You Do Not Suck At All

I have cheated on my regular karaoke night.

I love karaoke. Love it. I'm not a particularly good singer in any way, shape, or form, but I convince myself of it in the shower, on long car rides, or by drinking. This started shortly after I moved to St Louis. I was slowly ingratiating myself into South City, and my friends took me to the River City Pub. River City is just a few blocks past the city limits on Gravois in Affton. It's a nondescript, no-frills type of place. With its neon beer signs, Big Buck Hunter game, cash-only bar, pool table, and the overwhelming beverage of choice Bud or Bud Light, it didn't even have a sign until last year.

My first visit, the one that hooked me, was honestly the event that sealed the deal that I was having way more fun in St Louis than I would have had staying in Des Moines living in my parents' basement. In order to understand the phenomenon that is River City karaoke, you must first understand its host, the infamous Ali Baba. Ali Baba is a middle-aged Pakistani with a heavy accent who in recent years has taken to wearing half-glasses. He likes to drink Hot Damn and has a shirt that is a map of Missouri. His life outside of River City was somewhat of an enigma, until Lazer saw him while visiting a company for her work and discovered that he is a book binder by day. He has several catchphrases he uses during karaoke, including "You do not suck at all," "We all go to (Johnny) Gitto's!" and "Is everybody having good time? Social!" He also sings. His signature song is "I Feel Good" in which he adds "Bitch" to the end of the line "..'cause I got you." He wants everyone to buy $2 shots of Hot Damn.

There are also several regulars at River City, the most famous of which (and most noteworthy) is Steve-O. Steve-O is approximately 56 but looks like he's about 75. Years of heavy drinking and smoking pot (which he does out back; this you can note as you go to the bathroom) make speculating as to whether or not Steve-O is, in fact, dead if he is NOT at the River City Pub (which, incidentally, he allegedly lives above) a regular occurrence. Steve-O is a legend because he sounds (on his better days) uncannily like John Fogarty, whom he will choose to emulate by singing CCR, but more likely you'll hear singing his signature number, "Gangster's Paradise" by Coolio. You have not lived until you hear an ate-up, aged hippie sing "Gangster's Paradise" with every fiber of his being. Along with Steve-O, there's also the Vietnam vet who sings "Chocolate Salty Balls" in an extremely loud monotone voice, never realizing that the novelty wore off long ago. There's also the chick who occasionally works at the bar, hugs me every time I see her as if we're old friends, and sings "Love Shack" with the Vietnam vet.

By the grace of God, my first visit was someone's bachelorette party. Not only did I hear the incendiary "Gangster's Paradise" performance, but saw what elevates Ali Baba from "funny guy with accent" to "totally audacious character who regularly exhibits borderline illegal behavior". In case you were wondering, Ali Baba has no problem with public displays of affection. With relative strangers. On this particularly cherry-poppin' visit, I witnessed Ali Baba effectively dry-hump the bride-to-be on the dance floor. I also, luckily, saw the bride's skirt hiked up around her waist and her lack of both underwear and public hair. To this day, I believe it was the closest I've ever been to another woman's vagina. I've also seen, on numerous special occasions (thankfully, not including my own bachelorette party, which did make a stop at RC) lucky ladies hoisted up by their asscheeks so Ali can put his face between their legs. I am not kidding. Trust me, that I have seen this on multiple occasions, nay, it has happened to multiple People I Actually Know, is not a fact that doesn't shock my sensibilities every time I visit.

For a while, we went to River City every Saturday night, but I realized it's a lot more fun if you space it out. So we go there every other month or so, get tanked, and try and see who can sing the most ironic song. I was doing Journey's "Open Arms" for a long time, because it seemed like a song the clientele would enjoy and I enjoy emulating Steve Perry. But I've switched it up to include "Brandy" by Looking Glass, "Purple Rain" by Prince, and duets with K.Vav such as "Picture" by Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock. Banter sings the theme song from Ghostbusters, which is really awesome. K-Vav sings "Careless Whisper" by Wham, also Awesome.

ANYWAY, although there is a group of hard-core River City fan among those whom with I socialize, there are a few (including my husband) who hate River City. Yeah, I know, like, what? It was for that reason that instead of going to River City on Friday night after a long night of drinking with the girls that we decided to head for Harry's on Southwest.

I've been to Harry's before. Some of Chris's friends hang out there regularly. But I've never been for karaoke. Although the crowd wasn't as great or large, there were several elements that have elevated it to equal status with River City. First of all, song selection. In my experience (and Randy Jackson's) song choice is everything. I personally like 80s pop. Ali's song list has remained relatively stagnant over the years. I've been dying to emulate Chrissie Hynde. So the fact that Harry's had "Brass In Pocket" (and at least eight other Pretenders songs) was selling point #1. #2: In the middle of karaoke, the host turned off the mike and turned on three rap videos and thus began a short-lived dance party, which I was just drunk enough to participate in. Because of my experience with contemporary high school dances in urban areas, I have some knowledge of how to dance to rap videos. I believe I can "walk it out" as well as any 27-year-old white woman from Iowa. #3: Bubble Machine. #4: More than two types of beer available. #5: New crowd of which to make fun. One dude sang Drowning Pool. Um, seriously? A methhead in a Blues sweatshirt sang Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" with one of the waitresses. One guy, seriously, sang "We Are The Champions" by Queen (and then Shannon sang "Somebody to Love" and I raised my hands up to the heavens from which she came).

Although I had a blast, I am hesitant to return to Harry's, even if it means I get to sing "Back on the Chain Gang". I feel like I've been in this long-term karaoke relationship with River City, and I'm cheating on it with the new, exciting, lusty Harry's. I don't know if the host at Harry's will ever greet me with an inappropriately-long hug or bump my song to the top of the list when I walk in. I do know I can use a credit-card there (plus) but I can't see Steve-O (minus, particularly since who knows when he's going to retire from karaoke on account of having to get a trach ring). I can sing "Party All The Time" by Eddie Murphy, but can I see a girl cry while sitting on a stool singing "Foolish Games" by Jewel? Chris will actually go to Harry's to see my vocal stylings, as opposed to River City, which he is loathe to set foot in. On any given night, would I rather be surrounded by the Bayless High School class of 2001 or the DuBourg class of 1999? And, as far as I can tell, people tend to keep their clothes on at Harry's, which could be a pro or con, depending on the person.

I guess it will have to be a game-time decision, one based on a careful consideration of all the pros and cons, one made in conjunction with whomever I am drinking with. But if I do decide to start going to Harry's with increased frequency, abandoning my karaoke roots in Affton, don't think I'm an unfaithful, wanton woman. I need to expand my horizons.

Just don't tell Ali Baba.


No Minimom said...

This post is just awesome.

I am so going to be checking out these places when I am no longer host to a 6 pound parasite.

My favorite karaoke characters include: The woman who sounds like Bob Dylan, but sings "I Will Always Love You" and "My Heart Will Go on" while her husband sits enraptured in the front row. The hard core biker gang member who can rock some "Rio" like you would not believe. Hoosier bars have the best karaoke scene.

Susan said...

Simply beautiful.

Matt & Steph - The STL said...

Gave you a shout on my blog...that post was gross.

See you at alumni. Hope all is well in the South City hood.

Anonymous said...

AWESOME!! what passion. i wish i had a photo of you dancing, instead i have one of you riding a small car. check out my post.

Anonymous said...

Love the post - long time reader, first time poster. Just want to make a quick correction: Ali Baba is Palestinian (as found out by Susan while dirty dancing with said kareoke host).

KBO said...

Damn. I do not want to oppress any Palestinians. Mea culpa, Ali Baba.

Susan said...

Whoa. Who's the lurker/spy? And I contend that it was not so much dirty dancing as it was a fact finding mission.