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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
Mike can be contacted via e-mail at mike@mikeredmondonline.com.

 

 

 

 Sounds of Wind Through the Outhouse

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Rico the lounge singer. People, Rico. Rico, people.

Rico exists only in the depths of my ridiculous imagination. It’s the name I have given to this little voice inside my head that mocks me – persistently and hilariously – when I am at my second favorite job at the Indiana History Center.

I am a historical crooner.

That’s what my boss tells me, anyway. I am more inclined to say hysterical crooner, in both in the hilarious and the nervous-out-of-his-gourd senses of the word.

Along with five other Indiana Historical Society employees, all of whom have genuine talent, I spend a few days each month in the Center’s Cole Porter room, as swanky a nightclub as you are likely to find in the 317 Area Code.

I do not recall this being on the Kuder Career Preference Test I took in the eighth grade.

The Cole Porter Room is the society’s lasting tribute to the great songwriter Cole Porter, who went from a boyhood in Peru, in Miami County, to international fame on the strength of such classics as “Night And Day,” “Begin The Beguine,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” and dozens of others. He was – and remains – in the highest echelon of American songwriters.

I’ve always been proud that I was born in Peru, too, although for some reason his name is the one on the signs going into town and mine isn’t. I’m sure it’s just an oversight.

Anyway, the room is decorated to involve a cocktail lounge like you’ve seen in old movies (minus the cocktails, of course, and the drunks). There’s an elegant bar, a few tables. Photos from Porter’s life decorate the walls. Some personal effects – his Tony award, a leather notebook, a silk handkerchief and the painting that hung over his bed – are displayed.

And then you meet the piano – a gorgeous grand with a computer inside, programmed to play Porter songs and to accompany singers of same.

This is where my talented young co-workers come in. They’re all terrific singers, with big, expressive voices, sure of pitch and supple of tone. I have no doubt they could all go on to successful careers in music if they wanted.

And then there’s me.

The days when I intentionally sang in front of strangers are long ago, long before the effects of Camel cigarettes and J&B Scotch began to produce a vocal quality I call “wind through the outhouse.” Imagine Rochester from the Jack Benny Show singing “I Concentrate On You.”

Rico, of course, is out of his imaginary mind with disgust: “You call that singing? That’s not singing. That’s a cry for help.

“Smooth it out, buddy-boy. Play it cool. Keep the microphone close and whisper. Swing it a little. If you can’t sing, at least act like you can. You might fool someone.”

It’s a lot to put up with when you’re trying to remember the words to “In The Still Of The Night.”

But there’s an upside. I get to wear a tuxedo. I get to meet lots of nice people. I even got to dance with a pretty woman once. And I get to listen to great music all day long.

You should come visit sometime.

Rico says do it the others are singing.

 

 

 

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.