30 April 2010

Deadly karaoke

Norimitsu Onishi at the New York Times offers a mindboggling piece about karaoke and violence in the Philipines.

Mr. Gregorio, 63, a witness to countless fistfights and occasional stabbings erupting from disputes over karaoke singing, did not dare choose one beloved classic: Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way.”

“I used to like ‘My Way,’ but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it,” he said. “You can get killed.”

The article is primarily about “My Way,” but there are some really interesting digressions ...

A subset of karaoke bars with G.R.O.’s — short for guest relations officers, a euphemism for female prostitutes — often employ gay men, who are seen as neutral, to defuse the undercurrent of tension among the male patrons. Since the gay men are not considered rivals for the women’s attention — or rivals in singing, which karaoke machines score and rank — they can use humor to forestall macho face-offs among the patrons.

There's more, though the article leaves out this important tidbit from Wikipedia:

In the Philippines it was believed that [Syd] Vicious' version was inspired by deposed dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, where in the first part of the song Vicious attempted to imitate the voice of the late dictator.

Of course.

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