Some days, all I want in life is to be a second-rate cabaret singer in a run-down bar. I would drink more than I should, choke a little on other people's cigarette smoke (my fantasy bar is in a time before smoking bans), and hold the microphone just barely too close to my mouth. The regulars would have an inflated idea of my musical talents, and the more occasional visitors to my bar would look for alternative establishments with the same divey atmosphere but less singing.
I would sing almost exclusively long-forgotten Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart songs, usually too softly and with an edge of unexplained bitterness in even the most amusing numbers. On special nights, when I'd had an extra whiskey before my act, I'd belt the alto numbers, an octave down, cracking on the not-really-that-high notes. Then the bartender would cut me off, and I'd go back to mildly discomfiting folks with my wry—and now hoarse—takes on "Dancing on the Ceiling" and "You Took Advantage of Me."
Then everyone would be shocked when, one night, my good friend Queen Latifah would show up and we'd sing duets. I'd suddenly remember how to perform, and we'd wow the small but slowly growing crowd for hours. At 2 AM, when the bartender would start urging the now-packed bar to settle up on their tabs, Dana and I—we'd be on a first-name basis—would retire to a 24-hour diner for a cup of tea (hers with honey, mine with bourbon) and a conversation about how I could do better than this. Around 4:30, she'd admit that I probably couldn't, pay for both cups of tea, and walk me home.
After taking a week off from singing, I'd be back at my usual post, alone, and singing my standard solo repertoire. The regulars would wonder what had happened, and if they'd imagined the whole thing in some kind of absinthe-fueled hallucination. Every once in a while, I'd throw in one of the songs from that magical night, awkwardly transformed into a solo that would feel somehow incomplete, and they'd look at each other knowingly.
Melancholy fantasy, no? But it would make a great movie. Joel Grey would play me. Queen Latifah would play herself, B. D. Wong would play the bartender, and Edward James Olmos would play my accompanist. The waitress at the diner would be played by Randy Graff, and the most prominent regulars at the bar would be Siân Phillips, George Takei, Justin Kirk, and LeVar Burton. Emma Thompson would have a cameo either in the diner or in my apartment building.
Producers, if you're out there, you'd better get on this soon. Several key players are already north of 70 and probably losing their short-term memory.