I was watching Lost In Translation not long ago. Great movie, and I’ve mentioned before my fondness for Bill Murray. I do believe he’s one of the premier actors of our generation, and if you don’t believe me, I’ve got two words for you: Day, and Groundhog.
Only not in that order.
There’s a scene in the film where Bill’s character, Bob – a past-his-prime American actor spending time in Tokyo to film a whiskey commercial – is in a bar and ends up singing karaoke in order to impress a girl (Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson, who is much younger, feeling neglected by her husband, and with that face and body certainly worth the trouble of impressing). He steps up to the microphone and belts out Roxy Music’s “More Than This.”
Quite poorly, I might add.
But the thing about this performance is – it actually makes karaoke look fun. And when I think of karaoke, “fun” is not the word that comes to mind. “Terrifying,” maybe. Or “I’d have to be pretty damn drunk to ever consider making a fool of myself in public,” perhaps. But most certainly not “fun.”
Then again, I’m sort of scarred for life. I had a bad karaoke experience once, and I wasn’t even the one singing.
There was this girl, you see.
(And isn’t that always the case)?
Actually, “girl” is being charitable. She was an older woman, an honest-to-goodness what the kids call cougar. And she had the hots for me. I was very freshly divorced at the time (actually, separated – the divorce was still a few weeks away from being final, but the ex and I had split months earlier and were already living in separate condos), and eager to dip my toes into the dating pool again. Or maybe not my toes per se, but whatever. The point is, I wanted to have some fun, and this woman – whom I had worked with at a previous job – was down for that. She wasn’t at all my type, but you know that axiom about not looking for Ms. Right but being perfectly content with Ms. Right Now? That was my attitude in 2006.
Sorry, mom. I know you’re reading this. Gulp.
Anyway, she came over for a date, and while I was perfectly content to stay in, she wanted to go out and do something after we’d eaten pizza. I was thinking a movie might be fun, but then she suggested karaoke.
“Come on, it’ll be fun!” she said, and I groaned because there was somebody else using an adjective to describe karaoke that I would never in a million years select myself. But I figured I owed her that much, considering we weren’t planning on parting ways for another fourteen hours or so. Go ahead and read between the lines. So I acquiesced, and we drove into Portland.
I should have known the night was going to go from good to not-so-good when Ms. Right Now not only had a particular karaoke spot in mind, but informed me as we pulled into the parking lot that she was “a regular.” Sure enough, the minute we walked through the door, the crowd greeted her by name. This reminded me of “Norm!!” from Cheers. Everybody really did know her name.
We squeezed into a booth, where we were joined by Ms. Right Now’s daughter and boyfriend. I was more attracted to the daughter than I was to her. Maybe because we were closer in age.
OK, I exaggerate. But she was cuter.
Ms. Right Now handed me what I assumed was a menu, only instead of containing things like cheeseburgers and chicken wings, this one listed songs. Thousands and thousands of songs. You’d place your order, and when it was ready, they’d call you up to the mic. My eyes glazed over as I skimmed through the myriad choices. You could sing basically anything that had ever been recorded in the past half-century, ranging from AC/DC to Zeppelin, Led. Again, I had no desire whatsoever to take the stage of what was a glorified honky-tonk bar and belt out a song badly.
“I’m not hungry,” I croaked.
Ms. Right Now was too busy preparing for her moment in the spotlight to pay me much heed. Suddenly, it was her turn to take the stage. The lights dimmed, the music blared, and she launched into “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. Oh, god. She writhed around the stage, shaking her hips suggestively, pouty lips and all. The crowd ate it up, cheering her every move. I, on the other hand, wanted to duck under the table. Or make a mad dash for the door, but I thought that would be considered poor decorum.
I’m glad she was having fun, but she looked absolutely ridiculous. She had twenty years and a dozen wrinkles on Ms. Spears. I’m only thankful that she wasn’t wearing the naughty schoolgirl outfit Britney sported in the video, though there were props in her performance. Like pompoms, which she shook much too rigorously for my tastes. There was nothing sexy or alluring or even remotely attractive about that rendition. And yet, the audience loved her.
The audience knew her. She was a regular. That has to explain the incessant applause and catcalls that were rained down on her.
I escaped from there without having to take the stage myself, fortunately. And when we got back to my place that night, I faked an illness. True story. I’m not proud of this, but I was much too turned off to be turned on. The next morning I was up early, watching TV while she slept in my bed. Ever since that night, the women I have dated have all been younger than me.
And none of them have suggested we go out for a night of karaoke.
- The Minnesota Timberwolves Sing Britney Spears Karaoke Because Why Wouldn’t They? (minnesota.sbnation.com)
- Karaoke Queen (anywherefab.com)