Scratching my own funny bone for shits and giggles. Lampooning books, music and being a single woman over 40. Recording observations with an almost Seinfeldian obsession for the minutiae of life. Things can get sweary around here. You understand.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

FLIES ON RANCID MUTTON

First, a notice to all wannabe cabaret stars and Australian Idol contestants: never under any circumstances sing Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Send In the Clowns’ when auditioning for a musical or the like. You’ll be pegged as a tragic amateur, impaled on a flaming skewer of queer vitriol and tossed out the stage door on your barista arse. This once sublime show tune has long been a sad parody of itself; due to decades of other vocalists chowing down on to it like flies on rancid mutton. ‘Send In The Clowns’ is now the obligatory ‘poor me’ number that lounge singers will invariably pull out of their bag of tricks to try and make you sob in your veal parmigana. To really appreciate how sickening this show tune has become, just know this: even gays openly gag on it. I’ve seen it.

No doubt you would have heard one of it’s versions: whether that be by Frank Sinatra,
Barbara Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Cleo Laine, Acker Bilk, Grace Jones (a disco version? what on earth was she thinking?) Judi Dench, Shirley Bassey, Glen Close or for the under 30s, Krusty the Clown. But to fully appreciate it’s cyanide choking qualities, one must be forced to hear it (or in my case accompany the damn thing) in the most horrifying of venues: the cabaret lounge.

For fear of litigation, let’s call her Fifi Whatsherface. Imagine a creepy chanteuse who resembled
Jocelyn Wildenstein after ten skin grafts draped in a red feather boa and sprawled across a baby grand. The band had several nicknames for her but my favourite was always ‘Lumpy: The Sequined Sausage’. Her first set would usually comprise of mangled interpretations of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Peggy Lee and, to show you she was impossibly hip, some selections from Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Ahem. ‘Send in the Clowns’ would unfailingly set the tone for the second set. The piano would begin with a sideways version of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ as Fifi stared cross-eyed into the imaginary distance. ‘Isn’t it riiiiiiii-CH…? Are we a paaaaaair?’ As she continued chomping away at the melody like some hyena feasting on a slow moving yak, Fifi then informed us she’s on the ground watching someone in mid-air. ‘Alrighty’, you think to yourself. Who exactly? The window washer? A bungee jumper? Spiderman perhaps? At the end of the first stanza she makes some half-arsed request for somebody to ‘send in the clowns’ At this point most of the audience (and the band) would motion the waiter to send in the booze. I think you get the idea.

I remember first hearing it when Barbara Streisand got a hold of it and being utterly clueless as to it’s meaning. Maybe because Stephen Sondheim was an obsessive wordsmith, known for going to great lengths to avoid being obvious. Which is great I suppose, but his songs only work within the context of the stage production they belong to. To worsen matters, he was oft inclined to shove a thesaurus into a blender and hit frappe. Now anyone that’s bothered to decipher the meaning of this song, probably think it’s about loss and regret. Oh no my friends. It’s the ‘poor me’ whimperings of a has-been who probably ate personal assistants for breakfast (or in my case publicly abuse the poor bass player for drinking on the job) Besides, anyone that talks about entering a room with their usual flair and walks like a duck in urgent need of a proctologist needs to have words ‘insufferably pretentious’ stamped on their foreheads.

12 comments:

NATALIA THE RUSSIAN SPY said...

Apologies to my faithful readers for the re-run. No brain space for writing at the minute. Up to my armpits in sugar soap.

MrScribbler said...

It's just as funny the second time around, Nat!

Brings back lots of nauseating memories of nights in bars...can't imagine why I didn't drink more in those days!

Nautilus said...

See now that is the kind of entertainment I would pay to go out and see! Watching the performer interact with the band would be like watching a soap opera.

I feel young, because I am over 30 but the only version of that song I know is the Krusty one.

uamada said...

um nat... the sugar soap is for walls and stuff, if you're using it on yourself you may need to bathe more often. And be careful, that stuff will give you a nasty rash

Dr Yobbo said...

I laughed like a sink backing up. It's some medical condition I've picked up apparently. Anyway recycling is good for the environment and stops baby seals being sad.

I think Krusty's reading is the definitive version.

U - what are you doing with sugar soap that is giving you a rash? It was traumatic enough hearing those condensed milk tales this week, I don't even want to speculate.

bangarrr said...

You know your tempting Flinthart again Nat.

abefrellman said...

Somedoby mntion sausage?

Aagh.

Dammit.. too much redwine!

Anneal said...

Nat:
No brain space is a good thing...just ask some of My friends.

Steve said...

Like Tony, the Krusty version is the only one I've heard for more than a few lines. I've heard some of the pros, but usually switch the channel at "Send in th..."

And Nat, I can assure you of this...had I been in the audience, and appropriately "lubricated" after repeated visits by the wait staff, once the Human Sausage Roll started begging for clowns to be sent in, I would've yelled/ slurred, "PLAY FREEBIRD."

Anonymous said...

Spunk, if you see Norman Gunston's 'Send in the Clowns' it may change your mind. Anyway, as there's no PM on blogspot, just wondering if you could fire me an email to bigcattle (AT) bigpond.com, I'll send up your copy of that thing we discussed on opening night of 'Felafel'. I've been having a fuck-around with JCS just to get into the mood..x Simon

NATALIA THE RUSSIAN SPY said...

SIMON: Norman Gunston is the master! I used to love his celebrity interviews...Muhummad Ali was piss-funny! Ever seen Norman getting abused by Keith Moon? Fabulous.

STEVE: Ha! You and your ribbing of organists!!

ANNEAL: It's becoming strangely common for me these days...must be the paint fumes.

DR YOBBO: It was no laughing matter at the time I can assure you!...Everybody hates 'Send in the Clowns' don't they? By everybody I mean every person, invertebrate, arthropod and furry marsupial; every creature that crawls, swims or flies. Leaf litter hates it. Statues hate it. Zombies hate it. Air hates it. Aliens hate it. Even black holes hates it.

U: It's all good baby...I've got BIG RUBBER GLOVES. I cleaned every window with Metho yesterday...mmmmmm....Metho....

NAUT: We'd giggle and smirk at her behind her back. We had to entertain ourselves somehow ;-)

SCRIBS: You're a doll. Thanks!

ABE: Sausage? Yes indeed...a very lumpy sequinned sausage...ever made one of those?

BANG: I live to do that!

Steve said...

Did it ever occur to you to mime her ever moment while her back was turned?

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