9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tornado sirens blare throughout the city, yet
Wade Wearmouth, with beer in hand, still warbles his version of Neil
Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" in Daytona's All Sports Cafe.
"I'm not afraid of weather," Wearmouth, 22, says between
songs. "It's better than sitting at home on my couch. At least
I'll be happy when (the tornado) hits."
Well, close to
happy. Pure bliss for Wearmouth comes only when he belts out "The
Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band,
something the Daytona's karaoke DJ doesn't have on hand.
"But I talked
to them about that," Wearmouth says with a nod. "He's going
to take care of that problem."
maintenance worker for an Urbandale apartment complex, is part of a
new generation of lounge singers. At least twice a week he stands in
front of a crowd of strangers to croon a tune, even if he can't carry it.
He's got the
"If it wasn't
for the bad singers, karaoke wouldn't be popular," says Rick
Ludwig, owner of Showtime Entertainment, a local karaoke DJ business.
"Karaoke is not for good singers. Good singers come out, but
karaoke is all about having fun in front of people and making friends."
It wasn't always
Ten years ago,
when karaoke first hit the central Iowa scene at Billy Joe's Pitcher
Show, most folks didn't know what to think. They compared it to
disco, called it a fad.
TVs . . . or computers . . . or VCRs," says Deanna Gilbert, the
manager of Billy Joe's in West Des Moines, with a laugh. "Now
it's the best free entertainment in town."
And how. What
started at Billy Joe's as a gamble has become a staple to nightlife
in Des Moines. Karaoke singers in need of a fix can find one every
night of the week, at standard stops like Billy Joe's or family
restaurants like Chi Chi's on Des Moines south side on Tuesday
nights. (See page 18DB for our weekly listing of places that sent
their info to us.)
addictive," says Ludwig, who actually began singing karaoke at
Billy Joe's. Now his company emcees at least 20 shows a week.
come out every night to different locations," he says. "I
have people who drive from Oskaloosa to Boone -they'll drive two
hours to come to a show."
Part of the draw
is people's natural desire for the spotlight, Gilbert says.
"Every night we have somebody that has not sang before, who
wants to get up there and pretend they're some big mega-star."
Some singers get
addicted to the adrenaline rush of getting on stage.
want to do it at first, but once I did, I wanted to try the same song
over again until I mastered it." Ludwig says. "Then I
wanted to do a new song. And then another, and another. Once you get
karaoke in your system, you're hooked."
Now, it's even
becoming a family affair. The new Fireside Grill, 523 Eighth St. in
Altoona, offers "kids karaoke" from 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays.
anywhere from ages 7 all the way up to 17," says Beckie Mathews,
who helps run karaoke at Fireside. "It's so cute watching the
kids. Their parents will get up and sing with them. It's really cool.
They just love getting up there and singing."
No matter people's
reasons for craving the stage, it's safe to say that karaoke isn't
lot of people, if it wasn't for karaoke, they'd just stay at home
alone," Ludwig says. "Some people do it because they like
the reaction. Other people like to go get drunk and get up and make a
fool of themselves. There are all kinds of reasons why people like to
people a way to get out, meet new people and feel good about themselves."
Chances are if you
go to a karaoke show, you're going to hear at least one of these
often requested songs, according to our sources for this story.
Rose" by Bette Midler.
New York" by Frank Sinatra.
by Patsy Cline.
Nights" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, from the
by the Village People.
Copyright 2000 Des
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