everybody else who was at Wing’s concert at Birdland tonight.
For those who don’t know, Wing is a little old Chinese lady that lives in New Zealand, who loves to sing, and has put out 16 CDs (so far) of herself singing to MIDI and absolutely butchering everything from ABBA to AC/DC. She starred in an episode of South Park that was named after her. The woman is a novelty act. She sounds like cats being strangled. But damn is she funny.
In her second American concert ever at the famed Birdland jazz club tonight, she did a long set of songs to an enthusiastic crowd. Now, I went to see Wesley Willis in concert, and that was an interesting experience. Despite his obvious lack of real talent, he had a bond with his audience. Bohemia simply “got” him, he was punk rock. He used his music to vent, to have a good time, and if we pissed him off, he was 350 lbs and could easily kill us all.
Wing, on the other hand, seemed to attract nothing but musical theater people, which meant the audience was 75% snobby “cultured” gay men with self esteem issues. The night was organized by Wing’s self-proclaimed “biggest fan” a guy that looked like he got beat up in high school a lot before joining Harvard’s theater club. Wing came on to thunderous applause, and proceeded to do a string of favorites. She was dressed in a red Chinese silk dress with a dragon embroidery, and had a THICK accent. She immediately reminded me of my grandmother, but without the anger and malice.
Two problems. First, nobody knew for sure whether she was “in on the joke.” Any laughter had to be politely suppressed. Which meant that this theater full of condescending theater jerkoffs spent her entire set snickering at her under their breath. Then, as Wing got set to do the theme song from Rent, the entire cast — yes, the ENTIRE BROADWAY CAST — joined her on stage to sing “backup”. Needless to say, they collectively blew the poor old woman off the stage.
Something clicked in me at that moment. This had turned a very bad corner into something clearly exploitative. My mind raced. What does SHE think of all this? Does she really think she’s as good as they are? No way in hell! But if she KNOWS she’s bad and she’s intentionally trotting herself out as a sideshow, that’s even worse! Then I started asking myself if I was there to merely laugh AT her, or to cheer her on? And what of all these theater jerks clearly laughing with a haughty sense of superiority?
I had to force myself to keep applauding, to keep smiling. As the sole Chinaman in the audience, I felt her looking at me, and I wanted to applaud her efforts, no matter why anyone else was there.
I slipped out as soon as the show was over. As I exited, the two flamey dweebs who organized the event, including the earlier mentioned Harvard bully fodder, were snapping pictures of her with some big Broadway actor that I didn’t recognize. The two of them murmured to each other, “You’ve got to send me your pictures.” The other replied, “Yeah, and you’ve gotta send me yours too!”
I immediately felt incredibly guilty, and spent the next hour walking and calling friends, as if reaching for a confessional.