I recently visited my parents in Houston and spent an evening flipping through old photo albums…
…and now I suddenly feel the need to apologize profusely to anyone who attended my 11th birthday.
I was confused at 11 years old; I thought Doc Martens were an acceptable addition to any outfit, that shooting the peace sign to everyone I came in contact with was a suitable alternative to a wave, and that a group of 5th graders would actually enjoy what I had planned for my birthday party that year.
To commemorate my 11th year on this earth, I begged my parents to hire Stevie Valentine to entertain the captive audience I had in my backyard, whom I had originally lured in with promises of cookie cake and the chance to beat a poor, lifeless donkey mercilessly with a stick until a dried up tootsie roll popped out.
Stevie Valentine was the post-pubescent boy with the pre-pubescent voice and complexion; the boy wonder with the body of a gangly 19-year-old and the pimples and sporadic voice-cracks of a greasy 14-year-old. Quite the phenomenon he was, that boy. Stevie was an “entertainer” of sorts, capitalizing on his singing yet also possessing a vast array of hidden treasures, such as his locally-famous style of dance (consisting mostly of uncomfortable pelvic thrusts sprinkled with a few powerful finger-snaps here and there) and his uncanny ability to play the hell out of a tambourine.
Anyway, Stevie was a regular down at the Texas Opry Jamboree in Magnolia, Texas, the live music venue where I sang and clogged every Saturday night (fare for another post entirely). Stevie covered such classic hits as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Rock Around The Clock,” and perhaps his most requested tune, “Great Balls Of Fire.”
Stevie wore painted-on tight black Wranglers with a belt buckle the size of my head and starched button-downs with flames on the back. He parted his hair on the side and poofed up his bangs to offensive heights with what I could only assume was some sort of industrial-strength, possibly-illegal hair spray. Stevie had an adams apple that could double as a weapon and a vocabulary that made him sound as if he should have been hanging out at a 1950’s sock hop while sippin’ on a 5 cent cream soda and telling Suzy she was the “bee’s knees” … and not shimmying around on our back deck on a make-shift plywood platform my dad built, singing about balls of fire to a group of brat-faced attention-deficit 5th graders who’d just recently discovered MTV and a disdain for the general population, simultaneously.
But this didn’t get Stevie down. No, Stevie sang his heart out with every intention to blow his audience away more and more with every high-note and hip-thrust. He even planned ahead for the mass-hysteria that would erupt after his final song, bringing along with him a briefcase full of head-shots (in both black and white AND color) and not one but two fresh Sharpies to sign autographs into the wee hours of the evening. Yes, Stevie thought of everything … except his competition.
Because then, this happened:
That’s right. I had indeed hired Stevie to entertain my guests. But it was still my birthday party, after all, and there was no way I was going to let Stevie Valentine one-up me on my special day. Plus, on top of everything else, I lived by my mantra, “You gotta give the people what they want,” whether it was a juice box or a private performance of some of my greatest hits. And, judging from the mood of the party up until that point, I knew what my people wanted: my unique and exclusive rendition of “Cowboy Boots,” a little diddy my friend Aunt Cookie’s ex-husband wrote back in ’91. For those of you unfamiliar with this classic, below is an excerpt of the song:
“I can ride a horse, or drive a car,
I can dance around, or sit at the bar,
I can do anything I want to,
And it feels real good in my cowboy boots.
People ask me why I don’t wear shoes,
When I’m out walkin’ in my cowboy boots,
It may look funny as heck to you,
But it feels real good in my cowboy boots.
I went to the Rodeo the other night,
Everyone thought I was such a sight,
They said, ‘Hayley, you’re sure lookin’ cute,’
And I said, ‘That’s ‘cause I’m wearin’ my cowboy boots.’”
(Actual performance available upon request.)
When I’d had my fill of Stevie, I gave the hand signal and motioned for my dad to pop my tape in the sound system out on the deck. I wanted to warm the crowd up with a few numbers off the album first, then bring the party to a whole new level with a surprise live performance of “Timber, I’m Fallin’ In Love.” I was getting annoyed though because I was about to take the stage and my dad still hadn’t even set up the video camera; I didn’t have time for amateur mistakes like this and decided right then that I’d have to look into hiring a manager first thing tomorrow morning.
Needless to say, I gave the performance of a lifetime to 15 very undeserving recipients who couldn’t recognize artistic genius when it was belting out beautiful chords and gyrating right in front of their bratty little faces. And, also needless to say, Stevie Valentine was put in his place and forced to admit defeat that night. My dad paid his dad the hundred bucks at the end of the party, while Stevie ate his feelings in the form of delicious cookie cake.
While I had a blast at what was obviously the party of the decade, I’m not so sure everyone else enjoyed themselves as much. But not to worry, this lesson wasn’t lost on me; this year at my birthday party, I promise not to make anyone listen to me sing any bizarre country songs from the early 90’s. Instead, we will watch me clog a clogging performance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” Below are a few pictures to “whet your palettes.” Mark. Your. Calendars.