Friday, April 20, 2007

Showtime at the Apollo!

When my friend Taylor came to visit a couple of months ago, I took him to our favorite vegan restaurant, Uptown Juice Bar on 125th St. (which, despite it's name, is actually a vegan soul food cafateria-style eatery). I thought it would give him a great oppurtunity to see the heart of Harlem and also all those funny hats black people wear to church. The food was incredible, as usual. There were a couple of Black Panthers eating in the back room with us, which I thought was a pretty unique Harlem experience.
When we left, I spotted the Apollo Theater a few blocks down and remembered that Taylor and I used to watch Showtime at the Apollo like it was our job. That show was seriously a staple of our development. Steve Harvey and his zoot suits and church jokes, and "The Sandman" (a Portsmouth, VA native) sweeping booed-off contestants off the stage. Taylor and I would stand and boo with the audiences, swaying our arms from side to side with our fingers pointed in "Get off the stage" style. We watched that show so much that we knew the fate of each contestant as soon as they stepped out onstage and rubbed that lucky tree stump. If they were doing an original song, especially a rap, they were gone before the 2nd line of the first verse. If they were singing "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" they were safe. And if they were a middle-aged, balding white guy doing a Louis Armstrong impersonation, surprisingly enough they were cheered for.

So you get the point that we love the Apollo. Well imagine our excitement then, when we walked to the Apollo and were given free tickets to a taping of "Showtime at the Apollo" that was to begin in an hour. They were taping a bunch of shows for the spring/summer, featuring a slew of guest hosts, such as Whoopi Goldberg, Sinbad, and even Rosie O'Donnell. Our guest host was Anthony Anderson, comedic actor and
rapist extraordinaire. We waited in line for a little while, and were treated to the passionate rantings of Black Panthers members, some of the same ones who were at Uptown Juice Bar. They were speaking out against the media and it's glorification of skinny and white females. They spoke out against shows like "America's Next Top Model" for confusing the true beauty of the black woman. Their signs read "Respect the Black Woman" and "We Are Not Niggers".
On with the fun! So once we got into the Apollo and found some seats in the balcony, we realized how amazingly beautiful the theater is in person. I was so envious of the people who got to sit in the private box seats (booth seats?) on the side. One guy in the box closest to us was almost more fun to watch than the contestants themselves. He would stand-up for every contestant and sing every word along with them, from popular R&B songs of yesteryear to the most obscure gospel song. Singing is understating it. The veins in his neck looked like they were about to burst he was singing so hard. When a bunch of people in my section starting booing a pretty Hispanic girl in a tight dress he turned to us and ordered us to give her a chance. When my section continued booing he turned back to the singer and motioned for her to forget us and "Go on, girl." She wasn't paying attention to any of this, of course, but moral support never hurts.

Before the show some staffers tried to get the audience's hopes up by saying things like "Usher to the dressing room" and "R. Kelly to the dressing room". Unfortunately, our musical guest for the night was some guy named Noel Gourdin, a Frankie J-esque crooner who won over the females with his silky voice and pelvic thrusts to the mic stand. Anthony Anderson was alright, nothing special. He didn't do any stand-up, just did some off the cuff stuff about audience members and performers. His funniest moment came when he mocked this Japanese dancer who's won the dance portion of the show for something like 3 months in a row. He tried to duplicate some of the guy's moves and ended up doing a front flip and landing flat on his back with a loud thud. It looked pretty painful, but he played it off by doing the splits.

Since we were sitting in the balcony we thought we were safe from any terrible warm-up comics, but oh were we wrong. Some warm-up guy was asking the hispanic woman next to us about her black husband, then he spotted us and said "Oh, look, she brought her whole family." We made huge hand motions to signify that we were not, in fact, part of this family, but it didn't work. "There go Greg, Bobby, and Marcia Brady!". We played along out of kindness, then we held a press conference and he got fired from CBS Radio.

Anyway, if you're ever in Harlem and have this oppurtunity, take it! It was such an awesome experience. If you want to see the show in it's edited format (with shots of the audience laughing at nothing spliced into Anthony Anderson's lines), it's airing in NYC this Saturday night at 1 AM on NBC, right after Saturday Night Live (local listings may vary).
UPDATE: Taylor made it on the show!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Meet the Mets!

This week we went to opening night* at Shea Stadium to see the Mets take on the Phillies, thanks to my journey to Brooklyn to give blood for tickets. It was by far one of the worst games I've ever seen, live or televised. Not just because the Mets lost, but because they didn't even lose in style. In one inning alone they walked the bases loaded and walked home 3 runs! Come on Mets. Jeez. But it was still a very exciting experience. I fulfilled my life-long dream of visiting Shea, and we got to see several cool things.

I was doing back flips in my seat when I saw that Art Garfunkel was the national anthem singer for the night! It was the quietest version of the Star Spangled Banner I've ever heard, but it was awesome. And during the song, some Mets fan in our section turned around and saw three Williamsburg-esque hipsters sitting down in the row behind him, so he said "Get up!" and waved his bag of Peanuts he was holding in a "Get the fuck up now, you brats" motion. The hipsters sheepishly stood up and the guy kept turning around to make sure they were standing throughout the song. That was a happy moment in my life.

The blood tickets were ironically in the nose-bleed section (haven't I given enough?), so we moved to a closer section after a few innings. I was worried we were going to annoy the family behind us, but later I heard one of the kids say (in a thick New York accent), "Dad, Dad, Dad, we were all the way up there and now we're down here!". Other people break rules too!

It was the coldest baseball game I've ever been to, the only one I've worn winter gloves and ear warmers to. And it snowed for several innings. Later, a cat ran on the field. I have no idea how it got anywhere near Shea, but this little orange guy stopped the game for a few seconds while they opened a gate in left field for him to exit the field.

Towards the end of the game we noticed a couple of sections behind home plate yelling and booing some poor spectator. Loud, organized chants of "Yankees Suck!" followed, and security gaurds came to escort a guy wearing a Derek Jeter jersey out of the area. I hope they didn't kick him out of the game, and I'm sure they told him the same thing the Capitol Hill gaurds told me when they dragged me out of the 2005 Presidential Inauguration in handcuffs. "We're just getting you out of here for your safety." But seriously, Yankees suck.

*First night home game of the season

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Jesus Dies Friday