1996, November - Hollywood - Flansburgh's Brush with Greatness: Real and Alternate Histories
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Hollywood, November 1996
Flansburgh's Brush with Greatness:
Real and Alternate Histories
After 14 years in this business we call the business of show, I guess you could say I have two show business friends. This is not to say I don't have enough friends. However, I really do believe Jerry Lewis when, as the Telethon winds down to its last few blurry hours with Jerry's gleaming hair burning into the video cameras and his mind a scramble of sleep deprivation and prescription drugs, he blurts out "Darlings, let me tell you, when you got show business friends, you're the luckiest guy in the world." I often think to myself: Just someone to bump into in Tahoe, trade "worst gig" stories with, and call on for that big show celebrity walk on. Last fall my luck almost changed. TMBG were back in LA for a couple of shows. My friends AJ and Shirley were planning a party and had timed it to coincide with my time in LA. The soiree was happening in this little bar in a oddly remote neighborhood in Hollywood. The place was notorious for its lively and startling karaoke performances, and ever-cheery staff of Asian women. The waitresses and bartenders take full advantage of their bar privileges, and are always smashed well before the end of an evening. AJ told me how a fight broke out in the bar on one previous visit where the bartender and a customer started arguing over who's belly button smelled more or, perhaps, worse. The fight culminated in the bartender jumping up on the bar jamming her pinkie into her belly button and sticking it in the face of the customer. It was that kind of place. Needless to say, the party had to be there. When the day of the party finally came, I was overworked with in-stores and press and it was dawning on me that I had the flu. I was having a hard time singing, or even talking, and I might not really be a viable party person. At the front desk the clerk informed me that with Hollywood Saturday night traffic (an LA only phenomenon) it would take at least half an hour to get to my destination. My will to celebrate was crumbling, and I decided I had to go directly to the theater to get ready for the TMBG show where I'd call the bar to apologize. A customer answered the phone at the bar, and I went through the uncomfortable ordeal of describing AJ well enough to pick him out of a crowd. The woman on the phone was more than up to the challenge and had an easy charm about her. It was only 8pm, but from the sound of it, the place was already rockin.' A brief dispute between me and the unknown woman over whether AJ really did look like Donny Osmond was finally settled by AJ himself weighing in with a scream of embarrassment. I apologized to AJ for my absence and we planned to get together at the TMBG show. He said he had something to tell me, and that I would regret not making it out to the party. Real History: AJ arrived at the show and explained to me that an uninvited k.d. lang showed up at the bar and sang karaoke for an hour to an audience of stunned revelers. Selections included "Walking After Midnight" and "Blue Bayou." After dazzling the crowd, she disappeared into the night. Alternate History: I felt great as I arrived at the bar, and was in great voice. Dropped in on the karaoke and blew the room away with "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" (my signature number). I step off the stage and AJ introduces me to his new drinking pal, k.d. lang. As the DJ queues up "Crying" k.d. grabs me by the arm and with an almost innate internal show business ESP we trade lines in a spontaneous duet, including Rat Pack-like personal asides. Later in the evening, k.d.'s limo pulls up to the Hollywood Palace. She steps through the stage fire door to Graham's bass playing the opening strains of "Spy." At the end of Linnell's wild conducted free jam, k.d. places her tenor guitar back in her gig bag and whispers in my ear, "See you at Caesar's in January." We part with a high five.