Saturday, January 25, 2003

Catch a Painted Pony...

Currently listening to Shirley Bassey beating the shit out of "Spinning Wheel" with the assistance of DJ Spinna... the beat goes right to my groin. Mmmmmmm. I haven't enjoyed an album of music as much as I've enjoyed The Remix Album... Diamonds Are Forever in I don't know how long. I love this more than I loved the Charlie's Angels soundtrack, perhaps even more than I loved the Maria Callas La Divina series.

Actually, I'm having a sort of Musical Elysium today... I'm enjoying music rather more than I usually do, reacting to it in a quite visceral manner that is not my normal response. As I was watching television earlier, I passed one of those informercials flogging The Ed Sullivan Show DVDs, and caught Pearl Bailey singing "That's Life"... she worked the hell out of that song, and worked the hell out of the boom operator who was trying to follow her as she rocketed all over the stage with the force of her own fabulousness, and scared Ed a few times by getting all up in his pudding as he was trying to mind his own business stage left... and I watched the whole thing, ecstatic and spellbound, wishing I was her or even fractionally like her, and thanking my lucky stars that I happened to see her.

Then in the car on the way to and from picking up dinner at the nearby Szechuan restaurant, I swung out to Keely Smith's latest album, Swing, Swing, Swing, particularly the title track that always makes me want to dress in a white dinner-jacket and sip a martini in a fabled West End nightclub with W Somerset Maugham and Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. During dinner I was listening to Barbara Cook's album All I Ask of You, and had to go out into the living room halfway through the meal and sit in front of the stereo to listen to "He Loves Me" from up close, twice, imagining myself performing it at the Miss Gay Marin Pageant and being very thrilled by the momentum and humor of the song, which is one of those that seems peculiarly suited to Miss Cook's peculiarly nasal head-voice. And now I'm listening to Miss Goddess Bassey again, God how I love this remix album!

I think, though, one of the reasons that music is more meaningful to me today, is because I am on the brink of doing something completely terrifying and unheard-of related to music: I am going to audition for a musical tomorrow... the Living Sober Musical, to be exact. I am going to stand up in front of God and whoever else is in the room and sing "I Wish You Love"... à capella, no less, since I couldn't find the sheet-music among my papers, and even if I could find the sheet music I couldn't rehearse the accompaniment because I don't play piano. Anyway, it's one of the few songs I know how to sing full-voice, having worked on it for my voice class last year. It sounds pretty good à capella, too.

My panties are in a bit of a bunch, here. More than a bit, really... if I think about it at all, as I am doing now in order to write about it, I am clutched by a nameless dread and a gelid fear, my lips purse and my knees flex and my heart twists into a little knot and tries to burrow down into my liver.

I remember the feeling of standing up in front of the class a year ago and squeezed out my solo final, "If I Were A Bell" from Guys and Dolls; I shall never forget the looks of stunned amazement that came over the class as I sang, blown away by my volume yet completely unmoved by my tone... it was as if a robot were singing. I'd sung our other songs, "I Wish You Love" and Schubert's "Ave Maria" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," in nicely anonymous groups, and I didn't feel that fear... in fact, I rather enjoyed the singing. I love singing, I do it all the time at home and in the car. But standing up and facing an audience, without the armor of drag, it made me feel so foolish that I emotionally froze up, and the song came out mechanical and terribly loud (I was so afraid of faltering or sounding scared, as others had done before me, that I totally overcompensated). I completely lacked content, musicality, and vibrato. It felt awful.

So tomorrow I am hoping that this won't happen. I think that once I get past that first line of verse, I will be okay. And so I am going to be utilizing the Fake It 'Til You Make It method of gaining confidence... I am going to pretend a cavalier insouciance that I don't feel, and hopefully trick myself into feeling it before I start singing. And in the meantime, I am just going to keep singing this song over and over.

I thought about trying to record myself singing, but I think that might be counterproductive. I won't be able to go through with the audition if I get it into my nut that I sound awful; and knowing me, I will believe that I sound awful on the recording no matter how I do sound, simply because I won't sound the way I do in my own head.

Aaaaanyhow... I'll just ride a painted pony and let the spinning wheel turn. Like we always say, "No matter what happens, you're ass isn't going to fall off (and if it does, just pick it up and shove it back in your pants)." Nobody ever actually died of embarrassment. And if I suck total eggs, the Living Sober Musical's motto is: "No One Turned Away For Lack of Talent."

I've found these little tests of character are getting farther apart. It seems that it's been a while since I really pushed my fear buttons and let them do their worst. I mean, taking that singing class was a step in the right direction. There have been a couple of other things like that in the last couple of years... but it seems like a really long time since I had to just swallow my heart and roll the dice (to mix a metaphor). Took a plunge. Faced the music. Stood up and did something no matter how scary it was. I've found happiness in complacency, and I have found complacency in custom... becoming accustomed to things that used to scare me stupid.

Like I almost never get nervous before going onstage in drag anymore. I used to feel abject terror right up to that moment before I stepped out on stage; but now I step out on stage with the same unconcern as I step out onto the front porch to face another day outside. The leap of fear that used to come on my way to an AA meeting is gone, I can walk into an AA meeting anywhere in the world and feel like I belong there (though I still feel uncomfortable around straight people, which means that I tend not to carry the same attitude into straight AA meetings as into gay AA meetings).

Well, I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow. If I get a feature role in the musical, with a solo, that would be a great way to walk past my fear of singing alone in public. Having sung once in front of a class hasn't killed that fear, only downgraded it from Paralyzing to Abject; but with months of rehearsals and two performances, I might get it all the way down to Timorous or Edgy. Then it's only a few more steps of acclimatization before I can walk onto any stage and belt out any toneless tune with nary a qualm.

Singing... the Second-To-Last Frontier. And then, if I get used to singing in public, I will have little choice for my next fear-busting exploit except to tackle Dating. Eep.

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