By day, she's
Hollie Mendenhall, middle school music teacher and church choir
director. By night, she's Hollie Mendenhall, torch singer. The
daytime Shannon Horst works for an investment agency. The nighttime
Shannon Horst is a smooth rapper, running through "Gettin' Jiggy
And Greg Carey's
co-workers at an area television station may not know it, but when
the lights are low, he's a veritable Billy Joel.
All three are
regulars at a local karaoke night. They take up a microphone to sing
popular tunes to recorded background music, following the lyrics as
they flash up on a television screen.
karaoke is kind of an outlet to get up and perform," says Carey,
28, a quiet-looking Harrisburg resident with a goatee, glasses and a
killer voice. "I'm not much of an outgoing person, but when I
get up there, it's like an alter ego. ... I'm an addict. There have
been days when I'm like, "Gimme the mike. I want to wail and get
it out of my system.'"
Karaoke is a
popular mainstay at area bars, with many offering their customers at
least one night a week to take the stage and perform.
Greg Dubetz is the
disc jockey who oversees the karaoke night at McFly's Pub on Prince
Street, where Mendenhall, Horst and Carey are among a crowd of
regulars. It's not unusual for half a dozen people to have already
filled out slips before Dubetz's 10 p.m. starting time, with titles
of songs they hope to perform.
Kenny Rose runs
Limelight Karaoke, which offers entertainment at several local bars,
including the Watering Trough in Mount Joy, the White Swan in
Rothsville and Talia's in Columbia. Rose says karaoke appeals to the
Aretha Franklin or Ricky Martin inside everyone.
like, "Oh I love this song. I sing this in my shower. I sing
this in my car.' Now they have the opportunity to do it in front of
other people," he says.
"I like the
people that come out," Rose adds. "The stereotype is that
you have to be a little bit of a ham. The fact of the matter is,
they're regular people, just like you and me.
"We all have
jobs. We all have families. We all go on vacation. We all do the same
things. If you were driving down a suburban street looking at the
people doing yardwork, those are the same people who go out once a
month and you'll see in front of a microphone singing a Shania Twain song."
Hollie and Darin
Mendenhall, of Lancaster, have been going to karaoke at McFly's for a
year. She's a 22-year-old teacher at Edward Hand Middle School in
Lancaster and also directs a children's choir at St. Peter's Lutheran
Church in Neffsville. He works as a 26-year- old store-support
representative for Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzels.
She likes to do
Gershwin tunes. He's partial to Bon Jovi songs. Sometimes they do a
duet to Shania Twain's "From This Moment."
Both admit to some
nervous moments but, like many karaoke regulars, say that once they
get in front of a crowd, it's fun.
"People make more of it than it is. It looks a lot harder than
it is. Once you get into singing, it's kind of like singing in the
shower at home, except there's no shower curtain and you're not naked."
Wernersville resident, is a 1995 graduate of Garden Spot High School,
where he appeared in some school plays. He also played guitar in
groups with friends, an experience he describes as "a bunch of
guys hanging out in someone's basement."
A friendly guy
with a ready smile, he looks completely comfortable on stage at
McFly's, joking and going with it as three women in the crowd
unexpectedly jump up on stage to be his background singers.
"I kind of
like being the center of attention and having people looking at
me," he says, grinning.Like Horst, other karaoke regulars have
performing in their backgrounds. Some, like Keith Knowles, are even
Knowles, 26, of
Strasburg, plays bass in the local band Jack Shift, in addition to
working at the Music Den at Rockvale Square.
support groups," he quips.
Many of the
regulars know each other by first name. There's Murray, who brings
his own harmonica to do Bob Dylan; Barry, who's known for his Joe
Cocker and Louis Armstrong selections; and JP, called "a
legend" by some for his Sinatra songs.
There's even a
kind of etiquette within the karaoke fraternity. Like the first-come,
first-served rule: If someone has a song they regularly like to
perform and someone else submits a slip for it first, the second
person concedes the song.
alternative rock and frequently does songs by Pearl Jam, Bush or
Fuel. Like many regulars, he looks like a seasoned performer.
gesture as they sing, closing their eyes during intense moments. They
come down off the stage to work the crowd, walking among tables,
stopping to sing to a friend.
Knowles waves off
the suggestion that getting up to sing in front of a group of
strangers is a shy person's nightmare.
"It seems to
me there's people who take it way too seriously," Knowles says.
"People come up to me and say, "Do you think I can do this
song?' I'm always like, "It's karaoke, not an audition.'"
This is a good
thing. Because not everyone who gets up on stage is a natural or even
a good singer.
Some people stand
rigidly, holding the microphone like it's a dead fish. Some warble
off-key in an oddly determined fashion. Some, despite the monitor,
can't seem to follow along with the words, or they just simply stop
singing in mid-tune.
Others are mildly
confounded when they discover that when they get on stage, the song
they can sing so easily as they're zooming along Route 30 in their
car all of sudden seems kind of, well, tough.
Joe Davies, 21, of
Lancaster, grins after tripping over the words of "Ice Ice
Baby," Vanilla Ice's convoluted rap, at McFly's.
"It's a song
me and my friends know real well," he says, adding, "It was
much more difficult than singing it outside my dorm at 2 a.m."
No biggie. No one
boos or laughs. In fact, you rarely see anyone react as if anyone
other than Garth Brooks himself is on stage, even during the worst performances.
It's part of that
whole karaoke etiquette thing.
Horst listens as
two guys sing an irregular-sounding duet.
thing is that they're going to have as much opportunity as anyone
else, and they're going to get as much applause," he says. And
Mendenhall, "It takes so much courage to get up there. You win
respect, in my book, if you get up there and do it."
Another part of
karaoke's appeal: the unexpected moments that slip into each evening.
recalls a guy who said he was going to sing a Whitney Houston song.
Everyone thought he was joking but, she says, "He was wonderful.
He made us cry."
Rose says karaoke
nights offer that kind of unscripted fun.
Barney song," he says. "People do sing that. It's usually a
wife of a guy celebrating a milestone in his career. She puts in the
slip for him and I'll say, "We're going to get John up and he's
going to do something from Barney.' And he's like, "Yeah,
right,' and five minutes later he's singing, "I love you, you
love me ... '"
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