~The always eloquent Ms. Cybill Shepherd's words to me after the show last night.
Yeah...that did NOT suck. And I couldn't wait till all the way till the end to tell you what she said! So here are the rest of the details of one of the most fun nights I've ever had in my nine years in Los Angeles...
So one day a couple weeks ago my dear old friend Mark Aaron James sends me a Facebook message and says, "Hey Jim Caruso's Cast Party is coming to L.A. - it's a really cool thing and I can connect you with him if you want to sing at it."
Backstory: Cast Party is the most famous open mic in the country. Maybe the world. It happens every Monday night at Birdland in New York City and is hosted by show biz vet Jim Caruso and often has the world reknowned pianist/arranger/producer/composer Billy Stritch (who is apparently so busy he doesn't have time for a real website) on piano. Cast Party is the buzziest and grooviest place in town, as "the greatest singers in the world...and some other people" (as Jim is fond of saying) have shown up to perform and/or hang out (Judith Light, Liza Minelli, Parker Posey...just a few of the names I've heard bandied about). Jim and Billy, longtime friends and Liza's homies, decided to "Why Not?" a Casty Party out here in L.A. and they chose the world famous Magic Castle for their venue.
Now...we all know I'm a bit of a rock chick/pop girl. I am grossly under-educated in matters of cabaret and musical theater, because Nashville, where I studied music in college, just doesn't have much of a theater or cabaret community. Once moving to L.A., well...tv and movies eclipse theater and cabaret out here. It certainly doesn't get the same respect it does in NY. That said...I had no clue who Jim Caruso was and I had barely an inkling of who Billy Stritch was (and probably only because my neighbor is the sound guy at L.A.'s last true cabaret room, The Gardenia - which also needs its own website - and he's probably worked with him at some point and brought him up in conversation). One also should know that everytime I've been assured that "important people" will be attending a show, it's usually a big, fat, hairy lie, so I rather nonchalantly said, "Sure. Why not."
Disclaimer: Not that my friend Mark's a liar, I don't think he's ever actually heard of the word, but in the entertainment biz, things can happen...and then again, things might not...
Fast forward. I do my research. I'm all, "Oh crap. They aren't kidding around." I talk a lot with Mark via The Book and I say I'm gonna do Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" (my go-to song for cabaret-type gigs). He informs me that a) Billy Stritch doesn't care to do Billy Joel (blasphemy!!! although if I were him, I'd probably think that NEVER would be too soon to ever play or hear "Piano Man" again, too - actually, I think that and I'm NOT him) and b) there is a strict NO BALLADS policy (cue the Soup Nazi bellowing, "NO BALLADS FOR YOU!"). I'm all, "Double crap. What am I gonna sing???"
Uptempos for rock shows? Check. Uptempos for cabaret? Waaah waaah waaaaaaaah.
Yes. I'm a vocal coach. I should know more standards and musical theater, especially since I was in a jazz vocal group in college. And I should DEFINITELY hand in my fruit fly card. Now that we're all done tsk-tsking me, let's carry on.
Long story short, following lots of irritating emails to Mark (bless his patient little heart), I decide on Robert Johnson's "Crossroads Blues" (funny, on my very first blog on here, I quoted verses from it, which I just at this moment recalled...spoooooooky!). I figure every piano player knows their 12 bar blues progression, I used to sing the song with my band back in Nashville so I already knew it and we could swing it just enough to fit into the cabaret atmosphere while still letting my inner-black girl peek through ever-so-slightly. It would really take some WORK to screw it up.
Well. Let's not forget who I am. My name is Darci Monet, and I'm a self-sabotager. I'm in recovery, but sometimes I just don't hold on tightly enough to the wagon.
So I'm ready to do my thang. My friend Candy wants to come along with me, but when she calls to get tickets, they were SOLD OUT!!! OH NOOOOOO!!!
Then it occurs to me...oh my God. What if I was supposed to buy a ticket for MYSELF? Every other open mic in the world comps their singers...but this isn't every other open mic in the world, it's Jim Caruso's Freakin' Cast Party at the members-only Magic Freakin' Castle and even though Jim knows I'm coming to sing I STILL HAVE NO TICKET TO GET IN!!!
Panicked phone calls to the event coordinator at the castle and anyone working there who might help me (no one can). Rifling through emails. I find my original correspondence with Jim and THANK YOU BABY JESUS he had written, "I will put you on the singer's list and comp your ticket. Yay! Can't wait!"
Fortunately I was already sitting down otherwise my knees would've buckled with relief. I really thought I had shot myself in the foot. AGAIN. After all my hemming and hawing over what to sing and coming up with music and yada yada...choosing not to take the easy way out and make the "I don't have time to get anything together" excuse...*phew*! To be safe, I printed out that mo fo email to bring with me and highlighted the "comp your ticket" part. Take THAT, Exclusive Magic Peoples' Club! Das right! You bettah step!
But what to do about my friend Candy? So we decide to make a plan. She could be my roadie. ??? She's my personal assistant. ??? She's my backup singer. ??? Well...it's an open mic...supposedly anyone can sing, right? Finally, Candy picks a song and learns it...just in case. We will weasle her in somehow so I don't have to sit through the show alone sweating it out till my turn, even if she's forced to get up and sing "Bare Necessities" to do it.
You should know that Candy is a brilliant professional artist (she designed my most recent album cover). And while she has a pleasant voice and looooves to sing, it is not her profession. I think her willingness to get up in front of a crowd of people who do it for a living is a testament to what a good friend she is. It's also a testament to how badly she wanted to go to The Magic Castle. Cuz surriously, that pad is pimpin'.
Fast forward. Magic Castle last night. Our covert operation begins. We have our sheet music at the ready. We have our story planned. Our teeth are clenched. Our palms are sweaty. I ask the spirit of the Great Houdini to send us a little magic.
"Yes Ms. Monet, here are your tickets and your table number."
TWO TICKETS IN THE ENVELOPE!!! AND A RESERVED TABLE???
The best case scenario of which I had dreamed was that I'd have a comp, Candy would still have to pay the $20 to get in and we'd both have to mill about the bar in our heels all night long dodging Jim so Candy wouldn't really be forced to sing. But no...we were both comped, we had a table and Candy could just have a jolly good time with no worries.
The AMAZING Melissa Manchester (!!!).
and of course, Cybill Shepherd.