Ich bin eine Karaoke addict and a piss-poor Elvis impersonator. Nevertheless, I HAD to throw myself into the Berlin Bearpit and dance with the rest of the bears. AGAIN. You may know me as Dunkin’ Berliner, but in a previous life (Prague) I was known as Melvis O’Presky, the hardest working pelvis in Prague; or His Royal Melvic Region, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.
I paid my dues. I croaked and crooned in some of the smokiest, darkest, least-crowded karaoke bars with the warmest, flattest beer a man can swallow without puking. At first it was the usual ‘drunk man finds liquid courage, a microphone and primal scream therapy’ at the expense of the other drunks. The mic hung at the edge of my soused mouth and I mumbled my Elvis in the dark. Three drunken friends clapped. One of them yelled ‘Go Melvis.’ I think I scrawled ‘Elvis’ on the beer-soaked paper and handed it to the KJ (karaoke jockey). Many muffled mumbles later, Melvis was born.
Then came The Suit: All six-feet-five-white-polyester-sequined-hell of it. I had it made by a local Czech seamstress. Then came The Gig. Melvis entered, grabbed the mic and hosted many-a-Prague karaoke as MC Melvis, then, sadly (if only for me), Melvis left the building.
They say Berlin is where creative people go to die. No, I just made that up. We’re supposed to be reborn here, like some god damned Phoenixes rising from the fucking ashes of Capitalism or something; perhaps this is purgatory. But considering that I’ve been surrounded by the same wannabe, parent-supported-mediocre-slacker-artist-pretentious-hipsters for nearly 2 years now, I’m beginning to suspect that I may have to work my way back UP to purgatory. Again.
Re-enter Melvis. Last summer I got drunk in Mauerpark, as a dude does on a sunny Sunday in Berlin. I somehow wound up on stage with a bottle of warm Sterni in one hand and a microphone in the other--in front of a LARGE CROWD of people. I croaked, I crooned and I really SUCKED ASS. Evidence of my ass-suckitude can be found on the Bearpit Karaoke You Tube channel. You really don’t wanna Google that. TRUST me. When I found The Pit it was just getting popular. And as with anything that is just getting popular, you wanna be the one who says ‘you were there when it was just starting.’ And so I am. Er, was. As a veteran karaoke lounge lizard from hell I noticed that the KJ (His Royal Highness, Sir Joe Hatchiban-San, ESQ, hereafter referred to as ‘K to the J’ or just ‘Joe’) had a completely different setup: no monitor speakers (those tiny square ones facing the stage) to properly hear your own voice; no echo to hide the obvious flaws in every drunk’s voice; no safety net for the obvious karaoke fool who thinks he’s all dat and a bag of chips. Joe likes to rumble in with his bicycle of doom, dump the heavy load onto the stage, and drop the hapless singers into the pit with the hungry bears.
And the crowd goes wild.
So I had to do it again and again, like coffee or beer or sex. Yeah, like those things, with a MUCH bigger crowd. But the crowds are out of control. Not in the Bear-Eat-Drunken-Singer meaning of the phrase; you just couldn’t get a song in edgewise. Fight through the horde, submit your song, wait for 2 hours—and if you’re LUCKY—sing your bad-ass song. Badly. I tried it a few times in the last months. Once I was turned down flat: ‘We’re not taking any more songs,’ the nice girl said. Hell, in Ye Olden Days of Yokee, Joe didn’t have the luxury of a nice girl to take songs. Times they are a’changin’ I guess. The next time The Girl put me on the bottom of a list of about 20 people. Two hours later, no glory. I left.
This is the part in the story where any sane man would have given up, got a job, paid his taxes and died unfulfilled, or any insane man would have returned with an Uzi and lit up the muthafuckas. But I am neither sane nor insane. I walk the line. I went back. Early. I sat in the front of the muthafucka. After Joe did his intro song he asked who would be the first singer. I jumped up and flailed my arms. It worked; third time’s the charm. I climbed up on that stony stage and I huffed, I puffed and I blew the house down.
And the crowd went wild.