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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Word of the Day, vol. XVI

Word of the Day: MUSIC

In the summer and fall of 2004, I had a brief stint as a nightclub singer at a piano bar in the Castro.

OK, that’s not entirely true.

I don’t remember how we discovered it—S probably does—but for weeks in a row, she and I and her brother and our friends would get dressed up, head to Martuni’s (it took me like a year to get that joke), and drink fancy drinks while we waited for our names to be called so we could get up and sing to a room full of gay men and fruit flies.

Weekly, I would stand by the piano, nervously, while the pianist, Houston, would coach me and coax me through “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys and Dolls. It was a huge crowd pleaser and sometimes I even sang it well.

Mostly, I was just having an insane time, dressed in clingy black dresses and pearls and fedoras and slashes of red lipstick. Trying to be super sexy and forgetting that I was playing to the wrong audience. Although, the friends we brought always appreciated it.

I was never really sure what I was doing, but I knew I had something…a little different to offer.

Eventually, I added “When You’re Good to Mama” to my repertoire, which I would belt to the high heavens. It’s hilarious to think that this song actually made me feel a little bit like a rockstar.

We gained a bit of notoriety at the bar; people would stop us to congratulate us as we exited, dashing to catch the last BART train or to pile foolishly into S’s parents’ car and head back to Berkeley, where we’d stay up late, eating donuts or noodles or just keeping drinking, while we regaled the events of the night.

I was in summer school that summer and we would crash, still reeling from alcohol, and I’d wake up, sweaty and hungover and have to run to campus to work in the costume shop or go to my improv class, thinking I would die on the way there.

I don’t remember sleeping more than six hours a night that entire summer.

It was an incredibly heady time, for more reasons than I can even mention here. Things among the group got very intense and our reign at Martuni’s sort of fizzled, as the summer ended. I performed a poorly executed version of “Anyone Can Whistle” one night and realized a little bit of the magic was gone.

Sometimes I imagine reclaiming my post by the piano, when I visit San Francisco, just as a lark.

I would do it just to recall some of that magic.

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