Nothing Up My Sleeve

Jon Gallagher

Welcome to 2009


I’ve been called an old fart before and something tells me I’ll be called that again -  probably by the end of this column.  With that said, let me save you the time.  I’m an old fart.

This past New Year’s Eve was about as exciting for me as it gets.  We drove into Peoria, grabbed some Chinese food for everyone except me, stopped by an amazing place in Kickapoo called “Ludy’s” to get a hamburger for me, and headed for the In-laws’ house for a rollicking good time.

New Year’s Eves from my past were fun.  As a teenager, I’d attend a party at the United Methodist Church in Knoxville where we’d have a lock-in for the Youth Group.  There were always ping-pong tournaments set up along with tournaments for chess and checkers.  One room was darkened and that’s where you could go to dance except that no one who had dates ever attended a lock-in.  Pizza was either frozen or made from boxes of Chef Boyardee mixes, and the favored drink was Dr. Pepper. 

In my late teens, it seems that I’d spend the evening with my girlfriend at her house, listening to WLS’ countdown of the top 100 songs of the year.  At midnight, we’d kiss and I’d dodge drunk drivers on my way back to Knoxville. 

After I got married, my wife and I would spend the evening with married friends from the Quad Cities.  We alternated years of going there or hosting them at our place.   Both of us got divorced and none of the four of us have ever mentioned getting back together on New Year’s Eve.

Since my divorce and subsequent marriage, I’ve spent several of the last few years doing magic on New Year’s Eve.  I arranged my schedule far enough in advance to be at parties, doing walk around or close up magic, and still making it home in time for the dropping of the ball.  I decided to take this year off, mainly because the only offers I had for evening were at least two hours from home. 

All in all, New Year’s Eve has never been one of those times where excitement abounds.  I don’t drink, so going out and getting sloshed is not an option.  Instead, this year was spent camped out in front of the TV watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with Ryan Secrest.

I thought Dick Clark was dead.

I didn’t think that before I tuned into the program, but after seeing him I did.

Now I realize that the poor guy had a stroke and has valiantly fought his way back, but I’ve seen corpses that looked better than him.  I’ll hand it to him for his courage and determination, but if someone hadn’t told me, I would have sworn that he was already embalmed and that his mouth and voice were both products of computer animation. 

I won’t say that he’s had a face lift or two, but I think that little dimple in his chin used to be his belly button.  It was the lint that gave it away.

The show featured musical guests, and I was particularly intrigued by two guest groups.  One was called the Pussy Cat Dolls, and I’m not sure who the second group was, but I’m sure some alert reader will be able to supply a name.

The second group wasn’t quite sure who they were.  Their lead singer looked like he was doing an impression of Larry the Cable Guy (in costume, not voice), while the lead guitarist looked like he fell off the album cover of an 80’s hair band.  The bass player had long hair too, but it was straight, not poofy like his counterpart on the other side of the lead singer.  The bass player looked like a hold-over from the 90’s.   On drums, there was a guy who was either naked or just wearing gym shorts.  He had to show off the 1241 tattoos that covered his arms, torso, and legs.  He reminded me of Charlie Manson, only not as laid back.  I’m not sure what song they sang (or yelled or whatever it’s called) because I was too busy making fun of them.

The Pussy Cat Dolls were a different story.  These young ladies could get you in serious trouble if you’re not careful.  They have no musical talent that I from what I can tell, and their lip-syncing ability looked like a talent picked up from watching Japanese monster movies.  They were more concerned about dancing and making sure each move was perfectly in step with the other members.  I know they weren’t really singing live because they couldn’t have been.  They were so winded at the end of their song that I thought paramedics were going to rush on stage to administer oxygen and CPR.  Of course, the girls in the group were good looking enough that any young (or old) red-blooded paramedic wouldn’t have needed much encouragement to do the CPR, even if it wasn’t needed.

It used to be that a musical group was formed in somebody’s garage and when one member quit, someone always knew someone else who could play the same instrument.  I think that’s how the Beatles did it.

Now, the record companies get an idea for a “band” or group, decide the image, and then go and hire people that fit the bill.  I’m sure that’s how the Pussy Cat Dolls were formed, the same as all the “boy bands” of the past decade like NSync, the Backstreet Boys, and 98 Degrees.  It sure takes the fun out of it, both from a playing, and a listening point of view.

Back to the show, I almost felt sorry for Ryan Secrest and Kellie Pickler (a former American Idol contestant) as they froze their collective fannies off in single digit temperatures in Times Square.   They pretended to have fun but I’m guessing that the 30-35 mile an hour winds that were dropping the windchills into unfathomable negative numbers and making ice crystals form in their eyes prevented them from having all that good of a time.

While channel surfing, we switched over to the NBC broadcast for a few minutes and caught Sir Elton John performing live from London.  Now there’s a musical act!  This man has a string of hit records from here to the Knox County line and could have turned the evening into a foot-stompin’, toe-tappin’, dancin’-in-the-aisles party.  He could have rocked us with “Philadelphia Freedom,” or “Crocodile Rock.”  He could have turned up the volume on “The Bitch is Back,” or even “Club at the End of the Street.”  Instead, he chose to help me remember how late it was getting by crooning “Tiny Dancer.”

It could have been worse.  He could have sent us all off to slumberland with “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

We switched back to the ABC version soon after he had finished.  My notes, hastily scribbled on the back of one of my daughter’s drawings, look more like her chicken scratches than anything I might have written.  There’s a slight chance I may have nodded off in here somewhere.

Finally, the proposed Secretary of State and her hubby, along with the mayor of New York City gathered round a large lever which started “the ball” on its descent.  It reached the bottom, I kissed my wife, and shuffled off to bed.

Next year, I may just head for bed around nine or so.  I’m not sure my heart can handle the excitement of another New Year’s Eve like this one.