Waiting their turn for karaoke

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Brooklyn - posted Mon., Jul. 8, 2013
Elvis made a guest appearance at Hank's for karaoke night. Photos by D. Coffey.
Elvis made a guest appearance at Hank's for karaoke night. Photos by D. Coffey.

The crowd gathered for karaoke at Hank's Restaurant in Brooklyn received a rare treat on July 3. They went wild when Wolff Entertainment DJ Rob Heuer announced, “Elvis is in the house.” People parted the way for the King as he made his way to the microphone. They stood to watch when he sang, “A Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On.” They pulled out their cell phones to snap pictures.

"Elvis" mesmerized the crowd in his white body suit. He shook and he moved and he crooned. People clapped loudly when he finished. They reached out to touch him as he left the stage area. But they didn't call him back for an encore. This was karaoke night. Even Elvis had to wait his turn to sing.

The gentleman up after Elvis sang Billy Joel's “We Didn't Start the Fire.” The crowd joined in, singing the rapid-fire lyrics. Another sang “Red Solo Cup.” Betty Botelho, visiting from Daytona Beach, sang “I'm Sorry.” Six women crowded around the mic to sing “Love Shack.”

The experience of getting up to sing in front of strangers is death-defying for some, life-affirming for others. For Wayne Morin, it's just plain fun. Karaoke is just one way to make people happy and get them to laugh, he said. Morin's wife, Theresa, ordered his Elvis costume online and paid extra for shipping so that Wayne would have it in time for Wednesday night. His Elvis mask came from iParty. “He just likes to have a good time,” Theresa said, laughing. “Some of us need to be center stage and some of us don't.”

Heuer sees all kinds of singers in his travels, including those who stop in the middle of a song because they can't continue. The Plainfield-based DJ has been holding karaoke nights at local venues for about 10 years. “I'm pretty good at getting people to sing,” he said. But he didn't have to work hard to get people to come to the mike that night.

Audrey Lussier started singing at karaoke events about 14 years ago, shortly after getting diagnosed with breast cancer. “Music was my savior,” she said. “I'd sing songs to keep myself positive.” Her repertoire includes classic rock and roll, soft rock and ballads. “Mark here wants me to sing the theme song to 'Titanic,'” she said, pointing to a friend at the bar.

Mark Hilton held his arms wide open, mimicking Kate Winslet standing on the bow of the famous ship. Hilton was there with his wife, Tina, and several other friends. “We see the singing side of Audrey at her house,” Hilton said. “She's no different at karaoke.” Hilton's wife Tina, who has been a friend since fifth grade, said the singing brought Lussier's self-confidence back. When Huerer played “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” by Def Leppard, Lussier was one of several women who left their seats to sing.

Botelho, who sings at two or three karaoke events a week in Daytona Beach, said, “It's fun. And I get to express my ability to sing.” Before the night was over, she'd sung “Where The Boys Are,” by Connie Francis and the Patsy Cline standard, “Crazy.” She didn't need to read the words or musical notations on the screen as many performers did. Botelho crooned to the audience, unlike Elvis, who needed to refresh his memory now and then by turning to the screen.

Morin granted an interview after his second Elvis appearance. “For me, it's a way to make people laugh and make them happy. They can forget the daily grind.” He adjusted the red scarf and plunging neckline of his white jumpsuit. He was hot under an Elvis mask that came complete with sideburns. “This was just something special,” he said. Then he slipped away from his fans.

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