When people get up
on stage to sing karaoke, they'll often do more than just sing.
They'll strip to
the song, "You Can Leave Your Hat On."
Sob to "Wind
Beneath My Wings."
girlfriends during "Just the Two of Us."
spontaneously scream, dance, drop the microphone or drop their pants.
And none of it
shocks local karaoke jocks, or KJs, as they're known. To them, the
antics that occur inside suburban bars and restaurants on karaoke
night are just another day at the office.
The nights start
out innocently enough. People pick out a song they like from a list
of thousands and then get up on stage to sing it. The instrumental
version of the song plays in the background and the lyrics appear on
a TV screen.
But as the night
wears on and drink glasses empty, inhibitions disappear. The singing
gets louder. The crowd gets rowdier. Decency goes out the window. And
all of a sudden, a quiet Wednesday night in Wheeling resembles spring
break in Cancun.
Amy Randall, 30, a
KJ at Randall Road Pub in Batavia, said it's not unusual for people
to take off clothing on stage, make sexually suggestive poses, or
drunkenly fall off tables or chairs while they're singing.
there was a straight-laced, really masculine guy that used to put on
his best friend's wife's neglige and sing 'Dancing Queen.' It was
weird," said Randall, who works full-time as a sixth- grade
teacher in North Aurora.
Randall's fiance, is also a KJ known as "Wonderful Willie"
(he has a knack for getting his singers to display their derrieres on stage).
karaoke night at Two Rivers in Naperville where the motto is:
"Everyone Sings and No One Gets Hurt."
funniest when people get drunk and they think they're singing good,
and they're not," he said. "Everyone wants to get
discovered doing karaoke. But I tell them, they're not looking for
you. A guy who gets out of his record (company) office is not coming
to a karaoke bar looking for talent."
Karaoke is not
always lewd and crude. Sometimes it's just people acting silly and
laughing at themselves or their friends.
The form of
entertainment is wildly popular - KJs are hired for everything from
retirement parties to kiddie birthday parties - and most suburban
bars feature karaoke nights at least once a week.
"You sing in
the car and you sound like Barbra Streisand, don't you? It's living
out a fantasy for a few minutes and you have fun with it," said
KJ Leroy Finn of Prospect Heights, who works for Regent
Entertainment. "Even when people sing terrible, I tell them, 'It
wasn't so bad. You just need a little work.' "
Finn, who works at
Rocky Vander's in Prospect Heights, Floyds in Carpentersville,
Timbuktu in Palatine and Gator's Pub & Grill in Wheeling, said
he's seen people visibly shake and sweat with nervousness when they
get up on stage.
grab me and say, 'Don't go anywhere!' So I'll stand up there with
them while they sing," he said. "It is fun. I laugh all
night long, and really have fun with the people."
Most bars have
karaoke regulars. At Grand Mandarin in Lisle, talented Asian singers
take the stage each karaoke night, including a man known as "The
Frank Sinatra of Taiwan."
A KJ's job
involves more than just playing songs. KJs are also bouncers,
matchmakers, comedians, psychiatrists and singers (usually when no
one wants to be the first person on stage).
satisfaction is seeing people have fun - and receiving big tips.
says, I'll give you $20 to be next, then he's next," said Finn, laughing.
While KJs brag
that "they get paid to party," the job does have a few
drawbacks. Hearing the same songs night after night is one of them.
Most KJs will tell
you they'd happily live the rest of their lives without hearing the
song "Summer Night" by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta
Then there are the
songs that no one sings well, like "I Will Always Love You,"
by Whitney Houston, which KJs will try to talk people out of choosing.
'But I can sing it really well,' " said Townes.
In his four years
as a KJ, Finn said he's only seen about six people with star-quality voices.
KJs must also put
up with obstinate people and self-proclaimed "sound experts."
are a pain because they want to sing all night long," said Finn.
"I'd rather have people sing so-so and have a good time. That's
Townes left a good
job with a recording studio to become a KJ with Open Mike
Entertainment, in part because it paid better.
"It's a fun
job," he said. "It's hard work sometimes, but it can be
good, clean fun."
Most requested songs:
Songs KJs wish
you wouldn't request:
Taken from an
article found in The Daily Herald
you think? Post your comments on our Forums.