Modesto, Alameda and Martuni's!
Saturday night in downtown Modesto
Saturday night was the Closet Ball and Candidate Announcement night for the Owl Empire of Stanislaus County, Inc., in Modesto. I'd been asked originally to be a judge, then later, instead to MC. I was happy to do so since OESCI has been so suportive of us.
Going to Modesto entails a 100 mile drive (each way) from San Jose, so Andy and I decided to spend the night after the show. The show was moderately but enthusiastically organized, so I ended up throwing in two songs on my part to make sure we have a full 60 minutes for the contestants to finish their backstage transformations. There were two contestants for Closet Ball Queen: Emperor Marc Cervantes of Stockton, and new wuzzy Emperor 25 Alex P. While they were being transformed by their sponsors (that's how a Closet Ball works, the contestants, who should never have performed in drag before, come out as themselves and then their sponsor has one hour to create a drag illusion), Art Lawrence was announced as the candidate for Emperor of the OESCI. Art did a performance of The Candy man that ended with him in his full leatherman gear, to great applause from the audience.
At the end of the hour, the contestants re-emerged, each in turn, as Consuela ComeSmellya and JoWanna Piece... they both looked spectacular and nailed their numbers. When the judges returned their decision, JoWanna Piece was declared Closet Ball Queen 2004 of Modesto!
Overall, a fun time and since Andy and I had decided to spend the night after the show, we got to visit one of the local watering holes, the Brave Bull. I had forgotten how weird and a little scary small-town gay bars can be, but we have a good time anyway.
A visit to our sister court up the East Bay
Shortly before we left Saturday afternoon, I received a phone call from my friend and Grand Duchess Steele (who was planning to carpool with us to the Martuni's show Sunday night, reminding me that the Alameda County court is having their Investiture on Sunday). Alameda is a sister court to the IRLM so we decide to leave early from San Jose, pay our respects at their event in Hayward, and then cross the bay to SF for the show at Martuni's. She then very graciously offers to drive us in her van.
Sunday at 3:30, Steele picks us up and off we go. This is the first time in ages I haven't been the driver to get to a show, and I am luxuriating in the break. We arrive at the event in Hayward and I'm asked (surprise) if I will do a number in the entertainment part of the show. I'm actually semi-prepared for this eventuality (Alameda, like many courts, often assembles its shows on the fly from the assorted monarchs and talent who show up for an event), as is Steele, and we both agree to do numbers if we can be in the early part of the lineup. (Andy is off the hook, as he is notorious as a non-performer. Fortunately, they didn't need anyone to help run the sound system).
After Emperor Ellis and Empress Niyah vest their ICPS, my turn comes; I'm the only live performer and they haven't tuned the dance-floor sound system for a live vocalist, so I find myself inching about to find a location that won't trigger ear-piercing feedback. As a result, I actually lose 4 lines from the song. This is a rare event for me; the tracks I keep on my "sing at the drop of a hat" CD are all old and dear friends, so forgetting a line is both unusual and disturbing. We chalk it up to the distraction caused by the feedback and once Steele has done our number, the three of us make polite farewells and head to SF in the rain.
On with the show!
We have incredible parking karma and get a spot across the street from the bar. I make my way to the dressing room, where Eddie aka "Cookie Dough" is thrilled to see me. I ask him what the drill for the show will be, as this is the first non-charity performance I've ever done. It's pretty simple; I head out and deliver my music to the sound guy and discuss the microphones briefly, so I know which one to use. I also stop and chat for a few minutes with the piano player Andrew; we'd hoped to do a piece together but I had time neither to buy sheet music nor rehearse in advance. It turns out that we'd dated a few times some years ago (pleasant memories), and he's properly amused that the light of my life is also named Andrew.
I'm second up; before me is Miss Kielbasia, who plays the accordian and sings a parody song with Cookie. I've chosen "Peel Me a Grape" as my first number, so pull out a bar stool from which to begin (I have a particular schtick I like to use with this song) and away we go. This is one of my favorite songs; it was written in the 90s for Diana Krall but sounds decades older than that. I manage to forget the *same* phrase I dropped the night before in Modesto, but the audience is busy laughing in response to the sound of a champagne cork in the orchestration, so they assume I did it so they could hear that. The audience is completely silent, which is a bit disconcerting, but from the faces I can see it's rapt attention rather than boredom, and I can see smiles in response to one or another of the lines in the song. I reach the bridge, and Steele comes out of the audience to me with my martini (part of the schtick). There is no olive I can feed her in this particular drink, so I take a sip and set down the drink. Then I reconsider, switch the microphone to my other hand and take a right-handed sip; this gets a giggle from the crowd, so now I know they are actually with me. I wind up the song, low and sultry, to appreciative applause. I do see someone putting money in the tip jar.
Now I get to watch some of the other performers while I wait for my second number. As usual, I've still got pre-number twitches, so I nip backstage a couple of times so as not to disturb the watching audience members. All the performers are fun to watch, although a couple are doing weird drag numbers (I say that with some authority, remember I have been doing drag shows for many years). We have one celebrity performer, Heklina from the Trannyshack, and a couple of brand-new performers as well. There is one other male live vocalist; he's very good, with a voice I would characterize as trained for musical theater.
Time for the second number; I've opted for hot this time and do an up-tempo version of Night and Day. I can better tell this time that they are listening. Afterwards, Cookie chats with me on mic for a minute, so we can explain what this "Emperor" business is about, since she billed me as Emperor Kevin Roche.
We wrap up the show with Mark starting and then having the rest of us come up and lead a group sing-along of I Left My Heart in San Francisco. A couple friends of Steele have driven up from San Jose, so the five of us head off to Japantown for dinner at my favorite noodle restaurant.
Just before we leave, the door guy gives me my cut of the night's take. $27! (Which, since I was billed as Emperor in the ads, will be handed over to my treasurer at the board meeting on Tuesday). As my mom would say, a lot better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, especially as this was one of the most attentive audiences I've ever sung for.
As I'm finishing dinner, I start to crash. I'm REALLY glad Steele is driving us home. I snooze in the back seat
Cookie definitely wants me back to perform again, and perhaps after my reign is over I'll actually have a chance to work up a number with my old beau 'Drew, the piano player!