There’s some whining here, but it’s worth it.
I play in a karaoke band. Coreyoke. Originally, we wore “80’s” wigs and played 80s tunes and the conceit was that we were the “Coreys from the 80s, Feldman, Haim & Hart” and that Michael Jackson, as an apology for past “transgressions,” had promised up an opening slot on his upcoming tour if we could learn how to play music.
Since then, we have dropped the wigs and the Corey personas. (For a bit, we had to change our official names to Corey Hamm & Corey Feldstein because of a very intense conversation with a very intense attorney who wanted to make sure that people knew we weren’t the actual “Corey’s.” No one really cared about Corey Hart, so we kept the drummer as Corey Hart.) Now we play 150+ songs from the 60s all the way through Katy Perry. It’s still Coreyoke but confusing.
Around 2011, COREYOKE he been playing every Thursday night at The Happy Ending, a sports and “bro” bar in Hollywood.
(Sidebar: decades previous, when I had just moved to L.A. in 1980, it was a Mexican restaurant that had a “Happy Hour” from 3pm – 7pm. I used to take the bus with a guy who lived in a neighboring apartment in the same slum where we lived near MacArthur Park to the Happy Hour at said Mexican Restaurant – yes, I was 17 – it was 1980 – no one cared – and buy a single $5 margarita and gorge ourselves on the free included appetizers. That was the only food we could afford all day.)
Let me tell you about playing in a karaoke band. As a teetotaler (that’s changed, believe you me!) at the time, my tolerance for drunk people was very low. (It still is. What can I say: I’m a hypocrite!) When you’re playing in a band in a bar, you encounter a plethora of drunk people. Some of them may even be in your karaoke band. The drunk people who aren’t in your karaoke band want to know why you don’t play “Landslide” and “American Pie” and “Hotel California.” Here’s why you don’t play those songs: “Landslide”, “American Pie” and “Hotel California” are long. More importantly: theyy are downers. MOST IMPORTANTLY: You don’t sing them as well as you think you do. When the singer sucks, your audience are then subjected to someone sucking for 7-10 minutes. We like to play short, upbeat songs that people actually like. Sure, sometimes I would let it slip that I hate the fucking Eagles and that was not cool, but whatever….
At the intersection of my life and this story, the bride and I had a 3 year old son and were living in a rental in Burbank, having done a short sale on the house that we’d bought at the LITERAL PEAK OF THE HOUSING BUBBLE IN FEBRUARY 2007! We had put all of our savings into that fucking house and had fairly massive credit card debt on account of the lack of voice over work thanks to a stupid SAG strike and a global financial meltdown that coincided with us buying a house at THE LITERAL PEAK OF THE HOUSING BUBBLE IN FEBRUARY 2007!
The bride had picked up the occasional freelance editing gig, but her career was not the full on professional in-demand editor career that it is now.
I’d given up on showbiz. Thanks to the commercial actors strike, Voice Overs were dead. On camera hadn’t happened in years. FORTUNATELY, I’d managed to find some work in the real world at some web companies as a front end developer. LegalZoom, eFax, iWin and CyberDefender. I was fairly good at writing HTML/CSS. I started late in life, but I was okay at front-end.
At this point, I was working at Ticketmaster as… well… I *thought* I’d been hired as a front end developer, but it turned out that I’d been hired as a software engineer, a position that made no sense to me. Shit was so confusing to me. If you want to know why your tickets from Ticketmaster are so expensive it’s because they hired me and people like me. I was making good money. But… I did not do anything. Literally. Really. Literally, I did nothing. Early on, one of the other engineers said to me “Yeah, it’ll take you about two years to understand how everything works.” It took over a month for me to get a computer to work on and another two weeks to receive all the required permissions for me to log in if I actually knew what I was doing. I’d sit there and surf the web on my phone. Ridiculous.
The code was so fucked there. One of my assignments was to change the date on the footer of all of the pages. A job that should take five minutes. But, because code had been written by so many people over decades, it took me three weeks to find all of the places to change the date.
So that was going on during the day – I’m hoping it’s clear that things were bad bad bad bady badenstein.
The upside to all of this was: The Bride and our son, Duncan. She was, and continues to be the literal light of my life and the boy made it all worthwhile.
Today’s story… FINALLY:
After a night of dealing with drunkards who were pissed that we only knew 140 songs, and other musicians who were pissed that we were only making $250 each a night, I packed up all my gear in my car and pulled in behind a car. It was “closing time” 2am.
I’m behind a car in the parking lot, and the guy in front of me decides to get out of his car and start talking to a friend who is waiting in the valet line or something. Then he gets back in and stays in his car and keeps talking, from the drivers side window, to the person in the line across from him. I take a deep breath. “Okay… it’s 2am or whatever… I can wait for a couple minutes for this asshole… another minute isn’t going to make a huge difference….”
I wait for a bit. Listen to XM Comedy radio to cheer myself up. If this guy would just move up a foot or two, I could go around him. Nope. He’s talking to his buddy and that conversation is, apparently, the most important thing in the world right now. There are five or six cars behind me. They start honking their horns. His middle finger goes up. Okay. Great.
Finallllllly…. he pulls up a foot or two. I go around him to my left. I roll down my passenger window and say “I appreciate that you decided to let the rest of us go home. Thank you.”
His reply is every curse word in the world. I get a look at him. He’s actually a little guy. Sorta squirrelly. Skinny. A wisp of a 20-something with super cool shades. He’s yelling at me. One of the things he’s yelling that stick with me is “I’M A TRAINED MMA FIGHTER!!!” I sock that away in my brain.
As someone who enjoys fucking with people I say to him. “I find you very attractive and I would love to have you suck my cock right now, but I don’t swing that way and my wife and child are at home, waiting for me to return. But… know that you are a very, very attractive and sexy young man!”
This sets him off even more. I might have blown him a kiss. Okay. I did. I admit it: I blew him a kiss.
I pulled away and was right at the exit when some other car stopped in front of me.
The guy then shows up at my passenger window. “WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM, FAGGOT!!??”
I’ve found that if someone gets super intense, if you lower the volume and get super calm, it makes them even more insane. So… I got super calm. “Oh, I’m sorry. I was just saying that you are very sexy and if I were to swing that way, I’d be fine having you suck my cock, but I’d rather not. I am married with a son. I’m sorry. But I can tell that you are very sexy and you have a very sexy mouth. I’m sure my penis would fit in there nicely. You are very cute. Very tempting, but no thank you.”
Listen, I really don’t care about who has sex with who, but it was obvious to me that this guy cared who has sex with who and certainly didn’t want people thinking he would have sex with *gasp* men, so I may have leaned on that. A whole bunch.
And, as expected, he went fucking nuts. “STEP OUT OF YOUR CAR MOTHERFUCKER! I’LL KICK YOUR FUCKING ASS, MOTHERFUCKER!!!”
I have been in a couple fights in my life. After a particularly bad one in 9th grade, the vice-principal at my mid-high said “Dean you have a bad temper. You can’t fight anyone ever again because you might kill them. Your body has grown so that when you hit someone, it can really hurt them. Walk away from now on, okay? Promise me?” Don’t get me wrong: I was a wussy little wisp of a person, but Mr. Ernst understood my rage.
I wave at the guy, who is now out of his car and at my passenger window. “I’m sorry, buddy. No blowjobs, but thank you. I’m flattered!”
That’s when he spit on me. On my face. He spit on my face.
The path out of the Happy Ending driveway was open now. I could’ve left. I could have gone home now.
It was one of those moments where everything slows wayyyyyy the fuck down. When everything is chaos around you, but you have that magical time to think.
“Well, you could go home now, Dean. You could go home with this guys’ spit on your face. And you would be the guy who let a guy spit on you. And that might be okay, but you’d have to think about this for the rest of your life. ‘I’m the guy who let a squirrelly dude spit on me because i was joking about his masculinity.’ Or you can get out of your car and see what happens, Dean. What are you going to do, Dean?”
And I thought about my “mentor” at Ticketmaster who was bullying me and literally laughing at me because I wasn’t qualified for my job. The credit card collection people who sneered at me on the phone because I was over 40 and in debt. The manager I didn’t stand up to when she said I wasn’t a priority. The casting people who’d said “there’s a hair issue.” The friends who said they’d read my script but never returned a call. All that self-pity shit. Right or wrong. Who knows.
But mainly, I thought about my kid and how I would tell him that if anyone ever spit on him, that he should get out of the fucking car and deal with the person who spit on him, even if he got the shit beaten out of him.
So… I got out of the car.
The guy was surprised. He was definitely NOT expecting me to get out of my car.
Here’s what I know about fighting: Whoever gets the first punch in usually wins. I also know that “fighting fair” is utter bullshit. I know that, in a street fight, anything goes. Get the first strike in and do whatever it takes to get the guy down. Walk away as a winner.
I also have him yelling “I’M A TRAINED MMA FIGHTER!” on a loop in my head. So… he’s a trained MMA fighter. I’ve taken some kickboxing classes, but I’m not a “TRAINED MMA FIGHTER!” Let’s see what happens?
He wasn’t very big. I’m 5’9 160…. I had at least 10 pounds on him, but…. I keep thinking “I’M A TRAINED MMA FIGHTER!!”
He starts to say something, but…. I just kick him as hard as I can, directly in the balls. It is a perfect hit and it drops him to the ground. First punch: Check. Don’t fight fight fair: Check.
Out of the corner of my eyes I see the Happy Ending bouncers head over.
The squirrelly guy is down. “What the fuck, old man? What the fuck?” To which I reply: “Old man? Old man? Old man JUST KICKED YOU IN THE FUCKING BALLS!”
I wasn’t that old. 45? That’s not that old.
Squirrelly guy stands up. Again, all I’m thinking is “I’M A TRAINED MMA FIGHTER” so I do my best kickboxing kick and, once again, I kick him directly in the balls part two: electric boogaloo.
He’s down again. “What the fuck, dude?” To which I say “OLD MAN? OLD MAN? OLD MAN KICKED YOU IN THE FUCKING BALLS, DUDE. OLD MAN KICKED YOU IN THE MOTHERFUCKING BALLS!”
I move in to lay him out completely because, remember, he did say “I’M A TRAINED MMA FIGHTER!!!” So I need to protect myself because anything could happen, right? I need to “finish him!” He could be planning something. I’m ready to knee him in the head. Seems right, yes? I’m ready to commit intense violence on this kid…
Thankfully… for someone… the bouncers, who are dying laughing, by the way – pull me away. “OLD MAN KICKED YOU IN THE BALLS, MOTHERFUCKER!! OLD MAN KICKED YOU IN THE MOTHER. FUCKING. BALLS. MOTHER. FUCKER!” I keep repeating as the bouncers gently guide me back to my car.
“Okay, Dean. Time to go home.” I am high on adrenaline and victory.“Old man kicked that fucker in his fucking balls!”
“Yes, Dean… old man kicked him in his balls. Just… Go home, okay?”
So I get in my car. I can hear the squirrelly dude going “I can’t believe you!” As the bouncer, who is now sucking wind – laughing like Brian Regan has been doing a private set for him, says “Dean…. just… god damnit… just go home… holy shit…”
I SCREAM “OLD. MAN. KICKED. YOU. IN. THE. FUCKING. BALLS. MOTHERFUCKER!!!! OLD. MAN. KICKED. YOU. IN. THE. FUCKING. BALLS. MOTHERFUCKER!!!!”
And I drive home.
After unloading all of my gear into the garage, I climb into bed.
Jessie: How was the gig tonight?
Dean: I got in a fight. I beat the shit out of a guy in the parking lot.
Jessie: I love you, Dean. I love you.