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Rock Bottom Birthday Bash

Playing the Role of a Third Wheel Was Bearable, but Dancing on Stage In a Child's Cowboy Hat Took Its Toll

March 17, 2000|DAVID LANSING | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I don't know why they even invited me to join them, these two women. I am superfluous. I am the parsley on their plates, the unopened catsup bottle on the table. They drink their Australian chardonnay, though we are at a brew pub in the Irvine Spectrum, and eat their froufrou food--lettuce with raw ahi, lettuce with smoked salmon--and totally ignore me. Me with my big ol' pint of Sticky Tongue Stout, black as licorice and thick as oatmeal, and my mouth smeared with smoky barbecue sauce from a rack of pork ribs.

But they don't care about that, these women, because as far as they're concerned, I'm not even here. I am the Invisible Man. They wave their hands in the air and slap the table for emphasis and talk about things you shouldn't talk about in front of a man while I am silent with my Sticky Tongue.

They say stuff like, "You know what I got for Christmas? A Thighmaster."

"A Thighmaster or a Buttmaster?"

"No, a Thighmaster."

Eventually, they both look accusingly at me, like, "Are you going to add anything to this conversation or are you just going to sit there dripping barbecue sauce on your shirt?"

So I decide to make an effort. I put down a rib and wipe my greasy mouth on the back of my hand and smile at them. "I saw this great chick flick last weekend," I say, trying to get them off the subject of Buttmasters.

One of the women slowly sets down her Australian chardonnay and gives me the Stink Eye. "I hate that term--'chick flick.' "

I shrug and order another Sticky Tongue so I'll have something to do with my mouth besides talk.

The two women I am dining with share the same birthday. Which is supposedly why we are at the Rock Bottom Brewery and why, as soon as dinner is over, we go next door to SingSing where two guys sit facing each other across matching baby grand pianos singing "I Am Woman" in falsetto voices. One of the pianists is wearing a rugby shirt and an L.A. Dodgers cap. The other thumps the foot pedals in Doc Martens. We sit at a table in front of the stage, and the piano player in Doc Martens interrupts his song to ask me what my name is. I tell him.

"Well, stand up, David."

I stand up.

"Take your coat off."

I take my long wool coat off.

"Now sit down and enjoy yourself. Don't look so stiff."

The two birthday girls find this very amusing. They are having the time of their lives. They drink more wine and fill out the little yellow request slip and, along with a five dollar bill, slide it across the piano to Dodger Cap who immediately breaks into a bawdy rendition of "You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille."

One of the birthday girls shoves a disposable camera in my hand and hops upstage, in midsong, to have her picture taken with one of the dueling pianists. Then she tells the other birthday girl to get up there and I take her picture as well.

"Your turn, David," says the pianist. I smile and shake my head no. "Come on, get up here!" he insists, and so, while the two birthday girls giggle, I lamely climb on stage and sit with the pianist on the piano stool, his legs straddling me, while Miss Stink Eye takes my picture.

SingSing, it seems, is a favorite place to celebrate birthdays. Every 15 minutes or so, one of the three rotating pianists--whose names, we are told, are Kevin, Ron and Tom--invites a birthday boy or girl to come up on stage and be publicly embarrassed. Once it's a young Marine who is told to thrust his hips like Elvis as Ron plays "Blue Suede Shoes" and another time it's a girl who has just turned 21 who sits on a chair on stage while both piano players sing lyrics risque enough to make her blush throughout the entire song.

"Don't you dare tell him it's our birthday," Miss Stink Eye tells me.

While Kevin and Tom pound out "Love Shack," I excuse myself to visit the men's room. I decide that if, when I come back, the whole bar is singing to the B-52s while the birthday girls are on stage, I will sneak out of SingSing. But the girls are behaving themselves. They smile like angels as I cross the bar and walk back to the table. Which is when the pianist spots me and announces to the audience that it is my birthday. And would I please come up on stage.

Well, it is not my birthday. I take out my driver's license to prove it to him. In fact, I tell him, it is the birthday of the two women who are now laughing so hard that they are holding each other and crying. Kevin doesn't care. He tells three other men to come up on stage, hands us all hats--mine is a little felt cowboy hat--and instructs us to dance while he and the other piano player launch into the Village People's "YMCA."

When it comes time for my solo dancing performance, I prance across the stage as if riding a pony and use my index fingers as six-guns to fire imaginary bullets into the audience. I save most of my rounds for the two birthday girls who are bent in half in fits of apoplectic laughter. Miss Stink Eye grabs her disposable camera and snaps a shot as I blaze away at her with my smoking fingers.

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