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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Karaoke – Statute of Limitations

“Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers came on the radio the other day while we were in the car. Mrs. Bruck said, “I’ll never forget that time….”

A somewhat tedious course of events that I won’t bore you with, led Mrs. Bruck and your friendly editor to a Karaoke bar one balmy summer evening last year in Ferndale, a working class / gay friendly suburb of Detroit. Prior to this trip I could honestly and forthrightly assert that I had never sung Karaoke. I’ve done plenty of singing, some of publicly, but never Karaoke… until that fateful summer night.

Karaoke is a strange pastime. Did I say strange? I mean strange. I think we all know what the basics are, right? The DJ plays an instrumental version of a song over the PA, and you sing the lead part, and if you’re in a really high class joint, you can watch the lyrics with a bouncing ball on a video monitor so you don’t get lost. Nothing too strange about that right? Well here’s the strange part – nobody appears to have a good time. They take it really seriously. They don’t smile and laugh, or bow or anything you’d expect. It’s like they’re marking time in purgatory. Occasionally they’ll be supportive to one another, but not in any kind of real encouraging way.

So I guess it’s not the pastime that’s odd, it’s the people that partake in it. I saw this once before – our amateur radio club had an after-meeting meeting at a bar in Hazel Park, MI (more working class, less gay-friendly suburb of Detroit), where they were having Karaoke night. None of the people talked to each other there either. One guy wouldn’t even sit with anyone or even make eye contact. Maybe the FBI should quit looking for serial killers in post offices and stake out Karaoke bars instead.

One thing I’ve heard is that the Japanese Karaoke bars, including ones in the US, have a lot of fun with it, which is what you’d expect everywhere. My bro-in-law tells me he once saw a group of young Japanese guys after several drinks singing the Madonna song, “Like a Virgin.” But not us white Americans – we’re all business when we get behind that mike.

So here we are with a bunch of people we didn’t know well (like I say, long story), sitting around a table picking out songs that we’d like to try, listening to the Karaoke singers struggling away on the stage, with Bruck wondering (1) should I be watching them, nobody else is, and (2) how can I get out of actually doing this myself? But like all addicts and true believers, they weren’t going to let me off that easy. So one after another they got up and sang, and with increasing pressure, kept urging me to do the same. Mrs. Bruck was able to beg off, saying that she was patently unable to sing, but that option was unavailable to me, as the woman who invited us had heard me sing competently several times already.

But the guy who sang “Whipping Post” changed everything. Now mind you, none of these singers is going to make American Idol any time soon, but this guy, hoowee, what a howler! I don’t think he hit a single note, and to make up for it, he was loud. But he did it. The whole song. “Whipping Post” is not an easy song for anyone to sing well but I guess if you’re going to sing badly, you may as well do it in style! So after the Whipping Post guy sang, there was really no way for me to remain a spectator.

So I started pawing through the notebooks on the table, looking for something I knew, and finally came upon “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” by Willie Nelson, which I got up and sang, with little fanfare. I think I did okay, but who’s to say? I didn’t get a lot of feedback.

The drinks, did I mention the drinks? I think I must have missed something over the last few years. Weird stuff they were pouring into themselves! I played it safe with beer, but the rest of the table was having pineapple upside down cake, oatmeal cookies, Jaeger-bombs, I couldn’t watch. Let me just say this, if you’re walking through the parking lot of Warrilow’s in Ferndale, MI at night, watch where you step.

So what I’m wondering is, what is the statute of limitations on Karaoke? How many years do I have to wait before I can once again, honestly and forthrightly, assert that I have never sung Karaoke?


  • At 10:56 AM, Blogger joanE said…

    always say you've sung karaoke. its a badge of honor. thats my dream date w/tom. he fears he will be forced into singing. i ask you...wd i do that?

  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger Bruck said…

    You mean I'm going to have to wear a scarlet K the rest of my life???


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