Tonight, I say farewell to what’s become my little corner of the sky (Yes, I had to say it.). Mostly Sondheim is saying goodbye and this one’s going to hurt. Allow me to explain.
Way back in the day (no numbers, kids), I walked into the Duplex and climbed the stairs to the cabaret room, in the back. Just me, a couple of friends, and some stragglers who’d heard about this new late-night open mic thingy.
I’d never been and singing in public, alone, had never been one of my strong suits. I sang in ensembles, in the background. Just a disembodied, singing head. It kind of terrified me, actually. But, I was determined to GET. OVER. IT. After about one and a half drinks and three and a half renditions of Being Alive, I jumped in. I got on stage and sang, Anyone Can Whistle.
I was… terrible. No, I can say with all confidence that that performance was BAD. But, the host was… kind, compared it to “giving birth,” and so, I was no longer a virgin. Boy, they don’t know what they started.
I became a regular, making my weekly pilgrimage: first from Hoboken, then Jersey City, then Astoria. I always managed to find my way there whenever I felt a song coming on. On that tiny, little stage.
I discovered my song staples there.
I got ridiculously drunk there.
I made friends there.
I announced to my little world that I would soon have both Children and Art. And subsequently, had to change my choice of drink. Hell, they even made non-alcoholic cocktails, just for my pregnant ass. Now, that’s love.
With parenthood, the appearances got farther & farther apart. But, I always came back. To celebrate something. To mourn something. To test out a song. To meet someone new and sing with them. To support a friend, or to shamelessly self-promote. And, sometimes, to just hang out, get drunk and learn TOO much about our hosts. Molly’s one Hell of an over-sharer, but Brandon’s the King. (Two words: anal beads)
I watched stars emerge. I saw stunning moments that belonged to the people who were lucky enough to be there. To hear Kate hit that E, again. And, then go UP a third, after a shot of Patron. To hear Marty, and Brian, and Carly and Ben sing in 3 or 4 part harmony. To completely tank during an All-Skate. To watch Brandon and Ray… sing. Beautifully, to a suddenly subdued room. To hear Lovefool, in a way that I’d never heard before. (Still my favorite version, BTW). And, don’t even get me started on the Defying Gravity parodies.
And, one night, my friend Tesse and I got pulled into an impromptu quintet of “Your Fault,” with me singing the Witch’s part. Brian then segued right into “Last Midnight,” and I had to keep going. And, the image I take away from that night is Todd Buonopane, a guy who was singing 8 nights a week on Broadway in Spelling Bee was sitting on the edge of the stage, rapt attention, watching me sing. ME. That’s a real confidence booster, man.
I became a Performer there, not some disembodied head, singing in the background. I’m more of a performer now, than I ever would have been without those nights. I am indebted to you all.
So, here’s to the ladies who Belt. And Belt. And drink, and keep belting.
To Brandon and Ray and Kate and Ben and Marty and Emily and Carly and Colleen and Todd and Molly and Lindsay and Matty Dean and Deena and Charlie and Brian and Eric and Christopher and Robbie and Joshua and Will and Michael James and John Bronston and ALL of the crazy, beautiful, talented people that sang til dawn. All while saying, “I’ve gotta get up in the morning… Oh my God, no one SINGS this!” Here’s to the hosts, the audiences, the bartenders… Here’s to us all.