The other day my assistant got a call from a venue where I did a gig a few months ago. While the night had been a success overall, the turnout wasn’t as big as I wanted it to be. Part of it was the day, Tuesday. It’s a tricky day but they had the time I wanted. Despite me being broke, I promoted the living shit out of the event. Somehow, I even managed to feed myself afterwards. Basically, when it came to profit on the show I broke even. I still spent money I didn’t have, and got a nice reminder about why I don’t produce live events anymore. However, my guests loved it and the sound man who has worked with everyone hugged me afterwards and he was one tough customer.
Plus I didn’t owe the room money. Go me.
Anyway, my assistant informed me the venue had tried to send me money. However, for some reason there was not a PO Box number on my W9 so the money came back. Anyway, he gave me the number of Monica, the lady who called him from the venue to straighten this out. She was a very sweet lady, and I told her rather than her spend money on postage I would swing by to get the check. I didn’t think it was for a lot of money anyway. Plus it would be a chance to perhaps meet everyone face to face because email and telephone are so impersonal. She okayed the plan and down I went.
After a brisk walk I found myself at the theatre. Walking in, I saw the posters on the wall. I still remembered the rush of my big night, unknowingly going before one of the biggest living legends in jazz. Looking on the wall I saw the poster of Melba Moore. One of the most gracious and ridiculously humble people I have ever met, I was glad to see she was glowing, looking as good as ever. The fact we both headlined the same venue is not only as testament to how far I have come, but how amazing she is as a performer.
Of course there was a show coming in. I picked the most perfect time to stop by. The place was filled. Maybe it was some legend who was performing. But on a Monday night? Anyway, behind me was the most obnoxious couple on the face of the planet. The guy had sandy hair and a meat head mustache. He griped, “This is a cabaret room. Do they have to remind us on every freaking poster that we are at a cabaret room?”
I wanted to inform this imbecile that these people on the wall were some of the best New York had to offer, and many were even legends. He would be so lucky to see them live let alone breathe their air. Most importantly, this jackass probably watched them regularly in between his monster truck battles. Either way, my feeling was he was not a regular cabaret goer.
Then the woman with him, probably his wife because why else would any woman be seen with such a jerk face said, “I hope this evening is not a bust.”
“It will be.” Meat Head replied. Who were they seeing? I hoped it wasn’t a friend of mine otherwise I would have to reprimand them.
Then the wife, decked in sapphire blue and looking like some truck stop beauty queen completed the rest of her look sneered, “He’s working as a bartender. A freaking bartender. He’s doing this program and of course they are telling him he has potential. They want his money. I mean, bartender isnt a life job. It’s not a career. He’s making a career out of it. He’s going no where.”
Then the hostile twosome had their moment with the hostess. They grumbled about where to sit and about the show they were about to see and how it was “too much money.” Then the other hostess whisked them away, thank goodness.
I didn’t want to hold up the line. I said to the hostess, “Monica left a check for me.” The hostess quickly looked in the drawer as her mind raced. She couldn’t find it. Perhaps this errand wouldn’t be as simple as I thought. It wasn’t her fault though. There was a lot going on, and I could feel impatient rustling behind me.
“Take your time.” I said knowing she had to deal with the assweeds behind me. In the past I have had the ubiquitous task of seating people. It’s how you earn your wings in the comedy world. Plus I have produced. Before the show is super stressful for everyone, especially the people who work at the club. When in doubt, stay the hell out of the staff’s way.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw some girl texting by the stairs. She was wearing a tacky gold dress with a hand me down shine to it. While she was of the round variety, she had the potential to be a pretty girl. However, the dress she wore was three sizes too small, which only accentuated her apple shape. Like an oversized Tootsie Roll forced into a wrapper by an underpaid Chinese child worker, she looked ready to pop like a teenage girl trying to conceal her pregnancy. As if the dress was not ridiculous enough, she wore heels that were so high she could barely walk. Every time she took a step it was done so gingerly as not to risk a possible spinal chord injury. The hair on her head was probably originally a mousy brown, however it was dyed Debra Messing red. Then again, Debra Messing could rock the color because Debra Messing was hot and this girl was just a hot mess. Adorning her neck were strings of fake pearls so long that they could have easily gotten caught on a door knob and choked her if she wasn’t careful. She also was wearing a choker necklace, that was so tight I was surprise she wasn’t turning bright red. The make up on her face was so heavy I doubted her skin could breathe. As a matter of fact, I had a sneaking suspicion it died a slow and painful death an hour before I saw her.
I would have pitied the unfortunate creature except she was lurking by the stairs like a possessed demon child in a Wes Craven movie. Texting on her phone, she glanced up like a vampire looking for her kill. The nails on her hands were some strange mix of black and red, probably to match the coffin she secretly slept in. It was night. She was safe. Wow, the theatre world certainly does attract all kinds.
However, what got me was undead or not, there was no way any creature Earthly or netherworld could breathe in that thing she called an outfit. Actually, her wardrobe was one big malfunction that was killing her. Aside from being fashion suicide, Performance 101: You must be able to breathe and move freely in your outfit of choice. While legends glam up in concert, they wear outfits that they can move and breathe in. Madonna might wear boots, but they are designed specifically so she can dance in them. Same with Lady Gaga’s outfits. That is also the reason they do cat suits sometimes, so they can MOVE AND BREATHE. Heck, even when I gussy myself up, I wear square heals so I can stand, a dress that I can breathe in, and minimal jewelry so I am not weighed down. It’s a piece of craft that divides an amateur from a pro. So I let her keep scowling. It was funny to me. Either way, I surmised whoever the idiot was that taught her should have been fired like yesterday. This would be the first thing a coach with any knowledge let alone grounding would correct.
That is when it occurred to me that I was at some sort of new talent showcase contest of some sort. Suddenly everything was explained. I should have known, after all, I did enough in my lifetime to sniff them from a mile away. Granted, I have been away so long my spider senses did not tingle as much.
One young girl, who wore a flower dress and had mousy hair in a bun, looked like she had tumbled off a turnip truck. She seemed sweeter and more practically dressed than her over-made up counterpart texting and scowling by the stairs. I asked her what the occasion was. Nervously she said, “Oh, it’s a Cabaret Superstars Competition.”
My suspicions were correct. These folks were dragging every family member and friend they had. Instead of looking forward to a show they were asking, “How bad is this going to be?” I know because I remember that awkward conversation. Truth: there is some good talent, a lot of okay talent, and then there is anti-talent. Pretty self-explanatory.
“You’re gonna do great. Break both legs.” I told her, feeling a mixture of bittersweet déjà vu and empathy for the dream she was attempting to live out.
Seconds later, a plump woman officiously strolled in. Bumping the people in front of her like a hockey player going for the Stanley Cup, she huffed to the front of the line. No one puts Baby in the penalty box apparently. Her outfit looked like it was shoplifted from the Alfred Dunner rack at the local Macys. However, she thought she was a fashion plate. On her face were Dollar Store glasses, but she was going to pretend they were Boca Raton, a city where glitz lives but dreams slowly die. She let out an indignant grunt letting the hostess know she was present.
Standing next to her was a little old man who had a walker. He looked like he was kidnapped from the rest home, and she lied telling him if he came to this show she would return him to the house his ungrateful children sold.
The woman cooed in a voice that matched the timbre of nails on a chalkboard, “Clyde, meet my protégé.” Running over, nearly tripping and mortally wounding herself came the misdressed mess that had been lurking like a demon by the stairs. Her lips were pursed as the woman introducing her smiled proudly. Now I was meeting the moron that was steering her career in the wrong direction. This was priceless. Hell, the venue didn’t have to pay me. This was reward enough for all the work I did not the show.
The woman continued to speak about her protégé bragging, and the girl stood there with her lips still in a flat line. “She has a perfect soprano range. PERFECT!” The vocal coach bragged. First you let her look like a disaster who might asphyxiate onstage, a singing no no, and then you brag about her soprano range. She is probably as soprano as I am, and I am an alto contralto. Translated, when she hits those high notes, ear drums will shatter, glasses will crack, and small animals will die. They were amazing. It was in the same way that dude with Down Syndrome was in that 90s commercial, but yes, they were amazing.
Then her vocal coach mentioned this girl was the best singer at this college I had never heard of in my life. Mind you, if it were a college of any merit I would know it. If it were a top theatre school, I would know it. This institution was neither. The more this borderline personality disorder sufferer carried on, the more I knew she had no weight other than her own fat ass let alone any authority on the subject of singing. The strange thing about self esteem was people who should have it don’t, like the late, great Whitney Houston. And then there are people like this whacko who have too much that have no reason to have any at all.
I had a feeling this woman was only beginning, and I was right. In a snide tone, this imbecile who’s self-esteem runneth over said in a snide tone to the hostess, “Where is the rest of my party?”
“M’am, they are seated.” The hostess explained kindly. There was a line forming behind this wench and there was a job to be done. While I have experienced hell, I hadn’t taken a trip to this layer in a while. I forgot how seriously some of these hack no names took themselves.
Then the vocal coach proceeded to throw a diva sized bitch fit as her so called “protégé” stood there, stone faced and glaring at the other contestants in the room. So the vocal coach was not having it. Thundering from her basement voice she demanded, “I want to sit with the rest of my party!” Sure, she was a self-important no authority waste of human flesh, but at least she was using her diaphragm.
“M’am, the rest of the party is seated.” The hostess apologized. “And I have other people to seat as there is a line forming. The other hostess will be with you and we will see what we can do.”
This was only the beginning of the bitch fit. She exploded, now using her head voice, hitting the high notes perfectly on pitch as she screeched, “I CAME AND WANT TO SIT WITH MY PARTY. THIS IS PROPOSTEROUS. HOW ELSE WILL I SUPPORT MY PROTÉGÉ!!!” I wanted to tell her to stop throwing a Naomi Campbell fit. Naomi Campbell was skinny.
There was also a part of me that was a little peeved that she was bullying the poor hostess. Plus she was running this young aspiring singer into the ground. I wanted to ask her, “Who are you?” And then Google her on the spot only to have nothing come up. Then again, what was the use? Her protégé was going to tank. I already knew it. The tacky dress was apologizing for the lack of vocal talent. The mouthier the mentor the less talented the student. They would get their medicine from a very unforgiving audience that didn’t want to be there in the first place. Plus audiences are psychic. They can smell a troll a mile away, and they were going to give these bitches their helping of humble pie.
On top of that, because they were being rude to the staff, they would never be asked back again. Fun fact, in most clubs the staff actually run the place. So if any act is mean to them, no matter how big, they don’t return. And the owner sides with the staff. Not only were these two mean and nasty, they were also stupid. This sideshow was getting better and better, so much so why even have the main event?
The hostess was now rattled. She was young and inexperienced, and this woman was a nasty uber beast. A nice, mild mannered guy with salt and pepper hair, he said, “Hi Jane.” Oh, so the screaming monster had a name. She might have made a minor guest appearance back in the day before she ate herself out of her cabaret dress. There was probably some man who broke her heart. Don’t feel too bad. She probably ate him, too.
“Timmy, they seated my party! I don’t want to sit with strangers!!!!” The vocal coach snapped. Now she was speaking in her throat and damaging her chords. The hunty part in me just wanted to lecture her about technique and how she was damaging her voice but I bit my lip. I didn’t want to ruin the live action.
“It will be a great show no matter where you see it.” Timmy said assuaging the situation.
The vocal coach continued to pout but began to back down. Her protégé’s expression remained the same. As for the hostess, she was now tired. While the drama was entertaining for me, it probably drained every piece of energy she had.
Just then, I saw a woman behind me with an envelope with my name on it. “I need to leave these with you.”
A gorgeous woman in ocean blue with a mane of pitch black hair said. I knew the girl was going to have a meltdown from her meeting with the Gorgon, so I decided to make her life easy.
“Monica, I am right here.” I told her.
“Oh, how long have you been here?” She asked.
“Ya.” Timmy asked. “How long have you been there?
“Just a few minutes. Wanted to wait until the room was seated.” I said. And then I looked right at the Battle Axe Twins: Teacher plus protégé and said, “I know how much drama is involved in seating.”
Yes, me, the little no one out of her diva gear. Yes, me, who was wearing a sweat shirt, shorts, and a backwards ball cap. I wanted to let them know I witnessed their shiteous behavior, and I was taking note. As I took note, their hell glances zeroed in on me. Who was I, frumpling out of diva gear, talking to Tim and Monica? That was only reserved for people who gave themselves authority, had talentless protégés, and bullied waitstaff. Not someone who minded their own business like myself.
“We wanted to wait until the room was seated ourselves.” Monica explained. “We wanted to stay out of the way, too.”
The three of us shared a laugh. Oh show time. “Well here I am. Again, sorry about the mix up. It was a crazy week when I was filling out the paper work, planning the show. It was the first event I did like it.” I explained apologetically.
“Oh no problem. We didn’t really have an address. Luckily we had a phone number. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get you’re your money.” Timmy explained.
“Thank you both so much.” I said hugging them. They mentioned they would be in touch.
Now the Weird Sisters were livid. Who was I, getting money from these people? I could hear them hissing as I walked out the door. I wanted to turn around and say, “You are what a back up singer looks like. I am what a headliner looks like.” But I didn’t have to. I think they already figured it out.
I made sure they heard me thank the hostess for all her hard work though, because that is what a headlining act should do. The truth was, life was going to bitch slap these two fatties so hard they couldn’t even cry Jenny Craig. I was also grateful that I had paid my dues and earned my wings. Granted, I am still learning to use them. Some days I don’t fly as well as others. Still, I was a hard worker when I earned them and never treated anyone badly. I would never dream of a bitch fit of that capacity. Then again, my mother also raised me better.
Then I remembered a quote from my dearly departed friend, Chacho Vasquez, “A nobody trying to be somebody is the worst kind of nobody there is.” That summed up the encounter I just had with those two. They were throwing their weight around, no pun intended, not because they mattered, but because they didn’t.
However, it was also a trip down memory lane. It was nostalgic, bringing me back to busting my ass for the better part of a decade. These days people are nice to me, and talk about how hard I worked and how now I am finally seeing results. As I mentioned, now I am starting to headline. However, like them I still had to start somewhere. So now this was the next generation of talent, hoping to be the main event in the room I had headlined a few months before. Like I had once upon a time, now they too were working to earn their wings to hopefully someday fly.
Walking down the street I asked St. Genesius, patron saint of performers, to give them a good show. I don’t ask the guy for much but seeing the neophytes gearing up for their big night with the reluctant friends and family members brought back memories. Yes, even the trainwreck and her so called vocal coach. Maybe there was hope for her, just with better guidance albeit wardrobe.
I opened up my envelope expecting it to be 40 bucks maybe. I would cash it, buy some lip gloss and a new shirt at Forever 21. However, when I opened the envelope I got a pleasant surprise. It was $200. I was not expecting that money. An unintentionally entertaining preshow coupled with a nice amount of surprise money. This was the best day ever!!! MCSWEET!!! DOUBLE WIN!!!
I also got an email from the booker wanting to talk about a better time slot and more dates. He also complimented me on my show. My mother was quick to point out that these were good people who made sure I got paid and want me back. She told me to consider more dates with them, and to think about my next show. Again, they are good people. They are like a needle in a stack of needles in my business sometimes. So yes, I will be back there to headline.
I have come a long way. Now that I am learning to use my wings, it is becoming easier to fly as a headliner. Note: Yes, I am an angel with horns. I am not a brat. There is a huge difference. And yes, my clothing is size appropriate.