Monday, March 7, 2011

Eating Kar-a-CROW-ke

Guster--"Wanted Dead Or Alive (live)" (mp3)
Guster--"Hungry Like The Wolf (live)" (mp3)

For the better part of the last 23 years, I spent my Wednesday evenings at a place named Magoo's in a part of the city known as East Ridge. It was kind of a dive bar that was too dark inside to ever get rid of the residual smells of the night, week, or year before. But the people were friendly and the comfort of being known as a regular is always enticing. It was one of those sports bars that played sports without the sound on. It had a jukebox and its own bowling team. Magoo's had a cold beer and a very solid hamburger, and it was the place that we went after a calorie-burning evening of Geriatric Basketball. Every week.

My wife likes to say that we raised our children there (not entirely untrue).

My friend Steve and I like to say that as long as we arrived as an all-male crowd, the waitress, Vicki, would give us the best service we have ever received. Bring a woman or two along, and the service got frostier than the mugs.

Eventually it became acceptable for my wife to join us, especially because she brought one and then two children with her, who would crawl underneath the booths from one to the next in an elaborate game of something. Our little daughters became beloved Magoo's regulars, so much so that one night a drunken table of adults starting handing them large bills for their cuteness. And the rest of us, we were such regulars that we got personal invitations to special events like the Halloween party and the Christmas party. We were so in.

But all of that was the old Magoo's. Vicki left. The food went a bit downhill. The clientele thinned out. And about 5-6 years ago, the owner sold the bar to a couple of women with shortish haircuts (of a style I can't quite describe--I could use a female faculty member's hair to describe them, but where would that get me). And, besides, this isn't about their hair. This is about their love of karaoke.

Soon after they took over, Magoo's began featuring karaoke almost every night of the week. Part of it, we noticed, was because the owners themselves liked to step up to the mike and perform at top volume. For awhile, we were able to plan our visits around the karaoke, which explains why Thursday, and not Wednesday, became Magoo's night for us and various family and faculty members. On Wednesday, it was the worst of all possible karaoke nights, because there was a little girl who appeared there every Wednesday night, and even had a loyal following. Wednesday nights were packed with fans, but the karoke was cranked up so loud that we couldn't hear ourselves talk to each other, and Magoo's was, first and foremost, always a place to debrief and catch up.

If we did have to go on Wednesdays, we spend much of our time making derisive comments, not so much about the little singer as about her mother, who seemed to be living vicariously through her little girl's karaoke career.

We stopped going to Magoo's. The last time we walked in, karaoke had spread to Thursday nights, and as we walked in the door, we heard a woman exclaim, "What I lack in talent I make up for in volume!" We turned right around and walked out and have never been back. Now we go to Bud's. Every Thursday night.

But if you live around here, you know how this story ends. The little girl did not stop singing, and she sang beyond the walls of that stale bar in East Ridge. And now, as she has gotten some national recognition in the past few weeks, you know that her name is Lauren and she is one of the 10 finalists on this year's season of American Idol.

So, yeah, I'm eating some crow, and my friend Steve is eating some crow, since he once teased her about doing her homework or something and found her barely able to put together a response. Yes, we saw the whole thing as pretty foolish and we were very condescending. We made fun of her when she was too loud or a bit "pitchy." We made fun of her redneck demeanor. We made all kind of jokes about her wanting to be a professional karaoke singer when she grew up. We mocked all the customers who drove out on Wednesday night to watch their favorite karaoke singer. You will probably make fun of us for that.

But then, you never saw Billy perform a karoke version of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive" on Bourbon Street. If you had, you wouldn't think that karaoke could lead anywhere either.

Just kidding, pal. Sort of.

8 comments:

troutking said...

No need to risk insulting faculty members. Just describe Magoo's new owners' hairstyles as either the Rachel Maddow or the new Justin Bieber.

Bob said...

I think the "Rachel Maddow" just about nails it, pal. Thanks.

BeckEye said...

Haha...I saw that picture and was like, "Wow, she looks like that heavily made up teenager from AI."

Can I share this little tidbit with the people from Vote for the Worst? They will appreciate it. Especially the part about the stage mom.

Billy said...

For the record, if you sing that song enough times at Cat's Meow, it is actually possible to have seen a million faces and (debatably) rocked them all.

Sometimes you tell the day by the bottle that you drink. Especially in New Orleans.

You might be eating crow, but I somehow doubt that, equipped with this new knowledge and a Back to the Future-style Delorean, you would go back and reconsider suffering through night after night of her singing...

Bob said...

Beck-Eye: of course.

Beery: why go back to the future? Why not just go to today's Magoos to see the next potential American Idol finalist?

BeckEye said...

Just curious...now there's an article saying that Lauren performed a two-hour show every Wednesday, but there's no mention of karaoke. Were other people also singing on those nights, or was it just her?

Bob said...

At Magoo's, it was her show, it was karaoke. There were occasional other singers (like her mom), sometimes little kids. There was never any musical accompaniment except the karaoke machine.

TommyD said...

Magoo's went downhill ever since they stopped those bobbing-for-apples competitions....
(I kicked that Marine's ASS!)