Friday, October 18th, 1996
It was a relatively warm Indian summer day in San Francisco. The kind of day that encourages San Franciscans to get up and boogie. I had been out of the closet for eight months and had been in two relationships. The last one ended acrimoniously. He wanted to marry me, symbolically, and I wasn’t ready. I knew he wasn’t the one, but I kept that to myself. Upon hearing my rejection, he immediately embarked on a campaign to convince me of my error, which involved continually pestering me and my good friend, Laurie. Finally, in desperation, she asked ME to ask HIM to cease and desist. He pouted for a few months. Then he got over it. In the meantime, I was still dating, and by good luck, I found a really nice guy. Or maybe he found me — it’s been 22 years to the day since this happened. In any event, he suggested we attend the “Vertigo” restoration premiere at The Castro Theater for our first date. Since I can’t remember his name, I’ll call him “Mr. Nice”.
Mr. Nice had procured two deluxe tickets for the premiere, which included a question and answer segment with Kim Novak after the film. We met up in line at the theater. I could tell right away that he was very sweet, but there was no sizzle. That hardly mattered because shortly afterwards there was a constant flow of limousines dropping people off at the theater entrance. I gaped at all of the celebrities, dressed to the nines, as they made their way through the adoring crowds, cameras clicking and bulbs flashing. Finally, we took our seats. A few seats over, I could see George Lucas and his entourage. I was gassed! After everyone was seated, the great pipe organ came out of the floor, and the organist began playing the incidental music to “Vertigo” in a seemingly improvised sequence. It was the perfect way to introduce the beautifully restored classic film. I had goosebumps, and I’m sure many others in attendance did has well. We saw the film, reveling in the brilliant color choices Hitchcock had carefully chosen, as well as the Wagnerian musical score, written by the inestimable Bernard Herrmann. After the film, Kim Novak appeared on the stage, looking far, far younger than her actual age. She was delightful and engaging. Afterwards, Mr. Nice and I hugged, kissed, and parted ways. I had a lot to think about on the bus ride home.
Not too long after this event, Mr. Nice asked me if I would be interested in going out to a local bar called the “Metro” (now called “Lookout”). To further entice me, he mentioned that they have karaoke. Something inside of me jumped. It was like electricity. I told him that I would be very interested, and the sooner the better. So here we were, inside of this rather lively bar, on the second floor of this building, above Squat and Gobble Cafe, a block from Castro street. I had a drink (or two). I was very nervous, but I really wanted to do this. I had never sung karaoke before, and tonight was going to be the first time. I reviewed the song list and chose “Proud Mary”, hoping that this would be the Tina Turner version. I submitted my slip to the k-jay and returned to our table. Mr. Nice and I engaged in small talk. I think he knew how nervous I was, and he tried to bolster my courage. Finally, I heard my name called. My heart was in my throat as I walked, numbly, to the small stage. As soon as the music started, I realized, much to my dismay, that this was the Creedence Clearwater Revival version. Shit! Oh well, the show must go on. I knew couldn’t sing it in the same range as the CCR lead singer, so I dropped it down an octave, which sounded VERY strange. You could say I was uncomfortable, self-conscious. But something unexpected happened — I was getting noticed. At the end of the song, those in attendance applauded and I bowed, somewhat beside myself. As soon as I returned to our table, Mr. Nice gave me a big hug and expressed his admiration of my vocal talent. I have no idea what happened afterwards; I only knew that I was hooked on karaoke!
And I’m still hooked and loving every moment of it!