Is this thing on?

Colusa Casino pays singers for rocking the mic well at weekly karaoke competition

AMERICAN IDLE? <br>Songbird Christine LaPadolimbers up her larynx.

Songbird Christine LaPadolimbers up her larynx.

Photo By Mark Lore

I probably should have looked more carefully through the huge binders full of karaoke songs being passed around Colusa Casino’s Jack’s Lounge. I should have checked to see if Sammy Davis Jr.'s “What Kind of Fool Am I?” was in there, so I could have sung it instead of what I did end up singing at the most recent round of the casino’s weekly “Are you worthy of the Karaoke Crown?” contest. At least then it would have been more obvious that my little act could be interpreted as comedy.

After settling in to the last table available in the lounge, I leafed through that massive song binder realizing that it was quite possible that I didn’t know all of the words to any of those songs, partly because I don’t listen to Top-40 radio. Every popular song on earth was in those binders—from Jimmy Buffett to tons of Cher to “Be My Love” by Mario Lanza to Nena’s odd and catchy ‘80s hit “99 Luftballoons” to “The Hokey Pokey” and stuff by Garth Brooks, Taylor Dayne and Alice Cooper, the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter and Donna Fargo’s “Happiest Girl in the Whole USA.”

I ended up picking a song that I had a good chance of knowing, a tame little jazz standard called “Slow Boat to China” listed in the binder’s generic “Jazz” section that I remembered from a Rosemary Clooney album lying around my house. I wrote it on a little slip of paper and gave it to the karaoke DJ.

I nursed a Pale Ale and watched the open-mic part of the night during the hour before the contest began, surrounded by the noises of slot machines and cheering, partying karaoke contestants and their entourages (many lighting up a smoke at every opportunity) dressed in some of their fanciest get-ups.

Notable was the dolled-up, cheery, stout, fiftyish woman with the pressure-sensitive lights flashing in the see-through high heels of her shoes whenever her feet hit the ground. There was also the equally fearless, younger, heavy-set woman with long, dyed jet-black hair with curly tendrils hanging in her face wearing a skimpy spaghetti-strapped top and a breezy Stevie Nicks-style skirt.

When the actual contest got under way, it became obvious that everyone who got up there—except for me—had sung their chosen song a million times before, so they were able to put on a show for the audience without looking at the words on the prompter.

There was a woman named Lori singing a respectable version of Gretchen Wilson’s “I’m a Redneck Woman,” a man named Joseph Tanner from Sacramento in a red-and-white tennis outfit doing a Barry White-inspired take on Lou Rawls’ “Lady Love,” a seasoned contest singer from Marysville named Christina Bernardi who did a polished version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” and Denise, the buxom woman in the Stevie Nicks outfit, strutting her stuff to a Foreigner song.

A guy named Jimmy Lane, whose peeps sat in the audience nearby, did a great job on “Here Without You,” by Southern rock band 3 Doors Down. “He’s doing good,” I heard one of the women in Lane’s group announce excitedly and hopefully. Another woman in front of us waved her lighter in true rock show fashion. It appeared Lane was going to win.

Lane didn’t win. Neither did Rocky Vanchiasong, the self-described “singing salesman” from Oroville, who sat at the next table the whole night, and who did a wonderful, passionate version of ‘N Sync’s “This I Promise You.” Rocky was bummed, but I assured him that I’d have placed him in the top three for sure.

The winners of $50, $75 and $100 top prizes? Third was a fellow named Alexander, who sang a Marvin Gaye song. Second was the husky Lorenzo, who did a somewhat sexed-up version of Exile’s “Crazy for Your Love.” And the winner was a pretty young woman named Jeanette (I have no idea what she sang; maybe I was in the bathroom).

Oh yeah, and me? I sang my jazz song looking at the prompter the whole time, and even accidentally turned my mic off at one point so that no one could hear half of what I sang.

Probably didn’t get too many points for stage presence.