Karaoke for Christmas

It’s been called “the most wonderful time of the year,” that magical season when humankind supposedly sets aside its differences in favor of worldwide peace, harmony and joy (that is, after the X Box has been safely procured from the nearest Big Box Mart and placed under the tree.)

Of course, as anyone who has had one too many trips to the egg nog bowl and found themselves trying to explain away suspicious smears on the Xerox machine come Monday morning can attest to, good will toward one’s fellow man can quickly turn into forced social hibernation for the rest of the winter.

That’s right, I’m talking the office Christmas party. The one time of the year when seemingly mild-mannered desk jockeys loosen the loafers, toss off the mouse pads and party like frat boys in Amsterdam. Or at least try to.

Thus, before you spend the next several years trying to live down the reputation as the “I love you, man” guy, or god forbid, you end up on YouTube burping the “12 Days of Christmas,” perhaps a cautionary tale is in order.

No, I’m not talking beer before liquor, or a glass of milk to coat your stomach. And I’m definitely not going to recommend moderation.

What I will say is this: friends don’t let friends karaoke.

Allow me to digress by saying that what you do in the privacy of your own home, with the shades drawn and “Rock Band” turned to 11 is up to you. But remember, once you leave the confines of your own living room, Durango can be a painfully small town.

Of course, my aversion to public performances wasn’t always like this. In fact, back in the day, I was known to slip away from the dorms for happy hour at the local sushi joint. The food was cheap, the beer even cheaper, and the karaoke free. As a result, countless extended “study breaks” were spent paying homage to Neil Diamond, Elvis and Karen Carpenter. Sure, my college algebra grade flirted with the D-range, but I was getting an A+ in public performance. However, my rising star was soon to fall when a fist-pumping rendition of the theme from “Flashdance” brought down the house, literally. As white asbestos ceiling tiles rained down upon my fellow diners, the plug was prematurely pulled on my promising career.

Which is why, when it was suggested the Telegraph spring for a karaoke machine for last year’s annual holiday get together, I was a bit reluctant. Like a recovering smoker handed a freshly packed Marlboro red, I feared I wouldn’t be able to resist the urge. It would start with just a little ditty, maybe some harmless Jimmy Buffet, but the next thing you know, I’d be tackling the entire “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

But I was a lot older and more in control now, surely I could stop at just one song.

“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” my coworker baited me with the prospect, like a box of chocolate doughnuts at a Weight Watchers meeting. Needless to say, I cracked like a tone-deaf wannabe trying to hit a Steve Perry high note.

Alas, when the big night arrived, I found myself woefully late for my triumphant reunion tour. I was secretly relieved that this would at least provide ample time for my opening act. Unfortunately, my arrival was greeted with the sight of dozens of partygoers tiptoeing around the amp and mic stand like a 3-ton abominable snowman in the middle of the room.

“Thank god you’re here,” a desperate fellow closet karaokier said as I had barely had removed my coat. “The party’s starting to die. You need to get up there and get the ball rolling.”

I wanted to mention the fact that the karaoke machine was not my bright idea,

or that I barely had time to warm up my vocal chords with a little Christmas cheer. But I could tell the situation was dire. If I didn’t stand up and take one for the team, this year would go down in infamy as the year we wussed out. Plus, aside from being a total waste of $50, it would be a public declaration to something I had long suspected but refused to admit: I was getting old and boring.

So, hushing my rational side with a pint-sized margarita, I stepped up to the microphone. But what to sing? The catalog was massive and time was ticking. In a stroke of high-pressure genius, I decided on Abba’s “Dancing Queen” – a perennial crowd-pleaser sure to get the party moving.

Channeling my best ’70s inner Swedish super diva, I put the mic to my lips and started in.

“Friday night and the lights are low,” I croaked, my atrophied vocal chords slowly coming back to life. “Looking out for the place to gooooo … .”

Soon enough, the kinks worked themselves out and the music (aided by some mainlined Cuervo) began to flow. Coming up on the refrain, I squeezed my eyes tight and really gave it my best: “You are the dancing queeeeeen, young and sweeeeet, only seventeeeeeen … .” I briefly opened my eyes to gauge the crowd’s awe of my broad vocal range and to catch a breath before going into the “You can dance, you can jive” part. But, instead of adoring fans, I was greeted with the sight of tortured, pained faces. My 4-year-old had taken to screaming “Make her stop!” with his hands clamped over his ears while my mother-in-law looked on, horrified.

Like any true showperson, I attempted to carry on in the face of adversity. But as I came upon the second verse, I could tell the dissent was growing. Even those who were able to block out the first half of my performance now stood silenced, drinks half full, jaws slack in befuddlement. Despite the distraction of zippers hastily zipping and buttons busily buttoning, I was able to finish the song, not to a standing ovation but a mad dash for the nearest exit.

“Uh, we’ve got to get up early tomorrow,” people mumbled to the floor as they avoided eye contact on their way out. Parents quickly escorted young ones to the door with disgusted looks on their faces as others spoke in hushed tones as they quickly slammed the rest of their drinks.

Seeing my guests fleeing like rats from a garbage scow, I attempted some last-ditch damage control. “Really, it’s not my fault,” I profusely apologized into the mic. “There’s something wrong with the bass levels. I usually don’t sound that bad … .”

But it was too late. Even the die-hard freeloaders had moved on to the Realtor party down the street.

“Way to clear out a party,” my husband congratulated me.

And I must say, he was right. In true Christmas miracle fashion, I had driven away every single person, including the bartender who had taken refuge in the wait station, in less than four minutes. It was just me, a karaoke machine that didn’t have to be back until the next morning and a few local barflies clearly in need of serenading.

I guess sometimes Christmas wishes really do come true.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows