Sunday, January 29, 2017

Be Prepared for Peace

Because when you see a guy sever his patella right in front of you, the least you can do is go to a fundraiser for him afterward.

Beckham and Beauty met me at SPARC for the lip sync benefit show for Durron's patella, not just because they'd been with me when Durron first fell, but because they were just back from a month-long honeymoon in South Africa and I wanted all the delicious details.

I joined them in the second row for an audio highlights reel of their adventure, from winery hopping to every other day beach jaunts to a safari - petting cheetahs and and feeding elephants - to loads of books read over delightfully long days.

Not going to lie, I was pea-green with envy.

When they did venture out to do the proper tourist-y things, they were continually met with uncontrolled children running amuck, an annoyance they likened to the best possible birth control.

As I'd have guessed, their re-entry to the real world has been cold and harsh - and not just because they left a cultured, competent and contemplative leader running the country and came back to a fascist creating a police state - as they adjust to early mornings, less time together and the realities of setting up a shared household while holding down demanding jobs.

Fortunately, they're young and strong with love and endless optimism on their side. And, like me, they love some good lip syncing.

The show began with Durron walking onstage, stiff-legged and using a cane, to take his rightful place in the "king's" chair, a red armchair complete with footstool for the ailing gam. Onstage was to be his spot for the entire evening.

Unlike the usual lip sync battles Beckham, the Beauty and I've attended in the past, tonight's was more of a showcase of local acting talent singing their hearts out for a fallen comrade, with host Phil kicking things off brilliantly with The Lion King's "Be Prepared," complete with a full range of actions to reflect the words.

To be honest, I had no idea about the song, but Beauty brought me up to speed.

The quartet of "Team Not This Winter Body," who'd also been present for Durron's spill, came out and addressed him directly, saying, "This is for you, buddy. We love you a lot and we're so sorry," a sentiment that was expressed repeatedly throughout the evening.

Reliably fabulous Mags blew the roof off with her histrionic take on the vocal (yet silent) acrobatics of Demi Lovato's  "Heart Attack," but she stumbled a bit getting offstage, causing host Phil to call out, "No one falls tonight!"

New to the lip sync business was Natty who emoted the hell out of "Bernadette" while pounding his chest, dropping to his knees and eventually handcuffing himself to Durron to prove his love, per the song lyrics.

Epic best describes what we witnessed as this lip sync virgin showed us his mastery of the art form.

Forrest, whom I knew solely as a guitar player (a very good guitar player), pulled off dance moves in sunglasses, while he silently sang Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling," a song that sounds like every other auto-tuned male pop hit of this century. Or is it just me?

Britney's "Lucky" got the full treatment - tiara, feather boa, robe - from Liz who also used signage ("Because she can't walk") and a water bottle to splash her face with the tears of her lonely heart, tears which dripped down on poor Durron as she hugged him from above.

But when the song ended, everyone began freaking out about the water on the stage (no more falls, remember?) and a crew of paper towel-wielding driers descended on the stage to ensure there wasn't so much as a drop to slip on.

Up to this point, Beckham, Beauty and I had been thoroughly enjoying the show, with equal parts laughter and appreciation for how well choreographed most numbers were tonight.

Then it was Asa's turn, a good thing since I'd already decided after the last lip sync battle that Asa is a lip sync god.

He sure didn't disprove that with tonight's choice of Beyonce's "Single Ladies," coming onstage in a black bodysuit, white fur-trimmed jacket and ankle booties and shaking it for all he was worth, smacking his backside and oozing enough sass to sell every word.

Behind him were a half dozen dancers in black bodysuits and tights, nailing every booty shake, every extended ring finger, every nuance of the original choreography while Asa continued to "sing" lead from the front of the stage. More dancers joined them and suddenly, we were seeing a full-blown synchronized dance sequence with nary a hip swing or hand flutter out of place.

It was a thing of beauty, no less so for Asa's charismatic presence as front woman. That's one agile man and the look on Durron's face was pure pleasure.

The final round was the improv round, supposedly with seven contestants, although only six showed up onstage. "We need one more!" Phil called out.

"Asa's coming! He's putting his pants on!" someone hollered. One number in a bodysuit is probably enough for any man.

With all seven in place, we watched as songs - "Man, I Feel Like a Woman," "What's Love Got to Do With It?" and something from The Little Mermaid - were played for 30 seconds and one of the contestants had to lip sync to it on the spot.

Everybody had had a turn except Natty and when the first notes of the final song began, he seized the moment, extending his arms and silently belting out the syrupy "My Heart Will Go On" in Durron's direction to great dramatic effect.

There's just no way to come down after that kind of stellar entertainment.

Although my friends and I hadn't made any post-show plans, we were on such a high after witnessing that array of terrifically talented people, that we resolved to go to Secco for vino and conversation. Though it was prime time Saturday night and the odds were stacked against us, we scored bar stools, where Beckham insisted I sit between the two since, "We've seen a lot of each other lately."

All talk. I know because they were touching each other the entire night and it was pretty charming to see. Nobody was tired of anybody.

It was a night to introduce Beauty to Hungarian wine with Affinitas Tokaj Furmint, floral, rich and a fine pairing with spicy octopus Bolognese with chile oil, not that it didn't hold up just fine to fried acorn squash (the very same I'd had a week ago and fallen hard for) with buratta, fermented honey and gingersnap crumbles, plus the reliable tortilla espanola and one of tonight's specials, a thoroughly obscene poutine of oxtail gravy with white cheddar over fries.

The funny part is, when we'd met at SPARC, Beckham made sure I knew they'd already eaten, yet his first words at Secco were, "We're feeling a little peckish," while requesting a food menu.

Naturally, that led to a conversation of how some people (*cough* Beckham) can say they're not hungry but that only lasts until they have access to something tasty. Like a restaurant menu.

Beauty admitted that too often she allows herself get to the "hangry" point, but tries to mitigate that by keeping a snack cabinet over her desk. Meanwhile, I eat every chance I get.

Mainly we discussed their time in South Africa, which disappointed only on the cultural front (a New Year's Eve concert in the botanical gardens featured a band so bad they left, while a piano bar seemed to be more of a recording of a piano), a fact which only bolstered their conviction to spend their free time drinking wine.

Like me, Beckham had been there before, but he was nevertheless surprised at how many new varietals are being planted and grown successfully now. Hello, South African Tempranillo.

And of course we talked about dealing with the ongoing disaster of the past eight days under a thin-skinned tyrant and whether it would be possible to have a repeat of Nazi Germany here. We're more connected so it would be more difficult, we agree, but impossible? Who knows?

When Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is going on record today as saying that it "looks as if the world is preparing for war," I, for one, am all ears.

Even fabulous lip-syncing can only keep the fear at bay for so long. All the single ladies know there are people we want to see a lot of before it all goes up in flames.

Can't stop the feeling time is running out.

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