Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Start of the Karaoke Monster

My parents gave me my first cassette tape karaoke machine when I was about twelve or thirteen.  They were trying really hard to support me in my music.  That little machine got a lot of use over the years!
In college, I started working for the Crazy Asian. (I'm serious. That's what people called him.) He owned the local Karaoke company.  He also owned a little diner down town that had karaoke on the weekends.  I had sung with his company prior to the diner.  But then, the diner became a more permanent weekend focus for a friend and me.  The C.A. started asking J. and I to start K.J.'ing the karaoke.  So, we did.  Then, he started paying us in diner gift certificates.  Well, J. and I quickly realized, this wasn't legal, and he said, "Oh, this is your training! After you learn how to K.J. here, I give you real jobs!"  That turned into one real gig for me and because J. wasn't 21 at the time, she got nothing.  The "real" gig turned into one of the worse nights of Karaoke ever.  You know, one of those nights when only four people sign up to sing repeatedly, and I was one of them!  So, the K.J.'ing didn't ever go anywhere.  After that dive closed, C.A.  bought/rented another space and made it 21 and over.  Friends and I would go to that one.  When his K.J. didn't show up, he'd look at me and say, "You K.J. or no karaoke."  I couple times I did.  One night, we all just got up and left after the third or fourth time.  He wasn't paying me.  He'd be like, "I'll give you free drinks!"  Ya, because my Diet Coke was that expensive.  The Crazy Asian did a lot things that weren't exactly legal. 
When I was living in the Chicago Suburb, the group of people that I started hanging out with from work liked to karaoke also.  We started going to this little restaurant that had karaoke on Sunday nights.  The K.J.'s there followed the "rules of karaoke" which I really appreciated, and they had some rules of their own that not all karoake places follow. 
Rule #1.  There's an order to the singers.  All singers and K.J.'s will follow this order.  All new singers will be added to the end of the round.  K.J.'s shouldn't be letting their friends sing just as much as they want because they feel like it.
Rule #2.  Be kind to all singers, no matter how good or bad.  As H. would say, "It's the spirit of Karaoke!" 
Rule #3.  Watch your language.  Keep it appropriate even if the song doesn't.  (Not all places follow this rule.  Sometimes I don't even follow this rule!) 
Rule #4. Do not use a fake name so you can sing more.  (I'm serious. People do this.)
Rule #5 Do not bring your drink up with you! Sound equipment is very expensive!
I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting, but I'll leave it at those for now.
We had a really good time going as a group to this little restaurant and singing.  Then, I bought my own karaoke machine with it's own little screen.  We started having our own karaoke parties that included some DDR too.  Those are definitely some great memories!
Then, I moved to Indiana and started hanging out with my sister more. My sister and I started to go to Karaoke at a little bar inside the motel, The Econo Lodge. We actually probably started going there way before when I was in college or visiting from the suburbs.  We had been frequenting this little place for years.  Then, one day we showed up, and they were having a private party.  We also found out they were under new management.  We tried to follow the couple that ran the karaoke to their new places.  But they got creepier and seedier, so, we started going to a couple other places.  At first, we were going to Uncle E's, (I think that's what it was called.) which was a Lesbian bar.  But we always got to sing a ton there, the K.J. was really nice, and I didn't mind not being hit on by old men.  We also started going to The Office Lounge, which is a haunt for the locals.  The Office Lounge was always busy.  People were usually kind and supportive of all the the singers.  They also have a good dinner menu.  When we started going there, it was usually fun.  The only nights I didn't like were when the college kids would come.  They were usually loud and obnoxious.  It was always somebody's twenty-first birthday!
Karaoke became a relatively cheap and easy outlet to sing.  I started trying to find places in Indianapolis that I felt comfortable karaokeing with.  I also re-connected with some college friends who like to sing also.  So, they would go along with me and my karaoke obsession.  I think my sister actually came up with going to Nippers to sing.  Her friends used to go there and thought it was a great place.  This place was always busy.  I also didn't always feel comfortable singing.  I know that doesn't make since, but it was something about the crowd or atmosphere. 
My group of friends and I started trying Olly's.  It was a gay bar/ diner down town.  There were always a ton of singers. It was always extremely smokey.  I'm not much for crowded and smokey.  We tried that for a while.  They also had karaoke on weird nights for people with jobs, Wednesdays and Sundays. 
Then, we heard of this place really close to where I lived.  My friend B. and I went to check out this place called Buckets.  They had a great crowd, and Dr. Phil was the K.J. He is a very nice man and really enjoys what he does.   You could tell that while he was doing his job!  Dr. Phil's wife also assisted him sometimes.  He created are real group of people that really just enjoyed karaoke.  He had karoake at the bowling ally bar Wednesdays and Fridays, and then, he was at Buckets on Saturdays.  B. and I would go to one of Dr. Phil's shows at least once a week. We did this for almost a year, taking little breaks here and there.  Then, the bowling ally bar stopped having him, so, we stopped going there.  We continued to go to Buckets for a while. 
One day, I got a text from Dr. Phil's wife that said, "We learned as of 2pm today that Buckets will be closing for business after tonight."  B. and I had gone the week before and the air conditioner wasn't working.  It was very strange.  Our server, the one who had become a friend, kept apologizing to us for the inconvienence.  The night Buckets was closing it's doors forever, I went with some friends.  The second I walked in the door, the server ran up to me and said, "We are closing down karaoke after these singers.  Do you still want your drinks?"  I was shocked!  It was only 10:30pm at the latest!  We said "No", and we left. 
Since then, I may have gone to karaoke a couple times with my sister to The Office Lounge.  I didn't really find it enjoyable though.  They have new young K.J.'s that bring in new young customers.  The kind of customers that drive me away. 
I'll just stay home and karaoke for now.

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