Horror: Night of the Living LaBelle
Scene 1: Setting a Happy Mood
It was going to be a great night. My live-in girlfriend at the time was a beautiful Brazilian woman named Ana. I had a lot of Brazilian friends back then during those heady New York days, and I loved the Brazilian people and their culture. Tonight was going to be special. The famous Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil was performing downtown and we were going to see him. The proverbial electricity was in the air as we got ready for our evening out. It was going to be special. Little did I know that it was the... Night of the Living LaBelle! (A woman's scream is heard in the distance.)
If you don't know who Patty LaBelle is, that's good. Stop reading now, go away, and hug your children. For those who do know, you may remember her two, #1 hits, Lady Marmalade and On My Own, a duet with Michael McDonald. What some of you may not know is that during the finale of Live Aid, she purposefully upstaged everybody, singing so loud that at times she was the only voice that could be heard. She was also accused of taking the spotlight from Diana Ross during a performance that became known as the infamous mic toss as revenge for a rumored rivalry. Often accused of grandstanding, she later defended herself, saying in typical LaBell fashion that she has a big voice and people have to be aware that she is going to use it. Ahh. I see a pattern.
Scene 2: Meet Our Protagonist Lovers
We arrived at the club early to purchase tickets to the 11:00 show, Gilberto Gil's second performance of the evening, The first show was in full swing and I stuck my head inside to get the lay of the land. The situation looked good. There were plenty of tables spread around the vast space and we had lots of time, so we purchased our tickets and made our way to a nearby restaurant for cocktails and appetizers.
We must have appeared like the two young lovers we were, leaning into each other closely, whispering, laughing, and occasionally sampling an oyster on the half-shell or a bit of crab dip. We were young and in love and our whole lives spread out before us like a golden road laid down only for the special few. No roadblocks would stop us, no highwaymen maul us, no snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night would stay these lovers from their appointed glory. That's how we felt. The strength of two as one. Of course, that was before. Before we knew it was the...Night of the Living Patty LaBelle! (A woman's scream is heard, closer now.)
Scene 3: The Set Up
We came back to reality, paid our bill and arrived back at the club thirty minutes before show-time. We were 10th in line and with all the chairs and tables available I knew we would have no trouble getting a seat up close. Finally, the doors opened and the once organized line collapsed into a rush cramming into the entryway. We were still in front as we entered and...what? Where did all the tables go? There were now just a few tables and chairs up around the stage and most of those were filled already. Where did those people come from? No matter. I grabbed Ana's hand and pulled her forward rapidly, just managing to get two seats at one of the long communal tables just as every remaining seat in the house was filled.
I looked around perplexed, unable for the life of me to figure out where all the tables went, and there they were, stacked willy-nilly 30 feet high in every corner of the club. Clearly they were going to cram as many people in here as possible. Standing room only. Thank heavens we got a seat. The man sitting across the table from me picked up a card from the table. “This seat is reserved,” he said. All of us picked up the cards in front of our seats. It was true. Each of us was sitting in a reserved seat, and we were not the reservees.
The guy across from me threw his card under the table and all of us followed suit. We tried to act in a nonchalant fashion, but I for one was contemplating what uncomfortable scene lie ahead. If worse came to worst, I would demand they get one of those willy-nilly tables from atop it's 30 foot perch. I'd be damned if I was going to stand in the back for two hours with the other sardines. It would be Ok, I decided. Everything would turn out fine. But that was before I knew that it was the...Night of the Living Patty LaBelle! (A woman's scream is heard, this time right in my ear.)
Scene 4: Showdown With the Scary Head
I became aware of a rather large woman with a bizarre hairdo hovering around our area of the table, staring at us. It was a large and strange hairdo and I imagined Medusa-like snakes hissing and flicking their sandpaper tongues at us. She was followed by some type of gang, but the ominous group disappeared into the crowd. In short order the harried waitress was at the table, looking like she had just gone a round with Ali. “Where are the cards,” she cried. “There were cards! Did you move the cards!” She looked frightened. I felt sorry for her in that instant, but...”What cards? I didn't see any cards, did you see any cards,” we all said over the top of each other. “Nope. No cards here. Definitely no cards.” As the waitress stormed off I saw a tear in her eye. She was gonna get it.
In a flash the gang was back and this time they meant business. Their leader was the large woman with the giant weird hair with the snakes in it. Oh my God, the snakes.
“You in our seats,” the thing said to all of us.
“No were not,” I replied.
“Those our seats,” the thing said a little louder.
“No. These our seats,” I said, mocking her and matching her tone. Her eyes grew a little wider.
“I'm Patty LaBelle!”
“I don't know Patty LaBelle,” I shrugged. And it was true. I didn't. Never heard of her.
It's eyes grew even larger, bugging out from her chubby face. “I tole you I'm Patty LaBelle!” Now she was beginning to draw attention to us.
“How do I know you're Patty LaBelle? Lemme see your driver's license.”
Apparently, that was enough to send Ms. Thing over the edge. Her eyeballs popped from their fleshy sockets, shooting rays of hate and bile. She spit venom from her puffy mouth, venom probably from the Medusa-like snakes living in her hair. I'm pretty sure her brain actually caught fire because you could see the smoke coming from her hairy ears.
“I...I...I,” she stammered. She was vibrating with pent up hate and arrogance. And then with a voice bigger than the building, she boomed, “I get on that stage and start singin' and you know I'm Patty LaBelle!”
Scene 5: The Moral
She had the rooms attention now. She continued her self-aggrandizing. boorish diatribe, “I'm Patti LaBell and I'm famous and those are our seats and we're gonna sit in 'em cause I'm Patti LaBelle and who are you to tell me...” and on and on, but I did not hear her, for I looked at Ana. She had slunk down in her chair. She wanted the evil, large woman with the funky snake infested hair to just go away. But I knew the thing would never go away. The things never do. Get rid of one and there are more things waiting, just waiting for their chance to tell everyone how important they are and eat us alive.
I asked Ana quietly if she wanted to just go. If we stuck it out, I told her, I was pretty sure we would end up with a table. She didn't, she said. If the thing won't leave, then it would have to be us. If we had to sacrifice to stop the thing for the benefit of mankind, then so be it. We moved to the back and stood with the other sardines. It wasn't fun at first, but Latin music gets under your skin and before you know it, you're tapping a foot, then swaying a little, and finally you're dancing in the streets. You can't help yourself.
I only have one bit of advice to the survivors I left behind: Please don't feed the snakes.
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