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Krazy for Karaoke

MELISSA HALTERMAN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tracy Schinagel, a fine arts sophomore, sings "Baby Got Back" with former UA student Carla DeMore Monday night in Sharks on East Congress Street.
By Nathan Tafoya
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
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UA students let the notes, fun fly during karaoke nights at local bars

Inhibitions are falling everywhere as UA students take activities that used to be reserved for the shower to their favorite bars and pubs.

Is "American Idol" at fault? Or is "Star Search" to blame? Could it be a new PlayStation 2 game? Something in the drinking water?

You can point your finger and wag it at an island in the Pacific because the Japanese have had it right all along. There's just something about karaoke.

"Yeah man, it's exploding. It's really happening," said history senior Carlton Rahmani about the karaoke phenomenon.

Rahmani performed a duet at Sharks Monday night, singing the Sex Pistols' rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." His performance involved falling on his knees and shooting the audience with his finger-gun.

Early last year, though, Rahmani wasn't fooling around with a squad automatic weapon in his hands.

Shortly after placing fifth in Arizona's 2002 gubernatorial race, Rahmani found himself shipped to Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

When he was stateside again in June, Rahmani used his veteran money to buy karaoke equipment and start Tucson's Calabaza Cabeza Karaoke with his former campaign manager, co-owner and karaoke jockey Jerry Diaz.

Alan Flaxman, a sophomore majoring in Russian and engineering, said he comes to the Calabaza karaoke shows to have fun and to support his friend, Rahmani.

"It beats street crime," he said.

Tracy Schinagel, a fine arts sophomore, sang "You're Just Too Good to Be True" at Sharks Monday night, dancing with her friends during the oldie's lyric breaks. She also said, deep down, she secretly hopes a scout will walk in and discover her.

"I just love to sing and dance and have fun," Schinagel said. "I don't really drink. I just like to have fun."

Facing a large screen in a smoky Famous Sam's while people played billiards, pre-education senior Jackie Weber sang to a low-key crowd Saturday night.

I just love to sing and dance and have fun.

- Tracy Schinagel,
fine arts sophomore


She received drunken, spattering applause from those in the room.

Weber hosts karaoke as one of three part-time jobs, but said the hosting has not distracted her from her studies.

"I'm still taking 18 credit hours with all the jobs I have," Weber said. "I'm just grumpy all the time."

While a man holding a lit cigarette in one hand and microphone in the other sang AC/DC's "Big Balls," Weber explained the importance of applauding karaoke singers, off-key or otherwise.

"It takes guts to get up and sing in front of everyone, so everyone should applaud," she said.

"I've got big balls," sang the man with the cigarette. Weber smiled.

MELISSA HALTERMAN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sarah Collins, a fine arts senior, performs karaoke Monday night at Sharks on East Congress Street with help from friend Tracy Schinagel, a fine arts sophomore. Karaoke nights at local bars are a must for many UA students.

As a host, Weber said it is important to have more than a charismatic personality. You also have to sing well.

"I think if you're a horrible singer, you can't get the crowd going," she said.

If a host or jockey cannot get the crowd involved, the host winds up filling time with songs of his or her own.

"Just sing it and everybody will clap," she announced to the bar, encouraging people to request more songs. "I'm telling you, it's a great life."

Cindy Diaz, a secondary education junior, is married to karaoke jockey "Jerrys D."

"To tell you the truth, it was more interesting before we were married," she said.

Diaz said Jerry would drag her onto the stage and sing to her every week when they were dating.

"And now, I actually have to work," she said, laughing. As CEO of Calabaza Cabeza Karaoke, Diaz now handles all the infant company's books, including the fat, three-ring binder songbook laying at the edge of the Sharks bar.

When it comes to favorite karaoke genres and songs, Flaxman sticks to MC Hammer and David Lee Roth.

"I choreograph my moves as well," Flaxman said of his performances.

Many singers remember the exact song and the social influences that surround their first karaoke experiences.

"I think it involved like, illegal substances," Flaxman said.

Places to go for karaoke:

Sharks, 256 E. Congress St.
Monday, 9 p.m. - 1 a.m.
Call 791-9869 for more information.

Al J's Tavern, 4980 E. 22nd St.
Friday and Saturday,
8:30 p.m. - 1 a.m.
Call 514-2774 for more information.

Margarita Bay, 7415 E. 22nd St.
Every night,
8 p.m. - 1 a.m.
Call 290-8977 for more information. Or you can watch "American Idol" on FOX, 8 p.m. Mondays.

"After a few drinks, I got up the nerve to sing my first song," Diaz said, recalling the time she sang Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" 2 1/2 years ago.

"I sang 'Dyremaker' by Led Zeppelin, and I was so embarrassed," Schinagel said.

"Actually, I started because I was inspired by 'American Idol,'" Flaxman said. "I want to be the next Ruben (Stoddard)."

Whether they were shy or not, Flaxman and Rahmani agree that karaoke takes guts, requires no real talent and shouldn't be taken seriously.

"Some people do (take it too seriously)," Flaxman said. "It's kind of annoying, actually. It should be known: People should not come here looking for record deals."

To support his position that karaoke should not be taken seriously, Rahmani said he has considered having a kamikaze karaoke night, where everyone picks a song for someone else in the bar.

"That's like, a good way to make sure you're not singing a song good," Rahmani said.

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