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10:39 am - Sat 8/16/03
Jim's Little Tokyo Adventure (Pt II)

Jim's Little Tokyo Adventure (Part II)

Fri 8/15/03 (10:24 am)

(A short time ago, I was looking at a map, trying to retrace my route from last night; Basically, I went east on 6th street, turned left on Figueroa, went down Figueroa till I got to Cesar Chavez, turned right till I got to Grand, made another right, asked for directions from someone waiting outside the Ahmanson Theatre, continued on Grand till I got to 1st Street, then took a left till I hit Little Tokyo. The directions I'd started out with, such as they were, would actually have led me to Chinatown. But anyway...)

I finally made it to the karaoke bar, and was surprised on a couple fronts; I'd expected more JS people to be there (I'd thought there'd be at least 25 or thirty people, but there were only nine of us, including JS), and though the restaurant was fairly large, the karaoke part was this sort of sectioned-off area near the restrooms, with only two long tables directly in front of the stage (It definitely wasn't the centerpiece of the restaurant).

I'm not sure how long the other people had been there at that point–Maybe an hour–but JS introduced me around, and I ended up sitting at the end of the table nearest the stage.

The bar was larger than it looked when I walked in, but disappointing in its blandness. Maybe it was lame of me to expect Japanese woodcuts and silkscreens and Samurai swords and crap like that, but I did.

I didn't eat or drink anything (Except for a couple glasses of water)–Actually, I never saw the buffet or the bar, which I thought was weird (I guess I'd come in from the back)--but I didn't care enough to look for them or ask where they were, so as entertainment goes, it was a really cheap evening (Even the actual Karaoke-ing, which was $1 a song, ended up being pretty cheap; I paid a dollar to do the first song I did, which was "Keep Your Hands To Yourself", but after that, people either bought me songs, or I was singing with other people on songs they'd already paid for).

There were four guys, four girls, and JS. Between the tv, the karaoke machine, and the general crowd noise, I never really caught everyones names, but I recognized one girl from the agency meeting back in May (She'd performed in the talent show), and one guy recognized me from auditions ("Mike", another middle-aged character actor like Yours Truly).

And I finally met Jessica, who's been JS's assistant for the past couple months or so. I've liked her on the phone–She's very friendly–and it turns out she's cute as well; Brought me to mind somewhat of Kelly Ripa, who I like (Sadly, she's leaving JS for another job in just two weeks). She fell under that "too young and too cute for the likes of me" category, but I couldn't help but be attracted to her nevertheless (More than anyone, she seemed particularly interested in getting me up on stage to sing when–If you can believe it–I was intially feeling a little reticient).

The noise was such that there really wasn't much opportunity to talk. That was actually kind of okay–what did I really have to say to anyone?--But Jordan, the young, amiable doofus who was sitting on my left, and Mike, on my right, were pleasant enough table companions, and then when Jessica started harrassing me to sing something, I was distracted from any feelings of awkwardness by having to go through the big notebook of song choices.

Actually, I got up onstage fairly quickly after I got there; Two hispanic guys at the table next to us started doing "Word Up" , which is one of my favorite dance songs (And a song I might have chosen to perform myself if those guys hadn't gotten there before me), so I grabbed "Yulinda" (Not at all sure I have her name right), who I'd already seen do some pretty mean singing and dancing (And who was ethusiastically hooting and hollering for anyone who would get on stage), and the two of us were their back-up dancers, which was pretty fun.

I actually haven't done karaoke that often, and always have the same initial reaction when I do; Between the songs I don't know, the songs I don't like, the songs I can't sing, and the songs I think just aren't good karaoke choices (In my opinion , ballads are a bad idea), it takes me forever to find something I want to do. But eventually, I picked out four or five songs, and decided on "Keep Your Hands To Yourself", a fun country-blues song by the Georgia Satellites.

When my time came, I'd say it took me most of a verse to really "get into it", but by the chorus, I was having fun, and it was quite well received.

Of our little group, "Yulinda" (I think that was her name. It was something I had never heard before, in any case) was far and away the best musical performer; She could sing, move, and had more energy than the rest of us combined, doing a particularly kick-ass version of "Band of Gold".

JS actually has quite a nice voice, sort of "Elton John-ish" (I might be saying that because the first song I heard him do was an Elton John song, though I can't remember which one it was now...). But, surprisingly, he didn't "perform" at all; He just stared at the monitor, only looking towards our table if someone screamed his name, as "Yulinda" would do every few seconds.

Jessica was much the same. A pretty voice–She did a really nice version of that Sarah MacLachlan "Angel" song–but zero stage presence (She kept saying her voice was "shot" because she'd had three glasses of wine).

Of the rest of our little troupe, "Mike" was game, and I think he'd do okay if he could find something comfortably in his range (I kidded with him at one point about my "five note range". I think he's got the same issue). Jordan was amusingly awful, and didn't seem to care (A trait I kind of admire, but really don't understand at all). Marissa–another cutie (Looked like a younger Helen Hunt)--mostly got up with the other girls and danced around and sang backup. "Talent Show Girl" did the same. "Smilin' Joe", the only really good-looking guy of the group, who sat at the other end of the table and smiled all night long–got up once and sang "Smooth" (The Matchbox 20/Santana song), and was pretty forgettable, though the performance was enlivened by "Yulinda" dancing around off to the side.

"Talent Show Girl" said she wanted one of the guys to do a rap song, so I did "Bust A Move", with her and Jessica dancing behind me. I also sang "White Wedding" with Mike, which was pretty funny–Two balding middle aged guys trying to act like Billy Idol–and dueted with Jessica on "Unforgettable" (Which was pretty forgettable, actually; Our monitor started kind of screwing up, Jessica didn't really know the song, and I'd only sang the song once before myself).

There was a moment where I felt a little pang of Lansing homesickness...

At one point during the evening, six of us got up and did "Summer Nights", from Grease. It was just awful, and it made me think of going to the Nuthouse with the Oliver cast after one show back in Lansing, where we did a bang-up job on the same song (That was also the night I did "Steamroller", the James Taylor song, and brought down the house. My very best karaoke memory; Unfortunately, they didn't have "Steamroller" on hand at this place).

Things broke up around 11:30 ("Yulinda" and Marissa had left some time earlier).

The group of us walked out to the parking lot, then there was some jockeying to see who would be riding with whom (I figured if I got myself there, I'd be able to get a ride home with someone. And everyone had been very impressed with my epic hike. But anyway...).

I was hoping Jessica had driven herself there and I could get a ride home with her, but it didn't work out that way; I ended up getting a ride with Mike (My fellow balding Billy Idol wannabee) instead.

Mike and I chatted along the way. He's most recently from Chicago, and has only been in LA about 8 months (That said, he seems to know the downtown area way better than I do). He signed with JS about a month after I did, but hasn't booked as of yet (So he was very interested in hearing about my HBO experience). He seemed like a good guy.

All in all, a nice evening. Good to get out, good to be with people, and fun to get up on stage again, even if it was just karaoke (And it registered with me at one point that it was probably a good thing to have JS see I can sing and dance, for those commercials breakdowns that call for singing and dancing middle-aged guys).

I'll definitely go again next time it comes up.


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