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An Evening with Inspector Clouseau

inspector-clouseauHere’s a post from the Book View Cafe blog that was published back in November. Since this post me and my man cave have moved into my own apartment but it’s fun in a where-were-you-a-month-ago way so I’m posting it anyway.

So I’m living in the inbetween. Most of my stuff’s in storage in a barn belonging to my pal, Liz. She’s graciously allowed me to park at her place while I get my proverbial head together. I keep only the barest necessities with me inside the house as I wait for the head to congeal. I have my laptop and my man cave.

That’s a joke, of course. I call the wide-screen TV with the five speakers for Surroundsound, the man cave. The barn is damp and I was concerned for the man cave’s health, so I brought it inside. Against Liz’s better judgment, I set it up in the living room, converting the tastefully decorated space complete with period furniture, lace doilies, and a baby grand into, I don’t know, a man cave, I guess you’d call it.

I never watch it. I hate TV. But a week ago I discovered a hole in my schedule. A vacuous vacancy. Having a moment with nothing to do is not just a sin, but dangerous, considering the idle hands/devil’s playground equation. I made a trip to the barn behind the house and dug through a few boxes to find a movie. I had little luck. The only thing I found was a broken box of microwavable Orville Redenbacher’s with a single envelope of mouse-chewed product, and a movie: the original Pink Panther. We cooked up the popcorn and settled in for an evening with Inspector Clouseau.

I had forgotten how bad this movie was. 60s/70s humor at its worst. Peter Sellers with only Blake Edwards to steer the ship. Where was Stanley Kubrick when we needed him? About a quarter of the way in Liz decided she’d had enough and excused herself to bed. It was 8:30. It was that bad.

I apologized, but hung in for the duration. I needed to know how this clunker had found its way into a fairly pristine DVD collection that included the likes of Wertmueller, Wong Kar Wai, Fellini, Bergman, and Mike Myers.

I figured it out towards the end. There’s this fabulous après skin scene in an Italian resort. Everyone’s in the lounge. There’s a fire in the grate, angora sweaters, Laura Petri pants, David Niven, and Robert Wagner. Oofa. It was cozy in a hip kind of way. Out of nowhere a slim, Laura Petri lookalike starting singing Mancini’s It had Better be Tonight, with mariachi boys on the side. The patrons gave her undivided attention as she sashayed through the crowd. At one point she did five seconds of choreography with the boys shaking the maracas. The crowd was on its feet. They bought her drinks when she was done, showered her with gifts of jewelry and lift tickets.

Back in the 70s, the day after I had first watched that film, I signed up for singing lessons. I wanted that singer’s life. I’d get to wear cool clothes, hang out with boys that could dance, do one-song gigs at night, and hit the slopes with handsome ski pros during the day. Life would be great once I learned to sing.

Then I grew up. Reality hit like a cold blast of Alpine air. You need a thousand-song repertoire if you want to get gigs that pay. And there are no Mancini gems in the set list. If you don’t play the painfully overplayed hit songs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the only applause you’ll hear is when the Yankees score up on the TV above the bar.

When you’re a musician, you don’t get to ski, swim, canoe, or even take a walk around the block. You have no time. You’re allowed two activities. You can practice and when you’re done with that you can rehearse. That’s it. And hiring three guys to play maracas? You’re lucky if you can afford a drummer and a bass player.

Get real. Get a job. Leave the singing to professionals.

Sue Lange

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