Main | Saturday, April 15, 2006

Girl Singer

Sometime back in the summer of 1984, my roommate and I drove down from Orlando for a weekend of clubbing and beaching in Fort Lauderdale. My roommate was especially keen to get to the Copa to hear the latest track artist belt out the gay disco hit du jour. Every Saturday back then, the Copa would trot out some young singer, usually somebody with only one moderate hit single and often only one name, to her name.

The artist would take to the stage sometime around 3AM and nod to the DJ (usually Robbie Leslie), who'd then cue up the instrumental side of her record, if we were lucky, or the vocal side if we weren't. We weren't usually lucky. It all depended upon how self-confident the singer was or whether she was, in fact, talented. We'd either watch her lip-synch her own track, sing over her own vocals, or on the odd occasion, actually give it a live go to the instrumental version.

On this particular summer night in 1984, the Copa was mobbed. Business was up, way past the normal summer doldrums that continue to seize the Fort Lauderdale scene in the off-season. My roommate and I gamely tried to hold on to some dancefloor real estate, a vantage point from which we'd get a good view of the stage, but the pushing, and most of all, the heat, finally drove us out to the Copa's outdoor patio for a respite.

As these things usually go, the moment we surrendered our position and got outside, the singer took the stage to the roars of the crowd. We briefly considered fighting our way back inside, but the steam billowing out the club door dissuaded us from the attempt. We took up barstools under the thatched Tiki bar and waited it out. I don't recall that we were very disappointed, there seemed to be an endless supply of these thin-voiced disco singers, most of whom we never heard from again. And anyway, another customer driven out by the heat reported to us that "she wasn't singing live" anyway. Feh.

Over a year later, back in Orlando, my roommate and I excitedly bought tickets to see Bronski Beat, whose landmark single Smalltown Boy had been torturing our souls. Smalltown Boy remains one of the defining songs of my life. The yearning, the wistfulness, the sorrow, the defiance. I had cried the first time I heard it. By coincidence, Bronski Beat was visiting Orlando as the opening act for the singer we'd missed seeing at the Copa the previous year, but we were much more excited to see Bronski Beat.

But we never saw them. Lead singer Jimmy Somerville was arrested having sex in a park restroom back in the UK, and Bronski Beat was pulled from the tour at the last minute, replaced by the Beastie Boys. Ugh. We gave away our tickets in disgust. Years later, I would become quite a fan of the Beastie Boys, but back then we were so disappointed to miss Bronski Beat that we wouldn't even endure a few minutes of the Beasties as the opener for the girl singer, for whose concerts we were now 0-2.

Over the last 23 years, that girl singer has gone on to quite a career. And while I'm not a fan, I'm not NOT a fan, either. And I did buy her most recent record. On Monday morning last week, my buddy Ken got half of his office to log into Ticketmaster, in the hopes of getting us tickets to her upcoming tour. The first two shows at Madison Square Garden sold out within ten minutes, but an hour later when two more shows were added, we got lucky. At the mere price of $375, plus service charge, I will once again attempt to attend one of her concerts. If things don't work out again, I won't get too upset. Ken is treating.
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