I hate my boyfriend.
He doesn't show a lot of interest in many entertainment suggestions.
"Honey, how about some Chekov?"
"Would you like to try a new restaurant?"
"Wanna go for a walk?"
Recently, though, he perked up at the idea of hearing an evening of swingin' music. We had received a publicity flyer from a club that specialized in parodies and satires showing a dishy blonde -- big hair and boobs covered in more make-up than the first floor of a major department store -- in a show called Sunny Sings Sinatra, I thought, "This can't be for real."
Anxious for a few laughs and thrilled that my beloved actually WANTED to see something outside of our apartment, we dressed and headed downtown.
My joy increased at the kitschy Italian decor -- strings of lights hung over red-checked tablecloths and chianti bottles dripping with faux candle wax. Bunches of grapes lit from within framed the ornate set of heavy red velvet curtains trimmed with gold fringe. On stage: a black baby grand played by the music director, who was notorious for his hilarious send-ups of opera and movies. This was going to be fun!
Alarm bells first went off when we saw the sparse crowd: a typical community theater group of upper middle-aged folks who didn't seem poised for a good joke. The white-haired producer mingled with the crowd, schmoozing and shaking hands, followed later by the star herself. I read the program card and reality set in quickly: Sunny is married to the producer of the show -- a man with 30 years of experience creating revues for cruise ships and Vegas lounges and her career has taken the same path. A girl from my hometown worked for this producer years ago and her publicity photos were too risque to be printed in the local paper. Oh man, this was gonna be a long night.
I groaned to my boyfriend and he began a long string of apologies that would continue for the rest of the evening. We had clearly misunderstood each other. He was there to laugh at, I was there to laugh with. Dinner was marginal (not only in taste, but in freshness), the show was delayed with 20 minutes of sound system complications. Then...a video screen lit up with ancient footage of Sunny walking on the beach with no discernable connection to Sinatra.
In a few minutes, the star herself appeared in a pink spangled skin-tight dress with footage of the 1980s era Count Basie Orchestra behind her -- huh?. The show proceeded with Sunny indeed singing Sinatra a la Branson (she couldn't swing if she had one in her backyard) and the audience ate it up -- especially the men -- as she moved among the crowd, perching on the edges of their chairs and in their laps, patting their heads and stroking their beards. She even stopped by our table and flirted with my beloved who wanted to slink under the table. Heh, heh, heh...payback!
In between songs, Sunny spouted inane patter ("Frank had the world on a string, but when the string broke, just like any champ who was down for the count, he came back swingin') and attempted some poor impersonations, including one of Marilyn Monroe that was more tragic than entertaining. There was a video break that showed Sunny's victory at the Frank Sinatra Golf Classic and -- poof!-- she returned in a girly "gangster" costume, singing ballads. The patter didn't improve, but she was much better at the slow tunes.
Thankfully, we were freed after about 80 minutes. Feeling curious and ripped off, I did an internet search for Sunny and her ilk and discovered a world of entertainment companies who make a living hiring show biz wanna-bes to appear in strip shows, bush-league cabaret acts, and erotic reviews for cruise ships, gambling boats, and hotels from New Orleans to Atlantic City. One company was seeking dancers to perform 10-12 shows per week for $650 a month. Oye! Sunny Sings Sinatra was no doubt an out of town try-out for a Vegas lounge and boy, were we lucky to get a preview...and I thought the Wayne Newton reality series "The Entertainer" was cheesy!
I felt duped and robbed, but I also found I wasn't the first to feel taken in by Sunny. Apparently, Sunny did another show in Seattle a few years ago and her producer-husband used some less than ethical methods to attract an audience to that production. The Stranger exposed their questionable publicity in an article entitled "Busted! Busted! Busted!".
So, out of the rubble arose a better understanding between me and my boyfriend about what we ACTUALLY enjoy. And I learned about a whole world of entertainment sleaze that I didn't know about before. See? Things really do turn out for the best.
Yeah, that's what I'll tell myself when the credit card statement comes.