Give it Up for Sexual Chocolate

Cirque du Today31 Comments

Ever seen the movie “Coming to America” with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall? Sure you have – it’s a classic. Ok, so then you remember the scene when Eddie Murphy doubles as Randy Watson, the lead singer of “Sexual Chocolate,” and gives a nails-on-the-chalkboard rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” to a slow-clapping audience. Love the movie, love the scene, and I just happen to be a karaoke-lover, so what better stage name for me to choose than “Sexual Chocolate?” Every time I get up to sing karaoke, no matter where I am (church, a kid’s birthday party, Grandma and Grandpa’s 200th anniversary), I sing my song with gusto, and when it’s over, I do a sort of Saturday Night Live Molly Shannon “superstar” pose while yelling “Sexual Chocolate!” It’s a crowd-pleaser.

When I think back to where my love of singing began, it had to have started with my mom, who starred in all sorts of hometown musicals as a child and teenager. She’d always regretted missing the Boat to Stardom, so she tried to pass on her “star” qualities to her kids. By the time I was 9 years old, I knew the words to songs from “Hello Dolly,” “Evita,” “Sound of Music” (who didn’t?), “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and many, many other musicals. When I was older and actually allowed to listen to the radio (I grew up without TV or radio until I was around 12), I devoted myself to learning all the words to every current hit on Rick Dees’ Weekly Top 40. I would get a blank tape and sit in front of the stereo for hours recording songs; then I would WRITE DOWN the lyrics to each song; then I would read and re-read until I had them memorized. I was a huge dork in high school, so I really didn’t have anything better to do. However, I did feel pretty cool when I was the only one in all of Catholic Central High School’s 9th grade class who was able to rap every single word of LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” at the Freshman dance. (When I’m alone in my room / Sometimes I stare at the wall / And in the back of my mind / I hear my conscience call / Tellin’ me I need a girl who’s as sweet as a dove / For the first time in my life, I see I need love). Boo-yeah! Take that, popular kids! Who’s the dork NOW, huh? Not THIS guy.

I was way too shy back in those days, though, to ever actually get up on a stage and sing. I remember sending in Polaroids of myself wearing my favorite jean dress to a Miss Junior Teen Ohio pageant, and they actually accepted me. (It was probably a money-scamming Ponzi pageant or something like that). Anywho. I was bouncing all around with excitement when I got the letter, until I realized I’d have to come up with a “talent” and perform it in front of a bazillion people. My mom was all like, “Woot, hallelujah, my baby’s gonna be a singing star!” And I was all like, “Hell to the no, woman, have you heard me sing?!” I mean, stage presence and lyric memorization was one thing. Singing on key was something totally different. I threw the registration packet away, and sadly, my Boat to Stardom sailed away without me.

Fast-forward 14 years. I’m 27 years old, and my dad, quite endearingly, gives me a karaoke machine for Christmas. Did I ask for one? No. Had it ever occurred to me that I secretly wanted one? No. Did I hear the song “Dream Weaver” playing in my head as I removed the last remnants of wrapping paper from its beautiful, shiny box? HELL YES. From that day on, me and my karaoke machine was like peas and carrots. When I wasn’t at work, the gym, or getting drunk at a bar, you could find me at a little place I liked to call My Room. Alone. Just like LL Cool J. Except I wasn’t staring at the wall. I was screeching to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” while shadowboxing my cheating ex-boyfriend’s bloated face.  Those were special times for me.

But somewhere around the age of 30, I actually left my room and ventured out into dive bars that were hosting karaoke nights. My husband, Todd, was my biggest fan and encouraged me to baby-step my way out of the dark and into the light where my star qualities could be enjoyed by all. I remember the night I belted out my special “You’re So Vain” version at a gay bar, which included yelling profanity at the ghost of that same cheating ex-boyfriend in between verses. The gay dudes loved it. I got a standing ovation. (Ok, they were ALREADY standing because it was so crowded in there, but I’m telling you, they loved it).

Today, I’m a stay-at-home-mom of three boys under the age of 7. My karaoke machine died a long time ago, and even though I wept at its funeral, I realized that it was its time to go. There is no place for a karaoke machine in a home full of animals, I mean young boys. Every time I got it out to “practice,” the microphones were slobbered on, the CDs were used as Frisbees, and since I’m being honest – my kids made for a shitty audience. Now my karaoke opportunities are relegated to occasional nights out on the town (translation: strip mall karaoke bars in Suburbia), and my annual self-promoted birthday celebration which I have dubbed “KaraokeFest.” I never earned passage on that Boat to Stardom. But I did buy an inflatable Walmart raft to hitch myself up and float alongside it. My raft even has a name: Sexual Chocolate.

Give it Up for Sexual Chocolate

31 Comments on “Give it Up for Sexual Chocolate”

  1. Amy Denton

    Oh my gosh, I totally did the same thing with recording every song on my tape player and then writing down every word. I have an “Amy’s notebook of lyrics” that my mom saved. I kind of miss HAVING to do that to know the lyrics. Songs meant so much more when you had to disect them like that.

  2. Rachell S.

    I love moms who do funny stuff. Children of moms who do funny stuff often just get eyerolls, or some version of not being the best audience. Good for you for your annual birthday celebration. Good for you for holding on to something you enjoy, Ms. Chocolate.

    PS. Never saw “Coming to America”. I will have to now.
    PPS. Congrats on your Grandparent’s 200th anniversary.

    1. Ashley

      Ha to your PPS! You must watch “Coming to America,” it is so highly quotable. It’s really one of my favorite comedies. Let me know what you think! I will drop you a line soon – I have been out of the loop. Thanks so much for being a faithful reader, Rachell!

  3. Uncle wiggly

    Superstar pose – sexual chocolate. I can see ya in all yer glory. Love it! My signature karaoke bit is “great balls o’ fire “. Can I open for you? My daughter used to stick toast into the VCR. Hooray for kidz! Love this. You clearly love life and it has a hot crush on you. Hot chocolate! Xoxo

    1. Ashley

      I think “Great Balls of Fire” would pair nicely with “You’re So Vain!” Toast in the VCR – my OCD husband would DIE! Thanks for always reading and supporting the Big Top Chocolate, Uncle Dubs. 😀

  4. Pattie

    I can’t believe that this is the first time I have read your blog. I love it! I will be binge reading now.

    I can’t sing unless I am alone in my car. Then I am a rock star.

    I used to record songs from the radio complete with the DJ’s annoying talking over the intro music. I would write lyrics down too. Often they were wrong!!

    1. Ashley

      Wow, thank you so much for reading, Pattie. I guess I am not as dorky as I thought with my radio recording and lyric memorization – if so many of us were doing this, then we were in the majority. Rock star dorks unite! 😉

  5. Kathy Radigan

    I think you need to get a new machine!! Your kids would love it!!!

    I think there is something so great about not forgetting what we love and finding a way to bring it back in our life!! Sing away!! 🙂

    1. Ashley

      Kathy, a new machine is definitely in my future. My kids would love it, as they have caught the singing bug from me – well, at least the younger two. My oldest is 7 now and is too embarrassed to sing his heart out the way he once did. I hope he’ll eventually lose the self-consciousness and let himself sing unabashedly again. I don’t know if I am being naive though . . what do you think, Wise Mom of Teenaged Son?

    1. Ashley

      Kelly Foxy Wine Pocket, my husband has video’d me several times – I think they may be on youtube. Two years ago, I rapped all of Bust A Move by Young MC and last year I did Lionel Richie’s “Hello” while splicing in some Spanish verses just to keep it quirky. A lot of time, research, and practice goes into being this big of a dork. Thanks for reading and I will take you up on those drinks!!

    1. Ashley

      Omg, Jenn, that would be epic. 😀 Wow, Janis Joplin – I’m impressed. I only sing boy songs or girl songs sung by girls who sound like boys. That was confusing. Anywho, thanks so much for reading and commenting. So looking forward to meeting you at Blog U…you are hilarious!

  6. Drew Clarke

    Another great story. No surprise there. I am glad that you were finally able to embrace and showcase your inner Robert Plant. My musical ambitions were stifled by the woman who has stifled every other dream I have ever had: my mother. Ironically, it was my mother who forced me to start playing trumpet at age eight. My mother majored in music theory and voice at Mary Washington and VCU. She was a music teacher for Henrico Public Schools for 34 years. She also did side gigs like singing at weddings, funerals and events of that nature. She has a beautiful voice. I was actually labeled a trumpet “prodigy” by my eighth grade jazz band director and the conductor of the all-region orchestra. I had real talent. However, my musical interests began to broaden. I could play piano by ear and taught myself how to play that way. However, every time I played, mom shut me down. But, Josh and Chris could play because they were taking piano lessons, but they would both tell you I was the best piano player in the family (although Jessica is the best now because she actually received some classical training and I can no longer play because I don’t have enough fingers). Then I became interested in singing and worked on developing that skill. I continued playing the trumpet through my sophomore year in college then abruptly gave it up. Mom wasn’t pleased but I really didn’t give a shit. Now, I’m no Placido Domingo, but I can carry a tune. Every year my mom’s church has a Christmas musical. My mom sings O Holy Night so powerfully that it gives me chills. In 2011 & 2012, I asked mom if we could sing O Holy Night as a duet. Both years she told me “absolutely” and that she’d make it happen, but nothing ever materialized. My mother is a very captious person. I think she stifled my non-trumpet playing ambitions because she didn’t want to share the stage with anyone.

    1. Ashley

      Aww this really makes me want to cry, Drew! I didn’t know that you played the trumpet; I didn’t know you liked to sing. Not sure I ever heard you sing in the car on the way to school. 😉 You taught me a lot about music on those car rides, I’ll say that. Lots of Police, which was a good thing. I’d never heard anything beyond “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” or “Every Breath You Take” at that point in my young life. I wish your mom had been more encouraging; I wish she were encouraging NOW. Thanks so much for commenting, and big hugs to you, friend.

  7. WhenCrazyMeetsExhaustion

    Oh, girl, get yourself a new machine and keep on keepin’ on. THIS is fantastic! Sexual Chocolate with her blank tapes recording Rick Dees–are we soul sisters or what? I mean, I would never have the balls to get up on stage, but I can match Whitney note-for-note in the privacy of my shower 🙂

    1. Ashley

      Stephanie, you need to get up on stage! It’s exhilarating! If we lived in the same area, I would make a karaoker out of you! Bank on it. 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting, sister. 😀

  8. qwertygirl

    I only sing in the car when I’m alone. But if Ozzy Osborne could hear the way I ROCK OUT “Crazy Train” while driving around in my minivan, he’d hire me in a SECOND.

    1. Ashley

      Ha! Qwertygirl – all you have to do is close your eyes and pretend the audience isn’t there! Pretend you’re in your minivan! Thanks for reading! 😀

  9. Lisa Newlin

    You were once shy?! Nonsense! Either way, I’m glad you came out of your shell. Gay bars do that to people in so many ways. (Get it? “Come out” at a gay bar? I slay me!)

    I’m glad you conquered your fear although I disagree; I think a house full of boys is the PERFECT place for a karaoke machine.

    1. Ashley

      Thanks, Lisa – I really need to buy a new karaoke machine! Why have I waited this long? I’m a performer, damnit! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, funny lady.

  10. Christine

    True story: I brought the house DOWN in Sandals Antiqua with my rendition of Hopelessly Devoted To You on my hubby’s 40th birthday. BRUNG IT DOWN, YO. Oh, and I turn 40 in November and I *JUST* told my hubby last night that I want a karaoke party. We’s like soul sistas methinks….

    1. Ashley

      Dang, Fruit Loops! That is a really hard song to sing – you have serious chops!!! I have a man’s voice when I’m singing, so I could be the Cher to your Sonny! 😉 Can’t believe we turn 40 a month apart and are both having karaoke parties! I wish we lived closer!!!

  11. Precious Princess

    OMG…This is total insanity. I love that movie and I fer sure did the same taping, writing, singing over & over. I think I still have those eleventy million pieces of paper somewhere. Don’t ever come to my house and sing. #Ihatekaroake

    1. Ashley

      Lol, I’m buying myself a new karaoke machine and hauling it your house. We’ll stay up all night drinking vodka, quoting Coming to America, and screeching into the microphone. You’re my peeps. xoxo

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