Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Mobbed Up - Part 4

I was told to report to Molly Malone’s, a bar on Maine Street that I had determined lacked a jukebox, but which turned out to have one of the new state-of-the-art karaoke machines with automatic pitch correction. I’d been told to report to the proprietor, the pronunciation of whose name I couldn’t even guess from the way it was spelled. But he was a good sport and said I should just call him Boss, or Declan, whichever I preferred. Declan is Elvis Costello’s original first name, and The Boss is what they call Bruce Springsteen. I have grown fed up with both of them over the years, and so asked if I might address him instead as Seamus, or Aidan. He asked if I were a wise guy. I asked if he meant in the old sense, or in the more recent one, connoting affiliation with organized crime. I admitted that I was naturally mischievous, and had indeed been called a wise guy in the traditional sense, and pointed out that I was taking the job in hope of becoming a wise guy in the Martin Scorsese sense. He wearily massaged the bridge of his nose and told me to remind him not to ask me anything else any time soon. He gave me a can of pepper spray to squirt into the faces of unruly patrons and sent me outside, where people had already begun to queue, or line up, depending on how refined they were.

I checked everyone’s ID that first night, even that of those who would never see 45 again, just so I could ask why they’d chosen Molly’s rather than any of the other karaoke bars in the vicinity. Not one of them didn’t say it was because he or she seemed to sing much better at Molly’s than at other bars. I would then point out that might have something to do with Molly’s system being state-of-the-art, with automatic pitch correction. A few people, who seemed to want to imagine themselves terrific singers, harrumphed at that. Several of the others seemed embarrassed. Whatever their reactions, I mused pointedly that the state-of-the-art system was expensive to maintain. I stamped the left hand of those who had the presence of mind to respond to that by pressing a crisp $20 bill into my palm. The others got stamped on their right hands.

One woman, who looked as though full of botox, with an expensive-looking hairdo and attire unmistakably bought in boutiques, rather than at department stores, was sorely offended. She snapped, “You might be interested to know that I was very, very close to signing with Atlantic Records in 1990, but decided to pursue modeling instead.”

“Well,” I said, thoughtfully, music’s loss was modeling’s gain, I guess.”
She wasn’t appeased. If anything, she was only getting more irate the longer she stood there, with her boyfriend or husband --- who was probably 15 years her junior, with the sort of features that are commonly described as chiseled — looking as though he wished the ground would open and swallow him whole. “It so happens that the last time I came here, and sang Whitney, half the audience was in tears at the end.”

When I said, without smirking, I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t in tears again tonight after she sang. She looked at her boyfriend, as though trying to inspire him to brutalize me with his fists, but as regular readers know, I exude the sort of self-confident virility that suppresses other men’s production of testosterone, and all he did was shrug at me, as though to ask, “Women: what are we to do with ‘em?”

Once inside the club, most of those with stamps on their right hands discovered that their sense of pitch was strangely intermittent. For eight bars, they’d be scrupulously in tune. But then there’d be eight bars of horror. The woman who’d given me such a hard time — I’ll call her Ms. Tears-at-the-End — wasn’t that lucky. From the opening bars of “I Will Always Love You,” her singing was like a roomful of North Koreans yanking Styrofoam carelessly from small appliance boxes. She hadn’t even reached the first chorus before people began jumping to their feet and hurrying toward the exit with their hands over their ears. She tried breathing more deeply from her diaphragm, but that only made her louder, a more excruciating. Finally, with only half a dozen people left in the club, all of them grimacing, she burst into tears, and ran from the club herself.

I resisted the temptation to trip her as she passed me, but only barely.

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