Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Take the Good, Take the Bad.

While I was settling in at work this morning Tim received a phone call. He politely took down the phone number given to him by the person on the other end of the line and hung up. Then he turned my way.

"Word association, Chuck," he said. "Kim Fields."

"Huh?" I grunted. I opted for hot cocoa at Intelligentsia this morning.

"Kim Fields."

"Tim, I've only been awake for an hour," I said.

Tim stared at me slightly disappointed and said, "Kim Fields, man. You know, 'Tootie?'"

I rubbed my eyes in anticipation of the migraine. "'The Facts of Life' Kim Fields?" I was slightly interested.

"Yeah. The same."

"What about her?"

Tim had an evil glint in his eye. "She's billing herself as a smooth jazz artist now and she wants to play here."

I stopped typing e-mail. "No way!"

"Really. That was her on the phone," Tim said. "She wants to book a gig here."

We laughed in unison when he said that, humming the theme from "The Facts of Life" for emphasis. Later, as I was dealing with liquor salesmen I began to think, if Tim was on the level, how sad it is that someone who had some measure of success in entertainment is now personally cold calling clubs around the country looking to make a living. I mean, it wasn't that long ago when Kim Fields did an extended engagement of "The Vagina Monolouges" in Chicago back when that play was so ubiquitous. Now ahe's doing a total left turn and trying to recast herself as a singer.

It reminded me of a broadcast fax we received in the office one day last year. It was an announcement that longtime rock-n'-roller Rick Derringer was also making the move to smooth jazz. The fax listed his credentials, the promotional push to spread the word of Derringer's "conversion", and some of the hits Derringer would be playing in concert- "Hang On Sloopy" and a re-arranged version of "Rock-n'-Roll Hootchie Koo" titled "Jazzy Koo."

I can empathize in a way. I once caught Pat Travers in concert in a bar on a Florida military base fifteen years ago. His band's gear was set up on a small riser above a dance floor straight out of "Saturday Night Fever." That dance floor also doubled as Travers' light show.

Travers and his band of hired guns hit the stage and bookended their set with the two songs I came to hear: "Snortin' Whiskey, Drinking Cocaine" and "Boom Boom!! Out Go The Lights!!" It was obvious to my nineteen-year-old ears that Travers was going through the motions twelve inches above that flashing dance floor. I doubt his fee barely covered his expenses. But he did it anyway, and the twenty-five or so people who deigned to see the show enjoyed every bit of it.

I compared that to the Derringer fax and Kim Fields this afternoon on the way home. Sure, Pat Travers phoned in a show fifteen years ago. But at least he gave the fans what they wanted. What they didn't want that night was "Jazzy Koo" or Tootie tackling Sade.

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