Music Not Unlike Flatulence

15 Nov

from August 7, 2008

I’ve been a great supporter of the summer Seaside Concert Series in Brighton Beach/Coney Island. Oh, not in the financial sense. (They’re free. That’s the point. Oh, I know Marty Markowitz has to pay those guys, but that his problem. That’s why we elected him, to deal with things like that. Or that’s why you elected him. I didn’t vote for him. I save my vote for the biggies, like Senator, or Viscount, or whatever we send up to the state capitol in Buffalo. If I waste my vote on a mere borough president it will devalue the power of my more important votes. My vote makes a statement! Just last week I cast some votes for American Idol, only to find that the competition ended months ago. And then it turned out that Jimmy Hendrix wasn’t even in it. So I’m not going to waste time on some guy who only stands about four feet tall.) Anyway, I support the concerts in the sense that I show up and tell people I was there, thus spreading the word.

I’ve been mistaken about the location of the concerts too. I’ve always thought the park was called “Asher Levy Park.” Nope. I was wrong. When I was there last week I spotted a sign that named the place “Asser Levy Park.” Asser? C’mon, that has to be some guy at the Parks Department having a joke on us. But it isn’t. I googled the guy (that is NOT dirty, no matter how it sounds. It is a beautiful thing, when a man googles another man. Not that I’m into that sort of thing.) and I found out that he was one of the first Jewish settlers in New Amsterdam, around 1655. So for all those who say that New York is full of Jews, blame him.

The concerts are staged in a big band shell, with good lighting and sound gear. There is a real stage and it is all very professional, which is why they get acts ranging from the small (Billy and the Boingers) to the big Atlantic City acts (Frankie Valli, Aretha Franklin) to the washed up (Huey Lewis.) They’ve got video screens, big name emcees (Like Cousin Brucie, and before you get ready to argue, there is no one bigger than Cousin Brucie-eeeeEEEEeeee in my musical joke book.) and draw huge crowds that fill the park and surrounding streets.

That’s not where I went tonight.

I went to a show in Marine Park sponsored by Senator Marty Golden and let me tell you, the guy is cheap.

I drove up to the park and expected to see a big stage set up. I didn’t. I saw guys playing football, kids riding bikes, people walking dogs, and a guy selling what appeared to be stolen mp3 players out of his trunk. I took out my copy of the concert schedule and checked. Yep, I was right- I left it at home. What I pulled out of the glove compartment was a receipt for an oil change in 2005.

Anyway, I drove around to the back end of the park and sure enough, there was a sign about the show and I saw a bunch of people setting up their chairs. I parked alongside the park, got my chair out of the trunk, took my Big Gulp (75% diet Pepsi, 25% Pepsi, dash of cherry for taste) and ambled over.

There is an art to ambling. You really don’t see ambling much anymore, outside of old Westerns, and even there it gets confused with moseying. But I know the difference and, chair in left hand, Big Gulp in right, I ambled over to the show and the first sounds of music drifted to my ears.

It was the Chicken Dance.

In between some trees there was a group of senior citizens, about 13, not counting the lady in the wheel chair, doing the Chicken Dance. That was my first warning, but I had a good amble going and I strode on to where it seemed the concert was going to be held.

I wasn’t really sure I was in the right place. Everyone (and by everyone I mean “everyone over 50.” Anyone younger was playing basketball or jogging. I was with the wrong crowd.) had set up their chairs in front of a handball wall. There was a van next to the court, and people were on the courts behind playing handball. I was sure there was some mistake and I was going to see a handball competition. Some kind of geriatric X-Games or something. But then I saw the stage.

Webster’s Dictionary defines stage as “to represent, produce, or exhibit on or as if on a stage: Ex- The drama class staged a play during Christmas vacation” Clearly, I didn’t mean the verb form.

As a noun, a stage is defined as “a raised platform or floor, as for speakers, performers, etc.”

Marine Park defines a stage as “two tables covered with a black tablecloth.”

In front of the wall were two tables pushed together, a microphone stand , and some speakers on poles. The microphone stand and speakers were balanced on the tables. Off to the side was a DJ who was having trouble getting the microphone to work. (“Is this thing ZZURCH -esting testing hello can you XXZZCRUNFFF out there? SHRKKERRRCHCCH shit! Oh!”) Above it all was a droopy banner announcing that this event was sponsored by Senator Marty Golden. The banner was sagging and the tape was peeling from the wall. It looked like even the banner was embarrassed to be there. It clearly wanted to get off the wall and go somewhere else.

I settled under a tree and sipped my Big Gulp and waited. Pretty soon a bald guy with a thick beard came out and stood in front of the stage. He didn’t dare climb up and I didn’t blame him. He had a microphone which worked reasonably well (assuming you were in the first eight rows. No one else could hear him.) He thanked all the great sponsors, none of whom were there, and told the crowd (which I’d estimate upwards of a few dozen, though they were lively. Some of them waved their canes.) that there was no act yet booked for next week. “But!” he said, and paused meaningfully, “we’re working on it.”

It was a nice day. The weather had about zero humidity and there was a nice breeze. Otherwise I never would have stayed. I had my laundry in the trunk and the option to the concert was going home and putting it away. So I sat there.

I was there on a night when we were blessed with not one, but two BIG NAMES, the bearded bald guy announced. First up was, hold on to your hats, AN ELVIS IMPERSONATOR!. After him was somebody named Carl Thomas. Or Tom Carlson. Or Carlos Thompson, whatever, I don’t care.

The Elvis impersonator came out and wisely he didn’t get on the stage. The DJ started spinning karaoke versions of Elvis hits, many of which seemed to come from the Kidz Bop children’s CD. I was sure it was a joke. It had to be. The impersonator looked uncannily like Diedrich Bader, who played Oswald Lee Harvey (yes) on the Drew Carey Show. But it wasn’t. It was just a really bad Elvis impersonator.

How bad was he? It is tough to explain. He came out in a white jumpsuit with gold designs and sparkles. He had a cape and a scarf. He wore a big pair of sunglasses and his hair was in a semi-reasonable pompadour. He wasn’t fat, which I would have loved, but he was a pre-too many fried banana sandwiches Elvis. It wasn’t how he looked. It wasn’t even how he sang, which was not quite, but almost, entirely unlike Elvis. No, it was his performance. I almost shudder to write this, but the guys performance lacked all the subtleties of the real Elvis Presley.

Yeah, I know. “Subtleties of the real Elvis Presley.” I told you it was hard to explain.

He had all of Elvis’ moves, which he did in a random-seeming pattern regardless of the song. He invited woman on “stage” with him, and he got several nearly mobile octogenarians and one weird guy who looked like Kramer and danced like him too. He did In the Ghetto, some song about his momma, and he did Ike and Tine Turner’s Rollin’ on the River, for some reason. (You ever see SNL when Kevin Nealon did Weekend Update? Tim Meadows would come on as Ike and abuse Kevin like he abused Tina. Spousal abuse is fun!)

So “Elvis” thrusted and gyrated among the rapidly wheezing old folks and tried to get the audience to sing along. And here he made his biggest mistake.

In the audience was a mentally disabled man who wanted to sing with Elvis. His mother brought him up to the “stage” (handball court) and “Elvis” sat with him on a couple of chairs and there they sang Rollin’ on the River. In all seriousness (for real, seriously) I felt really happy for that guy. He had a smile that would have lit up the park had he not been missing a great many teeth. Without a doubt this guy, who had faced many challenges in his life, was very very happy. Good for him! It made me feel good to see it.

Therefore what follows is in no way insensitive.

The handicapped guy (whom I will refer to as Obama, for no particular reason, other than it is short and easy to type and is quite a few letters shorter than “the handicapped guy”) put his arm around “Elvis” (and here I am dropping the quotation marks. Less typing = me getting to sleep sooner) and Elvis removed his arm. Obama smiled his wacky smile and tried to grab the mike. Elvis pulled it away. Obama scratched his head and smiled and put his arm around Elvis again. All the while Elvis was sneering his way through “left a good job in the city.” Apparently Obama knew a few words because whenever he felt it was time, he grabbed the mike and said, and I am striving for accuracy, “Wollin’ wollin’ in the billfer! Hee hee!”

Elvis was a pro, so to speak. He smiled and sang his way through the song all the way to the end, which didn’t come nearly soon enough for him but way too soon for Obama, who wouldn’t go to his mother and kept following Elvis around the stage. Elvis was trying to tell the “crowd” how when he was young his momma made him promise that if he ever went to Brooklyn he had to make sure to visit Marine Park, and he was proud to tell his momma that he saw Marine Park, thank you very much. This was backed up by Obama’s “wollin’ wollin’!” in the background until someone helped his mother wrangle him off the stage.

Well, Elvis part of the show over, the bearded bald guy came back out and told us that the next act was ready to go. I thought he meant “ready to go home,” like I was, but he meant “ready to go on stage” so I sat back down.

I was getting dark now and the DJ set up a spotlight. Or he tried to set it up. It worked about as well as any spotlight that looked like it was from 1929 could be expected to work.

Carl Thomas, Tom Callous, whatever, came out and I nearly had a heart attack because he leaped on the stage. It shook but it held. I was sure I was going to see a fatality. Tex Carlson, whatever, has to be about 70 years old and he shouldn’t be leaping onto his dialysis machine, let alone a couple of rickety tables.

He had a pretty good voice. Apparently Tricky Carville, Carlos, whatever, had an act back in his day, maybe a hundred years ago. He did some Frank Sinatra songs, some Dean Martin songs, and a lot of Bobby Darin songs but NOT Mack the Knife. I’m sure he was saving it for an encore but the crowd never called for one and he was so clearly angry at the audience that he probably wouldn’t have done one anyway.

What was he angry about? First it was the DJ, whom he had never met before. That night the DJ had the easiest job in the world- put on Consuelos Tomaso’s, whatever, CD and let it play. At some point though, the singer, what’s his name, decided he wanted a pause between each song. OK, no big deal, song ends, hit pause. The DJ did just that. But Carl Carlson somehow assumed that the DJ had the magical ability to know when to start the music again. Well, you and I and a few yogis in India may possess that ability, but the DJ didn’t and Tex Ritter, or whatever, had to say “go!” when he wanted it to start again. You could tell by the way he rolled his eyes, the way muttered under his breath, and the one time when he gave the DJ the finger that he was not happy.

He was also angry with the dancers. The senior Rockettes had stayed on the court. With them was a circle of 6 young girls, from 5 to 8 years old who danced right in front of him and threw him off his game until he shooed them away. What he said was, and I quote “Hey, can somebody get these little (growl) darlings out of here before I go nuts???”

Also walking in front of him every three seconds was a clearly drunk guy in a cowboy hat who was waving his arms at the crowd to get them up to dance. At one point he tried to say that into the singer’s mike but the singer yanked it away from him.

The guy who looked and danced like Kramer was still there and he was the highlight of the show for me. I could only see him in silhouette and it was hysterical. He was all gangly legs, gawky arms, and stupid hair. But in retrospect, he may have been doing a better Elvis than the first guy did.

As the singer got more and more annoyed the pauses between songs get shorter and shorter and he finally said that he only had two more songs left. Good thing too because I had finished my Big Gulp.

The crowd wanted Mack the Knife. They called it out. The guy actually said “how can I not do that?” the prick, and never did it. The act ended, he got off the table, waved, and left. I saw him walk directly off the handball court and into the parking lot and out of the park.

The bald beardo came back out and thanked us but WAIT! It was time for the raffle.

Raffle? Sure, the raffle. Before the concert the volunteers had given everyone raffle tickets. But somehow they skipped me. And also the thirty or forty people around me. We started yelling that we never got tickets but he laughed and said “sorry, one ticket per person.” We yelled that we never got a single raffle. He said it was getting late. We booed. He picked three names and two got ugly Senator Marty Golden t-shirts and one got a ticket to see the Elvis impersonator in Rex Manor. Not a pair, a single ticket.

I checked my watch and shocked to see that, despite the fact that I had felt six years of my life pass out of my body, less than two hours had passed from the start of the show. I folded my chair, threw out my empty Big Gulp cup, and ambled back to my car.

As I look over the upcoming events, I see that upcoming shows feature salsa dancing, a Bay Ridge party band, and face painting.

They will not feature me. I have Son of Godzilla on my TiVo.

One Response to “Music Not Unlike Flatulence”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Music Not Unlike Flatulence (Classic Repost) « Mr. Blog's Tepid Ride - July 9, 2010

    […] from August 7, 2008 I've been a great supporter of the summer Seaside Concert Series in Brighton Beach/Coney Island. Oh, not in the financial sense. (They're free. That's the point. Oh, I know Marty Markowitz has to pay those guys, but that his problem. That's why we elected him, to deal with things like that. Or that's why you elected him. I didn't vote for him. I save my vote for the biggies, like Senator, or Viscount, or whatever we send up to … Read More […]

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