Ration Reality

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Word up! It’s Cameo!!

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 I was saving this for the right time, and after much prodding from Bagel, it appears this is the right time. The following chronicles a night I shant soon forget; a night of funk, formality, awkwardness, PVC, alcohol and codpieces. Enjoy!

I remember the moment well. It happened midway through my workday on a slow, spring Friday. My colleague, Mike, caught me in the office and greeted me with a boisterous, “you know your boys are playing at the Millennium Center tonight!” I thought “You mean Steely Dan are going to be playing here today?”, but I (thankfully) didn’t say it.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Cameo, man!”, He stated, referring to the legendary electro-funk group from the 80s. (I’d often told Mike about my love of funk and of Cameo, in particular.)

“Aww, yeah!” I exclaimed. “How come I didn’t hear about this on the radio or in the free weeklies?”

“I don’t know, but my homeboy’s working security there and he definitely said it was ‘Cameo’.”

After hearing about this, the afternoon passed quickly and pleasantly. Seemingly minutes later, I was peeling off my “monkey clothes” and getting dressed for the show. Having a moment of doubt, I went to the band’s website and, sure enough, it showed the exact date, city and venue my friend had told me. With my wife’s blessing (she’s not a fan), I drove downtown.

I parked in an adjacent garage, walked over to the window and asked for my ticket. “That’ll be $45, sir”, chimed the perky lady. That seemed pretty steep for a nostalgia band whose last appearance on the Top 40 chart was 15 years ago. I asked if that was the cheapest and she replied all tickets cost the same. Having psyched myself up for the past 6 hours, I forked over the money. “I guess I won’t be getting a t-shirt”, I thought.

When I walked through the main entrance, the pristine venue looked especially beautiful. The moonlight shone through the skylights of the new structure, highlighting every glass display and polished metal fixture. I also noticed a lot of black people in formalwear. I reasoned that there was some kind of convention or awards ceremony going on. Then I remembered that a major historically-black university in my hometown was having their homecoming and I figured this had something to do with it.

When I descended to the floor level in the Otis escalator, I noticed even more tuxes and pearls. Could it have been that Cameo were going to play one of the smaller conference rooms? That would explain the higher ticket price, since there’d only be a few hundred people that could watch in such a room. Walking among the elegantly-dressed alumni, I felt more and more self-conscious about my denim shorts, well worn red/grey Adidas and gray cotton shirt with cymbal manufacturer Sabian‘s logo screened upon it. I stopped to ask a security guard where I’d find the Cameo show. “There”, he directed, pointing to a line of middle-aged African-Americans with shoes and cufflinks that cost more than my entire wardrobe. He then looked at me literally from the feet up and added, “…but if you’re with the crew, you can go in around back. It’ll be easier.” By now, people were starting to look at me–not with condescension; more like curiosity. I began to hear my heartbeat in my head, but I was determined that I was going to enjoy my first Cameo show.

Walking into the hall, I’d get stopped from time to time by staff and guests asking stuff like “Could you tell the ‘front of house’ guy to leave all the stage mics ‘hot’? and “Are they going to be playing “Back and Forth”? Then I’d have to tell them I wasn’t with the band. Once inside, I found out there was a reason for the high ticket cost. This concert would come with a meal and drinks! Things were looking up!

Inside, there were dozens upon dozens of tables and seating along the edge of the hall.   By now, it was obvious that I’d crashed a homecoming dinner being held by the university and Cameo were the entertainment.  Waiters would take your order of roast beef in gravy or pork chops. Wine and beer were available (up to 3 per person) at bar stations around the floor. Now I needed to find a place to sit. I met a man who said his name was Steve and he graciously invited me to sit with his party rather than sit alone. Steve, his wife (or, perhaps, girlfriend) Sherry and their friends talked about their wide-eyed college times as I tried not to make myself too obvious. It was hard to keep me in on the conversation, but they tried. They asked me what I did for a living, which was not nearly as impressive as being an optical surgeon or owning a software company, like others at the table. We talked about our favorite Cameo songs while the Dean of Students gave an address. Then it got surreal.

The Dean’s speech was unexpectedly short, and the band was ready to go. Most of the crowd was still eating when they broke into “Attack me with your Love” and it might have been the first show David Blackmon and company ever played when the crowd was still seated during the first song. (It was likely the first one where they’d had to remove a lectern and floral arrangements from the stage before they went on, too.) By the time “Freaky Dancing”‘s opening riff hit, Steve and friends had finished their drinks and hit the floor. After the slow groove that is “Candy”, Steve looked over at the table where I was still sitting and said, “Get out here, boy! Get into it!” Another guy, whose name, unfortunately, escapes me proclaimed, “Yeah! Shake your tail feather, man!” I was mortified to be put on the spot like that–and for good reason: I am a terminal dancer. I mean, if moving like a cross between Paul Stanley and “Elaine” from Seinfeld is your idea of good dancing, then I’m your Baryshnikov. Otherwise, my “tail-feather shakin'” unequivocally sucks!

Maybe it was the fact that I’d probably never make it into that circle again, or maybe it was the 3 Heinekens I’d consumed earlier that convinced me I had nothing to lose. I walked out onto the floor with the confidence and swagger of Dolemite and John Wayne’s lovechild…and proceeded to make a huge prig out of myself. I didn’t have a clue, and it showed, but I didn’t care. I was caught up in the sheer abandon of it all and was having fun. Steve and his girl would smile and exclaim “Yeah!” and “Go on!” when I made it into their line of sight. I can remember, during their signature set closer “Word Up!” throwing up devil horns and saying “Yeah, Cameo! Woo-Hoo!” At this point, David Blackmon’s eye caught my spectacle–and then caught it again!  The look of bewilderment was hard to mistake.  This guy is a professional entertainer in a band with a reputation for wild shows, too.   When I die, I’ll still take pride in the fact that I made a 6’6″ black man in a red PVC cowboy hat, black tights and a truly obnoxious red codpiece do a double take. It’s true that when I let my freak flag fly, people can’t help but salute it. I digress…

After the show, I didn’t see my new friends. (If they might be reading this, I take this opportunity to say “thanks” for getting my spazz ass out there to enjoy the show the way it was meant to be enjoyed.) I’ve never seen Steve since. I suspect he was from out-of-town, anyway. I’m not keen to go to another Homecoming Concert to try to find him, either. For one thing, I didn’t go to that school and I really don’t belong at their homecoming celebration even though the powers that be tolerated me all the same. Also, I don’t want to upstage the band like that again.

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Written by Soylent Ape

October 31, 2007 at 10:16 am

14 Responses

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  1. Wow, that must have been awkward. I know the underdressed feeling well. Cool that you got to see Cameo, though.

    Cody

    October 31, 2007 at 11:26 am

  2. Ok. This post is sheer greatness! Finally we hear the story. And it was well worth the wait. I would have love seeing you shaking your ass with black folks. I like blacks folks better than African-American myself….anywho, you have a great story to tell your little ones.

    “OW!”

    Arm Jerker J.

    October 31, 2007 at 11:56 am

  3. @ Cody: I think being inappropriately dressed is one of the most awkward situations known to man. It’s not “dead hooker” awkward, but awkward, nonetheless!

    @ AJJ: Glad it was worth the wait for you. There were some more timely items that kept this from posting. I like to think it heightened the drama of it all. I’m sure there’s photographic/video evidence of it somewhere, as there were many cameras there. It wouldn’t be hard to pick me out.

    Soylent Ape

    October 31, 2007 at 4:44 pm

  4. What a funk classic!

    Being a Rock/funk musician/afficionado, I have to say I love Gun’s version of it…but hate Mel B’s….

    Kev Moore

    October 31, 2007 at 6:49 pm

  5. @ Kev Moore: Yeah! Gun is an awesome band. Unfortunately, few people here in the US have ever heard of them. Their version of “Word Up” is probably my favorite. I think that song was begging for a guitar solo!

    Soylent Ape

    October 31, 2007 at 8:30 pm

  6. Damn son, I just imagine that scene from Animal House when Peter Riegert and company are on the road trip and see Otis Day and the Nights on stage, and Riegert yells to Otis and Otis goes all “oh shit, it’s whitey!”

    Damn cool, son. Larry’s codpiece couldn’t begin to hold your brass ones boy

    We need the funk
    Gotta have that funk!

    Frontier Former Editor

    October 31, 2007 at 10:43 pm

  7. I have never heard of this band. BTW, I’ve noticed an air of nostalgia to your writing.

    Stiletto

    November 2, 2007 at 1:21 pm

  8. @ Stiletto: Nostalgia? I think not. I’ve always set my sights toward the horizon. Why I can remember a time when the future was all we had… Erm, okay. Maybe you have something there.

    Soylent Ape

    November 4, 2007 at 4:40 pm

  9. I’ll still take pride in the fact that I made a 6′6″ black man in a red PVC cowboy hat, black tights and a truly obnoxious red codpiece do a double take.

    That’s a line of pharmaceutical grade awesome.

    bagel of everything

    November 4, 2007 at 5:25 pm

  10. @ Bagel: Thanks, boss!

    Soylent Ape

    November 4, 2007 at 8:17 pm

  11. “That’s a line of pharmaceutical grade awesome.”

    It’s what’s in his wallet.

    Stiletto

    November 7, 2007 at 9:17 am

  12. […] Word up! It’s Cameo!! […]

  13. […] Posts: A suburban housewife’s guide to mid-90’s gangsta rap music  Office Space Redux – Word up! It’s Cameo!! – Movie trailers recut as […]

    Black-Off « Ration Reality

    February 10, 2008 at 2:41 pm

  14. Stil: I thought that was just a coupon for 20¢ off condoms

    The Bagel of Everything

    February 22, 2008 at 5:34 pm


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