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Who Fred?
April 1st, 2005
Would YOU trust a man who dresses up in a ridiculous outfit like this, just to make a few extra bucks on the weekend?
I should've known better...

That's my buddy, Charlie Johnson. We went to college together, and besides sharing art classes, we were like-minded in our mutual love of comics and popular music. Hey, I was even Best Man at Charlie's wedding--and I didn't even have to wear a penguin suit, much less a bunny one! I wrote about how our friendship developed at some small length during those halcyon days in a piece with the unlikely—but honestly descriptive—title of “The Flying Frog, the Disembodied Baby's Head, and OTHER Fond College Reminiscences”, complete with accompanying full-color, originally published by Marvel, comic strip. If you haven't already, I'd advise you to take a look at it—it'll no doubt shine a little more illumination on today's subject matter.

Which is, if you haven't figured it out as of yet, my pal Charlie. Y'see, it all started about a month and a half back...

We'd fallen out of touch for quite some time—nearly a decade, probably--but thanks to the launching of this site, eventually Charlie and I happily began communicating again. All well and good, and nothing particularly out of the ordinary—UNTIL the middle of this past February. Almost as an afterthought to a note he sent concerning whatever the heck I had been blathering on about on the blog that particular day he wrote, "Here's a lnk to my karaoke website, Karazee Karaoke. This is how my friend Sal and I amuse ourselves on weekends--we host karaoke night at a local bar."

You're familiar with the phrase, “bust a gut”, I assume? Hardly the most elegant of terms, granted, and one I generally refrain from using, but, man oh MAN, a more fitting description for my reaction upon visiting his site I couldn't POSSIBLY come up with!! Lynn and I sat in from of the computer screen as she clicked away, going from one outrageous image after outrageous image of the weekly posters the pair concocted to advertise their Karazee little enterprise. Charlie tells me it's colleague Sal Maisano who does the bulk of the design work, but it's my bunny-suited buddy who lends his crazed visage to the digitally manipulated blendings of the real and the surreal—there's Charlie, as Wacko Jacko on trial, as Frankenstein for Halloween, as a steroid laden Barry Bonds, as pop stars Elton John, Boy George, Flava Flav, Kid Rock , AND Madonna, and as a leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day, a pilgrim for Thanksgiving, a crazed Jason for the weekend that their Karaoke night just happened to fall on a Friday the thirteenth, as well as offering himself up as the most attractive third party candidate since Ross Perot in last November's ill-fated Presidential election—and a majority of these peculiar panoramas feature my old pal with his tongue extended fully OUT, to its maximum breach of mouth, which is almost enough to divert your attention from the clearly demented twinkle dancing around in his eyes.


(And I'm not even going to MENTION several of the subjects chosen by Charlie and Sal for the full Karazee treatment that might well be deemed to be in less than, um, good taste. You'll just have to go search out the offensive--yet usually funny--offenders for yourselves...)
Yeah, I'm given to hyperbole upon occasion, but I can in all honesty swear to you that my sides were sore by the time we'd plowed through the over thirty available posters, not to mention the scads and scads of photos snapped each and every week at these drunken—and most assuredly, off-key—revelries. I hadn't laughed that consistently hard in ages, and while I realize that a substantial portion of that over-the-top reaction came from the salient fact that I KNOW Karazee Charlie personally—after all, YOU weren't there that day back in college when I was with him and his girlfriend, innocently walking through the local mall on our lunch break, and he just spontaneously exited, stage right, running headlong into a tiny, single aisle shoe store, dived into a belly-flop and slid most of the length of the otherwise empty store, arriving at the feet of the lone—and most assuredly stunned—clerk, only to calmly get up, theatrically brush himself off, nod appreciably to the confused proprietor, quickly turn, briskly leave, and be on his way as if nothing particularly out of the ordinary had happened, the only evidence to the contrary being the unfortunate (and extensive) skid mark his belt buckle had unavoidably left for a majority of the length of the store's floor—YOU weren't there to see THAT, but I was, and lemme tell ya, it's not something one soon forgets! But even without experiencing Charlie Johnson Live, still I figured you folks out there might well get a chuckle or two from the sheer good-natured audacity my old pal was exhibiting in his current avocation, so I wrote back and politely queried if he'd mind perhaps a little extra publicity given him here abouts?...

Like I had to ASK??..

By that time, February was waning, and as I wanted Charlie to get maximum exposure for his wild and wacky weekend activities, I told him I'd be holding him over until early March. He was cool with that. But before I could get to working up this Profile In Karazeeness, our main computer died, several other obstacles deterred me from my self-appointed goal, and suddenly--WHOOSH--the days in March were wasting away as well. What to do?

Then--“Click” went the light-bulb over my head! This. I realized, would make the PERFECT subject for an April 1st entry! Not that I was gonna TELL Charlie what I was planning—uh uh--half the fun is in the surprise, y'know?

But then, I wound up being the one who got the surprise!

I hadn't visited the Karazee Karaoke page for several weeks, so I wasn't prepared for the news that met me when I went there earlier today in an effort to decide just which images to poach—right up on top of the screen (well above the animated bouncing Charlie heads on the BOTTOM) it read: “BREAKING NEWS!! Charlie is moving to California. This will be his last Friday—come down and wish him well!!”


I'd just gotten a note from him a few hours earlier—he's the one who provided me with the link to the Whipped Cream Lady's website, which I gratefully added to my Herb Alpert Birthday Salute (NOT “Albert”, as I'd originally misspelled it—thanks to Alan David Doane and Tom the Dog for the much needed correction), and there was absolutely NO hint from this life-long Long Island resident that he was planning to switch coasts anytime soon! Even though I couldn't honestly recall the last time we'd gotten together face to face (the last time we ALMOST did so was back just before Julie turned three and we were visiting my parents old house in Yaphank, with the plan being to stop off at Charlie's digs on our way back home upstate, but the trip was hastily truncated due to a miserably uncomfortable heat wave and the need to get our toddler back into familiar (and COOLER) surroundings, so it never quite came off—and now our daughter's almost 15, and she STILL hasn't met Charlie!), I nonetheless found myself getting bummed out at the very notion of him being way, way on the other side of the country, in an area where this flight-aphophic fella will most likely NEVER visit! At least, I'm thinking, if he's still somewhere on Long Island, there's always that chance we'd be able to get together—with him moving to California, well, game over.

So I wrote him a semi-frantic email, repeating the phrase “WHAAAT?” no less than three times, going on to explain how I was checking his site in order to put together this very entry (albeit, no longer surreptitiously), and anxiously awaited some sort of explanation. In the meantime, I went outside and spent close to an hour dragging off branches that had fallen during a recent late season snow storm back into the outer reaches of our yard, while the whole time my thoughts were preoccupied with this suddenly depressing prospect of my good buddy up and leaving us for the left coast! And WHAT, I wondered, what would this all mean for the future of the Karazee Karaoke website that I had been gearing up for days to tell you all about?...

While washing the excess pine sap off my hands afterwards, Lynn and I were discussing the situation, and almost simultaneously we both came to ANOTHER, but exceedingly likely, conclusion, and I quickly rinsed the soap off my still sticky fingers so that I could run over to the lap-top and send Charlie a second note, this one detailing our latest suspicions.

But it was too late. His reply to my FIRST missive had already come in.

To quote it in its entirety:


April Fools!!”

So yeah, THAT'S what I get for trusting the word of a man who hops into a bunny suit to warble with an inebriated clientele on Easter weekends! I get April Fooled, royally. Huh. Well, I guess I should've known better. After all, if Charlie HAD fled the length and breadth of this big ol' country of ours, what luck would poor abandoned partner Sal ever have in selling any of THESE?...
That's right, ladies, for a mere $12.99 you too can have a THONG with the crazed visage of my nutty ol' college chum right smack dab in the middle of a spot, with quotations lifted directly from "The Wit And Wisdom Of Sam The Sham" as icing on!!! Nice job--it's not quite Underoos, buddy boy, but its sure closer that I'VE ever got!! (And check out the clock with Charlie's face on its face, the mug with his mug, and the “European Tour 2005” men's tee-shirt that I could never BEGIN to muster enough nerve to wear out in public--and whose potential salability could very likely be about to take a sharp downturn. Sorry, fellas...)

Look, I've never participated in Karaoke in my entire life, and like I said, it's been over a decade since I've been anywhere on Long Island (save for a handful of trips to see the Mets play in Queens-based Shea Stadium), but you can bet that if I ever were to get ANYWHERE near Charlie and Sal's Karazee Karaoke, I'd be up on that stage in a New York minute!!

Say, you fellas have “Moon River” cued up on that thing by any chance?...

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