I am Not Sonny Bono
No matter how many times I claim I will never sing in public again, Karaoke or otherwise, I always seem to get roped back into it. Funny how that always seems to be the case. For someone who has been accused of stubbornness from time to time, its amazing how easily I can be convinced to un-retire from public displays of bad singing.
Wednesday evening was the office Christmas party. I walked in two hours after it had kicked off, because I had another party to go to right after work. I had not been in the door two minutes when one guy handed me a bottle of beer, and another one handed me a pool cue. "Here, you got next game, buddy." These are the things that happen when you're a popular guy. Free beer and a ready-waiting game of pool.
After we finished the game (we lost), I ordered up another beer and began making the rounds, because when you know so many people at a party, you need to make sure to at least say hi to all of them. Halfway through that second beer I walked up to a table of ladies from the office. One of them was itching to sing karaoke, but there were two problems. One, she didn't want to sing alone and Two, she wanted to sing a song that was a duet requiring a male vocalist. Specifically, she wanted to sing the Sonny & Cher classic, "I Got You Babe".
Apparently she had been asking people all night, and had been rebuked several times over. Having just arrived minutes before, I had yet had the chance to follow suit. Because don't be mistaken, there was no way I was going to sing. Asking me was merely a formality; my answer was already prepared, and it was two letters...not three.
As a matter of fact, we had been laughing at the dude butchering "When Can I See You Again" from Babyface while we were shooting pool. And then we had laughed about the time at the Christmas party seven years ago -- while I was still in college, and an intern to boot -- when I similarly butchered a Monkees Medley of "Last Train To Clarksville", "Daydream Believer" and "I'm A Believer" at the end of the night. And the time I absolutely destroyed any remaining goodwill left of "Mony Mony" with a ridiculous version the next year. It was so bad that we haven't had Karaoke at a party since. Not saying its entirely my fault. I'm just sayin'.
So this brings me back to present day. And I cannot explain the following sequence, no matter how many times I go over it my mind.
Fake Cher: "I reeeeallly want to go sing. You'll sing with me, won't you?"
Me: "I Can't Go For That. No can do." Incidentally, that Daryl Hall reference probably only impressed me, but that's OK. Good job, me.
(Gratuitous goading from various co-workers) "Come on, we need a good laugh! You know you want to!"
FC: "Yeah come on, sing with me!"
Me: "Ooooookay, I suppose. Sure."
FC: "Can you sing?"
Me: "Nope. I'm terrible. But I have stage presence!"
Shaking my head, I ordered a glass of water. See, there's this ridiculous perception making the rounds that I do silly things to embarrass myself when I drink. This is utter nonsense. I am perfectly capable of making a fool out of myself when I'm 100% sober. Also, I cannot be embarrassed. Not possible.
So to prove this, I ordered a water. I did not need a beer to push me onstage. And soon enough, we were on stage. To my great delight, one of the mic's was on a mic stand. That's dominant for a lot of reasons; not least of which is it just seems easier to work a crowd with a mic on a stand. Plus it feels more dramatic.
I grabbed the mic and immediately gave a Goulet-shout-out to two people in the back of the room; Fake Cher was already regretting asking me to sing, and we hadn't even sang a note! "Great to be back in Burbank, Johnny. Mmmm, Burbank."
And then the words started coming. I sang about half of the blue ones (that would be Sonny's portion) and ad-libbed the rest. Thanks to the mic stand, I was able to do some great Neil Diamond-type hand gestures and finger points, which always look sexy, or at the very least, ridiculous. The room was in stitches, including Fake Cher, who was so flustered by my turning this into the Robert Goulet-Neil Diamond-Sonny Bono Show that she then proceeded to interrupt me and sing the blue words. So when the pink words came on next, I sang those. Rapped them, actually. Ripped the mic off the stand, and began walking the room. Kicked over the mic stand in my quest to turn Sonny Bono into Kanye West, which only proceeded to turn it into a "Mic Stand Of Doom" when it almost took out our IT manager who was trying to capture this moment on film. Then I tried really hard to channel Sonny Bono for the closing verse, which we sang together, and at which point I got theatrical and became a hybrid of Neil Diamond and Freddy Mercury. Freddy Diamond. You bet.
Even the DJ was mortified-slash-impressed. Probably frightened. Can't say I blame him, really. We walked back to our group in the back of the bar, to thundering applause. The CEO of the company congratulated me; one of the VP's said it was the funniest thing he'd seen all night. Someone else said, "You guys should go on tour!"
Fake Cher: "I have a black wig..."
Me: "I could grow a mustache..."
IT Guy: "Nice, dude."
The lesson, as always: it doesn't matter if you can't sing, as long as you can captivate an audience with stage presence. Tom Jones has made a career out of this simple fact. He can't hold a candle, singing wise, to Tony Orlando. But who's the one singing "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ol' Oak Tree" with Dawn, and who's the one singing "Thunderball" in the credits of a James Bond movie? My point exactly.
Oh, and I really mean it this time: This is the last time I will sing in public.
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