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“Stories To Tell Before I Forget” is an ongoing series of short stories about real events from my past. Click here to learn more about the series, here if you’re interested in reading more, and here to sign up for updates from “The Blarg.”

Stories To Tell Before I Forget: “Karaoke at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon with Buck Stallion”

I am not a fighting man.

In fact, in my 37 years on this planet, the only physical confrontation I’ve ever found myself in came in the seventh grade. It was in Miss Scharrer-Erickson’s science class at Jackie Robinson Middle School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and John Haynes held me down while Marsherri French pummeled my face.

In their defense, I deserved it. In addition to being a little shit at the time (which both of my parents can eagerly attest to, I’m sure), I made the fatal mistake of calling Marsherri a “bitch” to her face. I never made that mistake again with Marsherri… or any woman for that matter.

When I was younger—and I’m not talking middle-school young, but rather early-twenties young—I was definitely quick to confront people on… whatever. Not physical confrontation, of course, but verbal. I loved having an opinion, and I was obsessed with sharing it with the world. And if you happened to not agree with me? Well, to put it bluntly, you were both wrong and dumb.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’d like to think I’ve become less confrontational, wiser, and… well, I guess some might say “soft.” Still, I’d rather be soft than an asshole. If you could build a time machine, go back to 2001, and tell the 25-year-old me this was the case, I’d insist on traveling back with you to 2014 and beating the ever-living shit out of the 37-year-old me.

Although, I think I could take the 25-year-old me in a fight.

And that brings me back to my original point: I’m never looking for a fight, especially at this age. But earlier tonight, for whatever reason, a fight was looking for me. Specifically, at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon in Tarzana, California.

Every couple months or so, my sister organizes a Tuesday night karaoke get-together at Sugar Mill, a dive bar with a pool table and free (insanely salted) popcorn. Karaoke is run by an old fella named Lenny, who wears a fedora and tie, and always takes a few cracks at a handful of Sinatra tunes. Lenny is usually accompanied by a young woman named Bethany, who pretty much runs the entire show.

Last night, however, Bethany was nowhere to be found. Instead, she had been permanently replaced by a guy named “Buck Stallion” (no shit), a karaoke incubus whose only real talent came in sucking all life and fun out of the evening.

In fairness, we were warned. On our way over to the bar, I got this text from my sister: “Oh no. There’s a new douche that has replaced Bethany. He’s awful.”

That would prove to be a spot-on description of Dick Palomino, but still, we had to check him out for ourselves. I mean, how bad could he really be?

Really. Fucking. Bad.

When we showed up, Buck was up onstage singing a song. Then he sang another. And another. This wasn’t karaoke; it was a Buck Stallion concert. And Buck Stallion is to concerts what Dane Cook is to standup: THE WORST.

Still, I walked over to the bar to order a beer. In the time it took me to get said beer, Buck referred to people in the bar as “fuckfaces” and “retards.” He also changed a song lyric into the hilarious line, “I came on your face,” and told us that if he saw anyone on their phone he was going to “kick them in the face.”

Good times, right?!? High-five!

Thankfully, our friend Jaq put in a song and took the stage. Finally, we’d have at least three or four minutes of non-Buck yammering! Right? WRONG!

Buck sang along with Jaq. And anyone else who submitted a song. At one point, he sang the theme from Cheers four fucking times in a row.

It was at this point that I took one of the song request sheets, flipped it over, and wrote this on the back:

Jeffrey Dahmer + Adolf Hitler + Fucking = Buck Stallion

Let me be clear: Initially, it wasn’t my intention for anyone to see this but our friends. My sister watched and laughed as I wrote it, and that was honestly as far as it was supposed to go. I folded it up and stuck it in my shirt pocket.

I was only halfway done with my beer when we collectively decided to leave the nightmare that was karaoke with Cock Bronco. I downed the rest of my Racer 5 and headed for the door. Outside, KB talked with an employee about how horrible the place had become. They said she should go in and complain to the owner, who was apparently too busy playing pool at the back of the bar to notice what a train wreck his establishment had become.

We waited while KB went back inside to complain; when she came out a couple minutes later, she said, “He said, ‘Too, bad. A lot of people like him.'”

Which “people” he was talking about, I have no idea; I’m assuming deaf people don’t regularly hang out at karaoke bars but, hey, you never know, I guess.

The owner’s indifference changed the game. I walked back inside, handed my letter to a bartender, and told him to give it to the owner when he was free. I went back outside and rejoined the group, who were collectively trying to figure out where we should go next for a drink.

And then it happened: Buck Stallion walked out of the bar, his white cowboy hat tipped back (Oh, did I forget to mention he was wearing a fucking cowboy hat? Yeah, he was.), his shirt unbuttoned halfway down to his bellybutton, and a steady stream of sweat flowing between his man-boob canyon.

And he had my note in his hand.

Seriously, within in the span of two minutes, the bartender gave it to the owner, the owner gave it to the karaoke cowboy, and then—BOOM!—like that, he was outside and ready to throw down. If only Maui Sugar Mill Saloon moved that quickly when getting someone their drinks.

Buck sarcastically asked where we were going, why we were leaving so early. My sister said it was because he sucked, to which KB replied, “Yeah, you’re really bad.” He ignored this and went back to the note, which apparently had struck a nerve: “Really? Jeffrey Dahmer fucking Hitler?”

He circled me and uttered the word “pussy” (I can’t remember in what context), to which I replied: “I’m a pussy? Really? Tell you what? I wrote that note in your hand, and I’m right here. Who’s a pussy now?” KB says I also called him a pussy, though again, I can’t remember in what context.

This is where I come back to my main point: I’m not a fighter. I went to a private art school in Ohio, for Christ’s sake, so I don’t possess one ounce of machismo in my entire body.

Still, I was ready to go fucking buck wild on Buck Stallion. Yeah, I probably would’ve gotten my ass kicked, but not before I gave him a nice little sack tap with my Adidas. Or at least knocked off his cowboy hat. Yeah, I’m not a fighter.

Anyway, it was at this point that the conversation got weird.

Buck Stallion: “What do you do for a living, man? Huh? What do you do that’s so important?”

Looking back on it, I should’ve replied, “I’m a fucking firefighter!” or “I’m a fucking astronaut!” or “I’m a fucking firefighter astronaut!” because I think it would’ve been really hard to have a snide retort to a statement like that.

Instead, the truth slipped out of my mouth: “I’m a writer!”

Justin Shady: WRITER BADASS!

He made some sarcastic comment about how I’m a “really good writer” (obviously based on my offensive letter writing skills), to which I replied, “I know! I’m gonna submit that letter for a Pulitzer tomorrow morning!” In hindsight, I have no idea what this even meant, but it sounded good at the time.

We moved in a little closer to each other, and for a brief second I thought, “Holy shit… is this really happening? Are we going to fight? Is this cowboy jag gonna pound my face in like Marsherri French did in the seventh grade?”

But my thought was cut short when our good friend Jaq, who is a very tall drink of water, stepped in between us and said (very calmly), “I’m just gonna do this now.” That immediately defused the situation. That, and KB yelling at me to, “Get in the car!” Thank Christ.

Buck sauntered back inside. We all decided we had probably just had the most exciting moment of the entire night, and that nothing we did afterward would compete with it. So we all parted ways in agreement of one crystal clear thing: We’ll avoid Buck Stallion karaoke like the plague, and we’ll definitely never go back to Maui Sugar Mill Saloon.

Although, I’m pretty sure we’re probably banned from the bar anyway, especially because I wrote this review on their Yelp page. And then the owner replied. HA!

As we drove away, we heard Buck onstage reading my letter to the people in the bar. I’m pretty sure this is the first time my writing has ever been performed on a stage in front of a live audience. Thanks, Buck! I’m sure this is my first step towards an EGOT!

So if you’re looking for a night of being yelled at and talked down to, ridiculously loud obnoxiousness, and a host who acts as if he’s a clichéd character that stepped right out of a shitty Adam Sandler movie, I can’t recommend Tuesday night karaoke at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon enough!

If you don’t want to have a night like that, go anywhere else.

Best night of non-karaoke ever,

-Shady

PS: If you’re interested in reading another near-fight story of mine, check out this post from 2008.

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Wisconsin's Shame

…and I’m thinking of printing it on t-shirts.

Taking orders,

-Shady

…”He looks like a fun-loving Dahmer.”

She was talking about Rupert Holmes, the guy who sings “The Pina Colada Song.”

Oh, man… she’s not kidding:

If you have half a brain,

-Shady

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Old Poop!

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