My best friend from elementary school had (and has) a pretty darn
spectacular mezzo soprano voice, one good enough to get her into the
local visual and performing arts high school and city-wide children and
youth chorales. Upon starting university in another province, she
acquired a taste for karaoke and found herself invited to compete in
her favourite haunt's competition. Each establishment sent two
performers on to the regional finals and then to the final finals in another part of the country.
I was visiting her after we'd finished our
respective first years of study in the spring of 2004 and as
she was preparing for said competition. She, wanting to be at her best
for the first stage (incidentally occurring during my visit), dragged
me to an assortment of other karaoke bars so she could practice.
on during my stay, she announced she was bringing me to the
establishment at which the karaoke DJ and host she'd befriended at her
usual bar were working that particular night. We, along with another
friend of hers who was also competing, were on our way to this place
when we ran into some of their other friends. They chatted for a bit,
and she told them where we were headed.
"Uh," one of the guys
said, shifting his glance to the other males in the group. "You know
that's a strip club, right?" Upon hearing this, I glared at her , who
was either oblivious or really good at ignoring me.
asked, surprisingly unconcerned about the fact that she'd just learned
the place she was supposed to go sing was, in fact, a strip club.
one of the other guys said. "It's actually only a strip club on
Wednesday nights." This particular night being Sunday, the three of us
seemed moderately satisfied that she and her friend would not be
encouraged to provide lap dances while performing karaoke standards,
got into Sandra's car and set off. We eventually found the place; I
wasn't sure whether to be disturbed or relieved by the fact that the
exterior resembled the community centre in which I used to attend Girl
The parking lot was not paved and one of
Sandra's tires became stuck in a reasonably large rut. Our concerns
about that didn't last long, however, as it was soon dislodged and we
were heading towards the building when we noticed for the first time
the large sign just above the door: "Live entertainment, Wednesday
through Sunday." I don't remember which of us was the first to vocalize
our concern that Sunday's live entertainment was the same as
Wednesday's, but we were almost certainly all thinking it. And yet, for
some reason, we went inside anyway.
The outer door gave way to a
small corridor area, replete with wood paneling and a conspicuous sign
informing us that we absolutely, positively must be of the legal
drinking age in order to gain access. This was somewhat worrisome, as
She and I were both 18 at the time. Sandra was older. No one was
checking ID, so we walked in through the second door, single-file. She
went first, then Sandra, then me.
"Oh God," I heard She say
as she crossed the threshold. I could only see what was directly to my
left (tables filled with locals and a sketchy-looking dance floor)
and to my right (booths), as Sandra's head was blocking my view to the
front. "There's a pole on the stage."
wasn't sure what to think just then, though I do remember sincerely
hoping that there was neither a woman nor a man in the process of
disrobing at that moment because the accompanying music was a
single-note rendition of "La Bamba," belted out by a middle aged man.
There was, in fact, a single pole on the stage at the front of the
room. The wall behind the stage was covered in floor-length mirrors.
Holy six-inch heels, Batman. This really was
a strip club. More disturbingly, it appeared to be the lovechild of a
strip club and your friendly neighbourhood bar and grill.
God," the DJ said when he saw She and Sandra approaching (with me, the
non-singer, in tow). "You can save us from this trainwreck." They
chatted for a few seconds and grabbed the binder with the lists of
available songs before grabbing a booth at the far end of the bar, the
closest booth to the door save one. We sat down and they chose their
songs as I looked for something to distract myself with (ultimately
settling on a nearby TV displaying Stanley Cup playoff results) and
tried not to die. She and Sandra sang one song each; this is something
of a blur. She was trying to figure out what to sing at the competition
and sampled a wide variety, including Killing Me Softly and I Will Survive.
don't really remember too much until the point when She was singing her
second song, Sandra and I were sitting in the booth and the
charming gentlemen who had since taken up residence in the
booth directly behind ours rather loudly requested that She expose her
mammary glands. Sandra was sitting across the table from me (and,
thus, facing the other table) and responded with the coldest stare
possible. It worked, and the individuals sitting behind us sheepishly
went back to their drinks.
Upon getting back to the booth and
being informed of this incident, She decided it would be a good idea to
put her arm around me and pretend we were a couple. While I said
nothing at the time, I was secretly more concerned that the drunken
imbiciles at the next booth would consider this to be more of a
turn-on than a turn-off. We were not asked to make out.
was probably around this time that a man whom I'd presume to be a
regular at this particular establishment took the stage. He was a small
man; average height but with a small frame, large glasses and a
handlebar moustache. I wasn't really paying attention to him until he
heralded his first song with a smooth "And here's one for the ladies..."
I suppose I was expecting something sleek and romantic, something
actually befitting the introduction this apparently sober man had given
I was wrong.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia.
am sure that at that point, had I actually been consuming any liquids,
they would have been expelled from my nasal cavity. She and Sandra
looked at each other for a second, then burst out laughing, then stole off to square dance on the dance floor, leaving me alone in the booth with the excitable individuals behind me.
the evening, only one act made use of the pole on the stage; the
karaoke host and a friend of his decided to put on the longest
performance of Meatloaf's Paradise by the Dashboard Light I'd ever heard. It was
so long, in fact, that said host appeared to get bored and started
doing novice acrobatic tricks on the pole.
I can't remember how
long after that it was that we left, but we eventually did and a made a
mental note not to go back to that place nor to recount the story to
We were at a houseparty later that week when She decided
to recount the story to as many people as possible. I, meanwhile, sat
on a couch in the corner and tried not to die. One of the guys there
took a particular interest in it as he had strange memories of that
particular establishment on a night when it was actually a strip club. Further to that, he was there during
amateur night and wound up chatting up a young woman who was about to
"Her stage name was Phoenix," he said, "and she was
nervous, so I told her to just go out there and have fun, and that if
she won she had to give me her phone number."
"What happened?" another guy asked.
"She won," the first guy said. "So she gave me her phone number." The second guy slapped him on the back playfully.
"So you went out on a date?"
"No, I didn't call her."
An uncomfortable silence followed, and those who had been following the
story glared at this guy as if to say "A woman actually gave you her
phone number and you never used it?" He rolled his eyes. "Guys, the
whole point was that I got a great story out of it," he said.
So did I. Have you ever heard The Devil Went Down to Georgia in a strip club?
Every single word of this is true. Really.