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Don't Look At Miss Ohio

We'd gotten to the auditorium early enough that morning to be the only ones there besides the janitor. He let us in a side door, and we began the hour-long task of loading in gear. None of us had ever even been to a beauty pageant, let alone played one, and I knew it was about to be a very weird gig.



Doug High booked it because he was already contracted to emcee the shindig. The theme was "Grease" and I grew up on that soundtrack, so the music itself would be a piece of cake. When I was like five years old, I'd walk around the trailer park singing "Grease Lightning" and "You're the One That I Want" for anyone who'd listen. I probably made those charts without a guitar on my lap. By the time the pageant came around, we were well practiced and could play it in our sleep. Williams actually enjoyed himself because the bass lines on those songs are pretty spectacular. Linstrum even took some vocal harmonies, which was rare in those days. And we had Cogar with us to run the sound board. Some days we were a well-oiled machine, and that morning in Mansfield, Ohio was one of those days.


What we hadn't anticipated was the atmosphere of a Miss Ohio sanctioned beauty pageant. The young ladies assembled in the wings of that auditorium were treating the day like the most important of their lives. They had practiced, too. Flute solos, interpretive dance, and plenty of show choir style vocal solos. But no one warned us that we'd be running sound and cueing up all of their tracks. And when these gals realized we were their DJs, they swarmed us with CDs, cassettes, and performance notes. We were a bar band who had been singing through guitar amps a few years earlier. And here we were in the middle of an army of Terminators, all ready to cut one another to advance to the Miss Ohio pageant.


My first instinct was to grab Williams and slip out that side door the janitor had brought us in that morning. I had three pre-rolled joints, and we were about to make it two. I remember it being cold as hell that day, with very little sunshine. As we walked around the block, it started snowing like crazy. And by the time we got back to the auditorium our suits were covered in snow that quickly melted and we were soaked. But we were also in the right state of mind to juggle Celine Dion background tracks and the demands of two dozen pageant contestants.


Things went surprisingly well for the first hour, until it was time for intermission (and our Grease set). When the four of us picked up our instruments and took the stage, the Terminator army encircled Cogar all at once. I saw it from twenty yards away but there was nothing I could do as I was busy telling people about being "stranded at the drive-in, branded a fool". By the time we hit the last chorus of "You're the One That I Want" there was no sign of Cogar. The board sat unmanned and I remember hoping that he'd found the cigarette pack with the other two joints.


The second hour was a train wreck. Young women cried because their accompaniment track skipped, and because we shaved off half their intros, and because we played the wrong track for a girl who juggled several teddy bears at once. Makeup was streaked and we were hated. Doug handed us a check but looked at us like we'd just burned down his mother in law's house. We slipped out that side door as the janitor shook his head no and judged us harshly. And by the time we got back to Norwalk to unload the van, that cigarette pack was empty.



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