Day 19 – June 26, 2013 at Rum Runners in Phoenix

Day 19 – June 26th at Rum Runners in north Phoenix

IMG_5508

That is 19 fingers, Nora’s thumb is sort of bent down…?

Rum Runners – Pirate Bar

Okay, so maybe you’ve read about our visit to the Gypsy Bar (Day 18) where we met the memorable Mystic Molly.

Tonight, we’re off to Rum Runners – which just happens to be Molly’s regular off-duty bar. I had of course told her of my quest (the 22 days of karaoke). She knew I’d be at her hang out – Rum Runners, a pirate bar – the next day. So Yay! I was welcomed warmly when I arrived.

Yet, the reason we had selected Rum Runners is because an old high school chum of Suze’s, Nora, had invited us. It is her regular karaoke bar too. Yay! More people to welcome me! Thanks, Nora.

IMG_5501

Nora and me

I say welcome me, because it turns out that Suze was tied up that night, very busy until late. A story in itself. Unfortunately, she never made it to join me at Rum Runners that night. Boo! So ended her karaoke-dokey adventure with 16 days of successful successive karaoke. Oh, she joins me on the last few days of my 22, but her streak was interrupted on this night.

Red carpet welcome

IMG_5499

Owner Debbie with a happy customer

When I arrived, I saw Molly outside smoking, with a few friends. In fact, just about all present at this small dive bar are friends of Molly. She introduced me to everyone including owner Debbie, and showed me to a table, where she had saved a spot for me. I am touched, and want to join them. However, I had to find Nora, as she was also waiting for me. I located her shortly, and we took our seats near Molly and company. Everyone is friendly, and I feel right at home.

IMG_5502

Jackie, Heidi and Molly

Nora wondered, “How do you know everyone?” I can’t really explain it. I had only met Molly yesterday, but apparently we had both made an impression on one another (see Day 18!). I was glad to be welcomed to her bar, her neighborhood, and into her entourage, if even for one night.  I must say too that Nora was sweet to look after me, and though we missed having Suze with us, had a good time hanging out.

Signage!

Okay, as far as décor this bar is pretty typical of the dive bar variety. There is a pool table near the front door. There is a long bar along one side of the room lined with fifteen tall stools. As the bar fills up, so do these seats, with almost a dozen regulars. There are about five tall round tables in the center of the room. Along the other side of the room is a shuffle board. And the restrooms are in the back. It’s a small, narrow space, filled with friendly patrons who mostly know each other.

One notable distinction. Rum Runners is crazy for signage. On every wall, in the bathrooms, and even the ceiling. Some are informative and some are humorous. Some advertise and some warn: for example, no drama will be tolerated. And they serve all customers, but will choose which of us are customers, and which are not. Okay. I will be on my best behavior.

KJ and Set-Up:

IMG_5503

Thom and Nora

The KJ is a lovely gentleman named Thom. He is the second person I know personally to use the “h” in his nickname. He has a resonant and robust baritone voice, and specializes in Neil Diamond songs. Sounds great singing other selections too.

Thom has binders like most KJs, and singers write their selections onto slips of paper. He also doesn’t mind if you ask him directly, as he looks up your songs on his laptop. His console is set up in the corner, beyond the tables, and across from the bar. One monitor is perched above the KJ area,  another one above the bar, and a third above the shuffleboard. No worries – you can pretty much see a monitor from almost anywhere in the bar. It’s compact in there, so find a spot to sing, plant yourself, and hold your ground.

Singers and Songs

At first there are only about six or seven singers in rotation. As it got later, a few more singers showed up. However, I was able to sing an unprecedented seven songs that night, including two duets. Whoo-hoo!

IMG_5505

Nora had been following my blog, and was aware of the karaoke-dokey rules I’ve imposed upon myself. She was determined to follow the rules along with me. So we danced, and we sang a duet together: The Beat Goes On (Sonny and Cher).  I got to sing Sonny’s part. Both parts are in a low range, so it hardly mattered. Plus I can be flexible. Why not?

IMG_5500

Dancing! Yeah, I’m sure that’s what I’m doing here (with Nora).

I also sang several new songs (for me): Wild Horses (the Rolling Stones), Take a Bow (Madonna), and New York State of Mind (Billy Joel). I wasn’t wild about my rendition of Wild Horses, but Take a Bow has become one of my favorites. I also love New York State of Mind, but it is rather long.

I started off with one of my clinchers, I’ll Stand by You (Chrissie Hynde), and sang another later, Ooh Baby Baby (Smokey Robinson). There was so much opportunity to sing that I couldn’t resist. I also got the chance to sing a duet with KJ Thom! – You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. That was fun.

New voices and new faces

Molly and her friends all sing well, and that just made the night more engaging. A really friendly and fun group of people. Of course, we cheer everyone who’s taking the microphone. That is after paying attention in the usual looking-as-if-you’re-doing-something-else-entirely karaoke crowd style. And this being a bar, drinking was also on the agenda. I can’t say I indulged much that night, but let me put this another way: this is a fun group of people.

IMG_5506

Nora singing

I also had a good time getting to know Nora. She’s another one with a nice voice, both sweet and powerful. But it was weird with no Suze. She was definitely missed. Suze and I would have to come back another time, together. During my stay at the pirate bar, my BFF Teresa stopped by to give me support in my on-going karaoke ventures. However, she stayed only a short while, and left without singing or drinking. ‘Tis a shame.

I suppose this will be a night of making new friends. I’m fine with that.

Arrrrr!

Rum Runners is a cool place, if you give it a chance, and leave your drama at the door. There is much good karaoke fun to be had, and a lively crowd to share good times with. As I left, I said good-bye to a small group of drunken smokers outside on a bench. Molly was there amongst them. It was where I first encountered her that night, although she was closer to sober earlier. It is a bit of a drive for me, but I vowed to return. There are many dive bars, and many offer karaoke. Some other bars may have a group of people who like to party on a Wednesday night. At Rum Runners, they took me in and made me feel welcome. A pirate’s life for me!

Advertisements

DAY 18 – June 25, 2013 at Gypsy Bar in Phoenix

Day 18 – June 25th at Gypsy Bar in downtown Phoenix

IMG_5498  IMG_5497

Irony at the Gypsy

The first time I went to the Gypsy Bar in central Phoenix, I pictured an arty bohemian hole-in-the-wall with lots of character and kitsch. The kind of place you see along Roosevelt during the First Friday Art Walks – independently-owned converted houses, transformed into an eclectic dream, unique and bursting with flavor. 

This is not what I found.

There is nothing whatsoever gypsy-like about the Gypsy Bar. In fact, the “Gypsy Bar” is but one feature of a corporate monstrosity also housing an upscale bowling alley (the Lucky Strike), an arcade, and various other bar-like rooms linking it all together. This establishment is over 10,000 square feet of corporate funded fun.

There is definitely a lot of money sunk into this place. Everything is a little posh here at the “gypsy” and its sister attractions.

The business is also not anywhere near the Roosevelt district of Phoenix, but located near the ballpark. In fact, it’s difficult to find, unless you walk down Central Avenue between Washington and Jefferson, or manage to park under the structure. Its address is on Jefferson, but if you look there, you will not find it. MapQuest, nor Google Maps, nor your GPS will help you. Mark my words.

Once you find the building that houses the “Gypsy Bar”, you’ll climb to the second floor, and enter by the plush bowling alley. You’ll traverse through various rooms, until you find a large oval well-appointed bar. A few steps down, and you’ve entered the dance arena. A number of leather couches encircle a rather large dance floor.  

IMG_5468IMG_5469

The Set-up & KJ:

One length of the dance floor sports the stage, a few feet off the ground. This is where the KJ sets up and conducts her show. Singers are also free to take the stage, or the floor, or navigate the large room.

Since I had been to the Gypsy once before (albeit not for karaoke), I knew what to expect. Well, sort of. Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer mad energy and spectacle of a Mystic Molly karaoke show.

The provider for the karaoke shows at the Gypsy Bar on Tuesdays is Starz Karaoke. We are familiar with their book, as it’s available online, sporting the same song list as a couple of our regular haunts.

Assisting Molly that night was her friend and follow KJ Frankthatank, also with Starz. They are both friendly and capable KJs.

IMG_5479IMG_5471

Time to sing!

I had parked and found the place with no trouble at all (this time). I found a good spot in the center leather sofa, facing the large dance floor, and large stage.  My friends began to show up and joined me on the sofa. Teresa, Suze, and Bosco. We all sang, and the drinks (though expensive) were good, and the crowd lively.

Karaoke starts and ends early, from 8 pm to midnight. We arrived closer to nine, and left just before the end, in all about three hours.

Although the rotation was light at first – only 5-6 singers on the list – it grew as the place filled up closer to ten. That’s pretty typical of a lot of places. If you want to sing more, arrive early. Most people don’t go out earlier than ten.

IMG_5467IMG_5466

The songs:

First I sang Gypsy – duh! It’s a gypsy bar! Right…? – by Fleetwood Mac, and it went okay. I sang a duet with Teresa, Time of the Season by The Zombies. We’ve sung this song tons of times over decades, always a cappella. We were well pleased with how it went. I sang So in Love (from the musical Kiss Me Kate), and had a little unexpected assist. A young woman from the crowd had glommed on to me after some of us had been dancing. I was handed the microphone, then climbed up to perch upon the wooden room divider just above our seats. As I sat there, this young woman leaned toward the microphone, very close to my face, and began to sing along. It didn’t matter much that she didn’t know the melody. It’s a slow song, so she’d find a pitch and an approximate vowel, and chime in. I thought it was rather charming at the time. Not something I’m usually very patient with, however.

IMG_5480IMG_5481

Team building

At first the crowd consisted of a mob of corporate types, literally being stand-off-ish. They wouldn’t enter the dance area, and instead hovered about behind the sofas, blocking the way. I tried to talk to them, and gave them a friendly greeting that went unacknowledged.

Maybe they were there on a company team-building evening out. In any case, they were an insular group. They had on corporate name tags, and had wandered down to the karaoke area in order to humiliate one of their own into singing a Celine Dion song.

Karaoke slumming. 

Turns out their chosen victim wasn’t shy about it at all, and did a fine job with the power ballad. Another one of the company men sang Sweet Caroline, which they all enjoyed immensely. That song for whatever reason is always a crowd pleaser. Then the whole group of twenty or thirty people took off. 

Babies

IMG_5469IMG_5472

Many of the other patrons that night were young – in their 20s – babies. There was one guy who, while singing Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell, climbed over all the furniture and really put on a show. Very entertaining. The crowd went wild. There were also a cluster of Christmas elves and a Santa. This was in June. This place was slightly crazy.

IMG_5470IMG_5483

The ambiance, the music, the singing, the energy…off-kilter and alive. There was a growing buzz, leading to something wild and profane.  

One of the babies was turning 21, and had her birthday party with her. They were youthful, joyful and spontaneous. I joined them on the dance floor. Often when the music takes over, and the crowd goes a bit crazy, I prefer to be a participant. I don’t stay too long on the sidelines.

Mystic Molly

IMG_5487IMG_5488

The coup de grace however was dealt by the amazing KJ Mystic Molly. The centerpiece of the night was her celebration of the 21-year-old’s birthday. Mystic Molly gave our young friend Megan a lap dance that will live in infamy. A couple things you should know. 1) Molly must be known for these displays of debauchery, because 2) it seemed clear the birthday girl came here that night especially for this treatment. And 3) the lap dance is not a traditional lap dance, i.e. it is not in the least erotic.

Now Molly says there is a clear divide when it comes to her shows: there are those who love her, and those who…umless than like this sort of thing. This show is not something you take lightly, and it’s not something you stay ambivalent about.

IMG_5495

The birthday girl was put through the motions, positioned every which way, whilst Molly simulated sex acts with her. They were, of course, fully clothed. Sometimes the nasty bits didn’t quite match up, but you know that’s not really the point. No one was getting off, not the participants, and probably not the spectators. What made it particularly entertaining for me was the nonchalant look on Molly’s face. She looked completely disinterested while she manipulated this sweet young thing – as she gyrated above her, from behind her, and underneath her. This was not a chair dance. I would say they laid upon the dance floor, except they kept moving into new positions. The young gal seemed completely passive and willing to be put through all this. It was a rite of passage. For her, it was a marvelous birthday. And for her friends a wonderful show. The crowd hooted and hollered, took photos and video. Appreciative and a bit stunned too.

IMG_5491

More Irony

Much of what we witnessed that night was not entirely expected. Unless you’re familiar with a Mystic Molly show. I hope she doesn’t take any offense, because none is intended, but I’d have to say there wasn’t  much that was mystical about it.

Just as there were no gypsies there either.

It was a night of contradictions.

As I left, my brain was filled with epiphanies. Was it the lights and music and entertainment that left me feeling intoxicated and full of life? Was it those Bloody Marys?  (I swear I only drank two!)

While I drove home that night, I longed to pull over and write in my journal. I looked for an open coffee shop, one with a hipster vibe, no, make that a gypsy feel to it. I wanted to sit in a corner, drink some tea, and capture all the thoughts bouncing around in my head. I tried to do just that, in incoherent script. The next day much of the mystical magic was lost to me.

Another loss: Mystic Molly of outrageous KJ fame is no longer a staple of the Phoenix karaoke scene. She is taking a lengthy hiatus, and even hints that she’ll be but an occasional visitor to this world. We may never see a Mystic Molly lap dance show again.  I’ll count myself as lucky to have been there at the Gypsy Bar that night.