get through it before getting gonged and B) if I were to get gonged by the time they realize how ridiculous this song was, I would be laughing with them. So I go up and start the song, and before I'm even past the first page of lyrics on the screen, the gay admiral runs over and gongs me. I was surprised and a little bit embarrassed since I hadn't even got to a funny part yet, so I just looked stupid. The captain screamed, "I don't want to hear a Cher song!" even though it's not a Cher song, which I tried to explain, but it was too late, my turn was over. At least the host made me feel better when he said, "I have never heard of that song before, but I was really starting to enjoy it."
So yeah, it kind of sucked to be gonged quicker than anyone else all night, especially when there were some legitimately awful people singing, but at the same time it was pretty easy to laugh off - as everyone should do at a gong karaoke contest - when I failed explicitly because some guy that looked like a dumb
At the end of the night, we convened outside, and the gay sea captain came out and chatted us up. I laid into him, "You call yourself a gay? That wasn't even a Cher song!" He insisted that it was and it's called "Half Breed," so I called him a racist for assuming all songs about Native Americans are the same. He asked how many there could possibly be, and the only other tune that popped to mind was "One little, two little, three little Indians," but I still said it as if it were the most relevant point I have ever made. By now, I was actually more irritated with the fact that once out of his costume, he dressed like a typical LA scenester douche and, as my friends pointed out, probably wasn't even actually gay, making his performance all night pretty offensive. Funny how stereotypes are more easily forgiven if that's actually how you are.
It wasn't until outside that I heard the best song of the night. A dapper homeless man approached us asking for money, so Matt and I each gave him a buck. He said that earned us a song, so I asked him what he knew. He said "excerpts of Frank Sinatra, excerpts of the Temptations..." and each time he said "excerpts" I died of internal laughter at the fact that he was making it clear upfront that we weren't getting a whole song. When he said "excerpts from Sound of Music" however, I told him that was the choice, since I knew it would make Stacy happy. I was hoping for Edelweiss myself, but he did a more obscure one, "Something Good" and Stacy dueted with him, just like Julie Andrews would have; it was so beautiful that I didn't want the excerpt to end. I handed him a five as a tip because I was so impressed, and he was very gracious. He said that earned us one more "free" song, this time an original, some depressing yet musically upbeat tale of unrequited love that I merrily clapped my hands along to. At the end of the song, he said, "Since I sang you a song, would you mind helping me out?" which slightly irritated me since I've already given him more money than I ever give to a panhandler and he said I had earned that one for free, so I didn't give him anymore out of principle.
I felt a little bad about it as we walked away, but Stacy pointed out that the man was wearing two leather jackets, so how bad off could he be? I laughed a lot at that comment, and agreed. You know who had it rougher? The Cherokees. If only I could have properly paid respect to them that night.