Precisely half the fun of attending a Jose Sinatra show is watching the reaction of the audience. Often hopelessly confused as to whether this "clown" takes himself seriously or what, you can read in their faces synapse connections being made or failing with such input as "You Ain't Nothin' but a Hound Dog" sung to the tune of "The Sounds of Silence."
Two men in particular caught my attention, and I followed their expressions through Medley #1, which begins with James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," segues into a few bars of "A Horse with No Name" (here the blatant absence of connection -- of any kind -- between these two pieces of music has always produced in me a visceral reaction of laughter), and launches into "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." One man, the younger one with dyed blond hair and a look of studiousness, accepted this aggregation in stride; perfectly logical to him. The older, ponytailed gentleman seemed the unwilling witness to an atrocity. By the time we went from "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" into "See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me" and then into "Pinball Wizard" (which Sinatra has transmogrified into lyrics about a man who wants his girl to take a urine test before accepting her as the mother of his child: "...The girl for me is pure as what she pees/ A urine test would put my mind at ease"), the man accepted with a kind of punch-drunk amusement "Born to Be Wild" melding into "Born to Run"...only sung with the lyrics from "Close to You" by the Carpenters.
During this medley, Buddy Pastel Jr. launched into a four-minute drum solo. Given the late start, I thought it best the solo be abbreviated. I tried signaling him. At one point his cell phone rang. He picked it up from the kit bag at his side and answered, still flailing expertly at his set. It was me, my own T-Mobile handy, begging him to stop. "This isn't a good time," he told me. "Let me get back to you."
The younger blond man seemed to be taking mental notes, only breaking into a smile when the Hose turned the lyrics on Karen Carpenter herself and whether or not on the day she was born the angels got together, etc. Jose sang: "...I don't believe in angels any more than I believe in Santa Claus or sodomy laws...so eat it raw/ I don't wanna be close to dead people." Yes, Hose had won over that young man. In fact, pretty much the entire audience of, say, 60 to 80 folks were applauding heartily. Anyone gnashing their teeth, rending their garments, holding their ears, or being sick escaped me.
Phil's wife Liz, sometimes billed as Tipsy Holiday, joins the group for a few songs during the set, and Saturday was no exception. With practiced, angelic weaving, Liz and Phil harmonized on another Sinatra distortion of "You're Gonna Lose That Girl," now "You've Gotta Use That Girl." In a pretty darn good imitation of that Lennon/McCartney/Harrison magic, Hose, Tipsy, and Phil crooned wholesomely, something like, "...I will take her out and I will bone her blind."
I can never focus exactly on the lyrics; I tend to crack up and forget what I'm playing. The audience, I could see, had the leisure to listen and rewarded the stage with smiles, laughter, as well as looks of dawning horror, indigestion, and panic. A rewarding spectrum of response altogether. During CSN&Young's "Teach Your Children," now with the added lyrics, "Teach your children well, they'll never tell, you're Michael Jackson...who needs monkeys in your bed when there's little boys instead..." the couple looked not unlike the famous American Gothic portrait on stage left as they expertly warbled, "...Take them in your hand in Neverland there's always action..."
Finishing with "O.J.'s Comin'," audience members approached Jose with questions, congratulations, smiles, appreciation. A photographer from the Troubadour, Steve Covault, introduced himself with a charming grin and indicated he had enjoyed the short show. I thanked him, looking over his shoulder for anyone breaking into a run for the Legion of Decency, the vice squad, or the religious right. Except for some kids playing happily away in the closed-off streets, I saw only fairly entertained adults. Perhaps the others had already bolted in fear and loathing for the nearest authority, any authority.