By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Nathan Smith
By Craig Hlavaty
Even though it's a little after ten when I walk into the Proletariat's Saturday-night karaoke show, co-hosted by the ladies of Houston Roller Derby, the place is still a bit dead. But I had a hunch then (one that was later borne out) that if I had come out for it, surely a few more tone-deaf dweebs would be checking in later.
One of the many things that elevates a karaoke night at the Proletizzle above other such shows is the smell. It reeks of real bar here -- reminding me of the first time I came here to see a super-awesome punk band. And after tonight, I will forever have memories of my being on that very same stage. Oh, I'm getting down tonight.
Heading into the stage room, I see tonight's hostesses, the Houston Roller Derby gals. To me, they look like a mean cross between one of Tim Burton's creations and a '50s pin-up girl. They're all rolling around in a menacing way, like sharks circling in a tank -- it's like they know they own whatever place they skate into.
I sidle on out of the way and into a chair. Seating was hard to find, 'cause the derby bullies had their crap on most of them, and I was not about to just move that stuff out of the way. I wasn't even going to ask one of them to do it for me. Meanwhile, my designated driver and/or baby-sitter for the evening gets his hands on a song selection book and starts flipping the pages to find me a tune. I'm gonna kamikaze this one.
He puts me down for -- get this -- the Dexy's Midnight Runners classic "Come On Eileen." I'll do it only if I can have a sweet-ass alias. He chooses "Cindy Lou," as in the little girl from Who-ville in the Grinch story, because she has huge buckteeth -- you know what I'm talking about. Well, if I'm gonna do this, it's gotta be the right way (read: drunk), so I belly up to the bar and start in on the sauce.
About an hour later the show starts with a twentysomething who takes off his jacket to reveal an '80s-esque ensemble, complete with headband. What a nerd. Then I hear the beginning of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Ah, I get it. After he puts us out of our misery, he sits back down by his bird, who's right next to me and my buddy. Faux Steve Perry gets back pats all around, and I just hope I'm half as good as he was.
A couple of rounds into this, I find myself drinking a Chardonnay -- really rock and roll, huh? My veteran drunk pals look at me like I'm some kind of stuck-up broad, but hey -- I get lit faster this way. And I know I'll puke if I drink "real" booze, so there.
As I listen to other karaoke-ites rock it, I get nervous and start making out with my wine. A girl hits Nena's "99 Red Balloons" dead on. As a matter of fact, I haven't heard any real amateurs yet, except for one jolly fellow who crooned some vulgar song from South Park. (Thank you, mister, for making the whole Prole squirm.) And one other guy Linkin Parked his way through the lyrics to "Total Eclipse of the Heart," but he made up for it by dancing like a sexy beast.
The DJ summons little Cindy Lou, and I crawl onto the stage from the front and do my thang. I get the crowd going as much as a little five-foot Hispanic can, baring my belly and thrusting my Elvis pelvis. When it's all over, it's my turn for the back pats.
They feel earned.
Nature calls. In the ladies' room, I run into a derby girl -- a huge, rather intimidating one. I want to ask her what the hell roller derby is, but I value my full complement of teeth, so I duck into a stall instead. Another lady in there doesn't seem at all fazed by the six-foot-tall Amazon. While the two of them share the sink, she pretty much asks the Amazon the questions I'm too scared to ask, and I hide in my stall and scribble her answers on a Wal-Mart receipt. I still don't quite get how it works, but basically they just skate and try to knock down the other team with sheer brute force, using elbows and moves from Tom and Jerry. Walking out of the stall, I get a view of the back of the roller derby lady's vest. It has "KILLA" embroidered on it. That's awesome.
When I return to my seat, I find it's been taken over by the derby people. They seem to have set up a charity arm-wrestling table, where they charge $5 per contest. The proceeds go to the Katrina Piano Fund, to help New Orleans musicians get new instruments. I ask to take a picture, and they make me pay for the privilege. I feel super-puny at this ganking for charity, but at least it's all for a good cause.
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