Jackpot is a 2001 film featuring Jon Gries as a down and out karaoke singer. The plot revolves around Sunny (Gries) and his flim flam manager (Garrett Morris) as they travel the karaoke circuit seeking fortune and fame. Sunny is a desperate man living on the edge still trying to maintain a semblance of family life with his wife being portrayed by the long suffering Daryl Hannah. Karaoke seems to be his only means of staying focused. The film succeeds by balancing humor and pathos.
And while Jackpot remains one of my favorite all time films, I admit I’ve never been a fan of this medium of entertainment. It has always seemed to me to be a contrived way of performing. Call it just a step above humming to the radio. But in a bar setting with a few shots of liquid courage, magic can happen…or not. I remember visiting the Philippines about the time Jackpot was released marveling at the availability of karaoke equipment. Even in the most poverty stricken and remotest of villages everyone (and I mean everyone) had a karaoke machine. It wasn’t hard to get the party started. You don’t know how many awful renditions of Crying Time I had to sit through. That seemed to be a signature song over there. I doubt you could hear the sound of my one hand clapping. I smiled through the tears and downed as many San Miguels as I could get my other hand on. Its not that the Philippines doesn’t produce any accomplished singers (Sarah Geronimo and Arnel Pinada – lead singer for Journey – come to mind), I just never came across any in my travels.
But now it's 2015 and you can banish bad karaoke my friends. Singtrix is being touted as the first commercial product that allows “regular people to sing like rock stars”. And why not? We enhance our breasts, liposuction our fat, a nip here, a tuck there, here a tuck, there a tuck everywhere a tuck tuck. Why not manipulate our voice. Even Elvis and Sinatra needed help occasionally with their vocals. Studio effects are nothing new but this is a game changer for the less than average singer. Its live vocal effects technology is being promoted as a “fun new party experience”. Can’t hit those high notes on Queen’s We Are The Champions? No worries now, you won’t even need a drink before you hit the stage. Songtrix will help.
For some reason, all this leads me to Boy George who always seemed to me to be the perfect karaoke singer. Yes he had a backing band called The Culture Club, but his style of singing and his knack for the overly theatrical screamed karaoke. But his heyday was the 80’s and he’s probably known more for his extracurricular activities (like beating up prostitutes) than he is for his hits like Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, Karma Chameleon, and I’ll Tumble 4 Ya. But George is seeking redemption in Los Angeles where he will star in his own reality show. Boy George trumpeted the announcement by saying "If Marge Simpson met Dolly Parton and went dancing with Ziggy Stardust, it wouldn't come close to what you'll see". This show is from the same producers who developed Keeping Up with the Kardashians. For the longest time I thought the Kardashians was a show on the Animal Planet network. It was just a matter of time. In the future we will all have our own reality show just to tweak the Andy Warhol comment about having 15 minutes of fame. But if I hear George warbling Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? I just might have to answer in the affirmative…in the worst possible way.