Monday, March 26, 2007

Some days you just don't get any R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Patty here…

Ah, Aretha, I can so identify.

Lately it seems we NakedAuthors have been on a music kick. In keeping with that theme, I have a confession to make. I am singing-impaired. In fact, I may have an undiagnosed singing phobia.

Do I want to be able to sing? Yep. I envision myself draped over a Steinway grand ala Michelle Pfeiffer in the "Fabulous Baker Boys." My silky hair is translucent in the dim light as I croon a bluesy torch song. The audience is enraptured.

It’s a scenario I’ve trained for all my life. See, I’m one of those people who spent hours singing into my curling iron and practicing my moves. I never expected to be Beverly Sills

but at least I thought I could be Pia Zadora.

I did some acting in my misspent youth. I knew singing was an important part of my resume, but I thought warbling was for Broadway musicals. I didn’t live in New York. I lived in Seattle. I never thought my lack of skills would ever be tested. And then one fateful day I got a call from the head of a local recording studio. He told me he had booked me for a Pietro’s Pizza radio commercial.

“Great!” I said.

“You can sing. Right?”

“Um…not so you’d notice.”

“Fake it. Be there at noon.”

The spot was going to be recorded for all of greater Seattle and posterity to hear. You might think I came to my senses and backed out. OOOHHH, NOOO, not me, especially after I learned I’d be part of a trio. If the sponsor wanted Alvin and the Chipmunks, I was going to chirp my little heart out. If he wanted The Three Tenors I planned to fake a heart attack.

I was nervous until I got a copy of the lyrics.

If you want a pizza, a really good pizza
Go down to Pietro’s, I said to Pietro’s
You’ll get the best pizza you ever had…

Not exactly Grammy material. I lip-synced the high notes and escaped with my dignity intact. After that I decided to take singing lessons. I found an eccentric teacher who taught classes at his home. At our first meeting I felt compelled to tell him the truth. He’d find out soon enough anyway.

“You know,” I said. “I can’t sing.”

He scoffed and waved his arms dramatically. “Nonsense! Everyone can sing. When you look out in the field and see a herd of cows, you do not say that one moos more mellifluously than another. Do you?”

Obviously the guy was off his meds. “Uh, no,” I said.

“Then you cannot say that one person is capable of singing better than another.”

“You mean if I take lessons, someday I’ll sound like Aretha Franklin?”

“In due time, my dear.”

It wasn’t until two grand later that we both knew he’d found the odd cow out. By that time he was stone deaf and on clinical doses of Xanax.

After I moved to LA, I took another singing class at a studio where I was studying acting. One day a fellow actor in the class told me she had been cast in a musical at a local theater. She said they were auditioning for additional parts. I should go.

“I can’t sing,” I said, a fact she must have already known.

“You don’t have to sing. They have speaking roles, too.”

In normal conversation her voice sounded like fingernails on a blackboard, so I knew the bar couldn’t have been set very high with this production. So off I went. I was waiting in the wings when I heard what sounded like Barbra Streisand singing "People." That should have been my cue to exit stage left. Did I? No, not moi.

Somebody called my name. I walked on stage into the radiance of a baby spot. All I could see was a guy at a piano. A disembodied voice from somewhere in the darkened theater said, “What are you going to sing?”

“I can’t sing. I’m here to audition for a speaking part.”

He apparently mistook honesty for stage fright. “Sure you can. Just give it a try.”

I could have excused myself and saved my reputation as a sensible human being. Instead, I belted out a rousing rendition of "Jingle Bell Rock." You could hear windows rattling in the next county.

There was silent in the theater. Luckily, Simon Cowell wasn't there.

“Thank you,” the voice said. “We’ll be in touch.”

I’m done with humiliating myself in song. From now on I’m going to stick with humiliating myself in print. So you can invite me to your birthday party and expect me to pat you on the back and wish you well. I may even bring you a present, but don’t expect me to sing the birthday song. You’ll thank me later.


7 You can convert this post to a singing telegram and e-mail it to the recipient(s) of your choice. Just click on the envelope icon below. 8


  1. Someday, we will have to drink some of Paul's tequila and sing a duet of "Milk Cow Blues" together.

    Well, okay, we may have to drink ALL of Paul's tequila...

  2. Follow the bouncing ball.

    99 bottles of moo on the wall, 99 bottles of moo...

  3. Loved this post, Patty. I think we should set up a band: The Naked Authors. Maybe not quite the Rock Bottom Remainders, but we'd be good for a giggle, because I cannot hold a tune to save my life! When I was a kid, I was singing (or something that I thought was singing) in the kitchen when my mother said, "Jack, can you sing solo?" I felt very chuffed and said, "What shall I sing?" And she said, "So low that I can't hear you."

    But I have an inner Chrissy Hynde. I've always wanted to be one of those women who could grab a mike and belt out a tune - not for me a warbling, folksy sort of singing. There's a part of me that would love a deep husky IN TUNE voice that can handle a big ballad, or searing rock. In the meantime, I lip sync in my car. Beware, Chrissie Hynde is on the loose, being channeled in a black Volvo station wagon.

    And Patty - I can barely swim, either, so we have more in common than we thought. The reason I Ioved scuba diving is that I was expected to go under water, and had some air to keep me alive while I was there.

    Lip-sync on, Patty, the world needs more of us lousy singers - give us your best belt-out version of "It's Raining Men."

    And I would be prepared to bet that Cornelia has a lovely voice.

  4. PS: It was great to see you yesterday.

  5. I love the image of you crooning into your curling iron, Patty.

    My family has always loved to sing. That's not necessarily a good thing.

    When my cousins all sing together it sounds like marble cake. When my family sings together it sounds like chocolate chip cookies.

  6. You made me laugh. On a Monday morning. It's a good thing.

  7. "You made me laugh. On a Monday morning. It's a good thing." And with that sentence, Ms.Deborah, you made my day.

    Jackie, it was great to see you yesterday. I have incriminating pictures I'll post next week. I love the idea of a NakedAuthors version of the Village People. We'll get Louise to join us. And Deborah. Definitely Marianne, Groupie, Jeff, and all of our other NakedReaders. This could be BIG.

  8. Okay, the court is out on this one: some say I have a great singing voice (tone deaf?), and others say I can't sing for nuts. Go figure. I was in the choir in grade school, and can sing the odd harmony.

    So, in the Naked Authors group, I'll sing back up and do a Patty, and lipsync the notes I can't hit. :-D

    Can I go-go dance in one of those cages instead? :-D I can make fringe fly like the best of them!

    Great post, Patty!

    Can Tucker sing? Could be an undercover that could save her life one day...


  9. "Can I go-go dance in one of those cages instead? :-D I can make fringe fly like the best of them!"

    Marianne, you iz one funny lady. Let's hand out fruitcake at all of our concerts. And I LOVE your idea about Tucker singing to save her life, because I sure as shootin' couldn't. Will explore possibilities...

  10. Omigosh! Didn't Maisie Dobbs save her butt my singing? Our J? Any hidden metaphors you want to tell us about?

  11. Our J, I'm awfully chuffed myself that you think I might have a lovely singing voice. Please remind me never to sing around you, because the idea that there is one person in the world who even SUSPECTS I might sing well is entirely too precious to me to destroy with the sad reality.

  12. Ah, Patricia, who can ever forget your singing mentor, Denton Rossell, the only human who could warble "whoo-eeee" in five different octives! Those were the days, although I break into a cold sweat whenever I hear "You are Love" from Showboat. How did you sucker me into singing that one at Denton's recital?! (You know I saw you snickering in your chair, Patricia.) I owe you one. Love, Deidra Ann(e)

  13. Yes, Maisie did do a wondrous thing with her voice - told you yesterday that I am nothing like Maisie. And Cornelia - no, don't destroy the image of you singing like a nightingale, whatever you do!

  14. Jeez, Deidra Ann(e), at least he allowed you to sing in the recital. As you mentioned, I was sidelined in the audience.

    I think we should send in an audition tape of Cornelia singing "Milk Cow Blues" to American Idol.

    Anybody still have their white go-go boots?

  15. There are a lot of things I'll do. I don't get embarassed too easily but I can't and don't sing.

    Ever since I was a kid signing in my bedroom and I heard my dad say, "What's that noise?"

  16. Yeow! Sounds like you and Our J had the same parents. How did we ever survive our childhoods?