Amateur Night
Sandie Maxa

Last night I made my way to Harlem for Amateur Night at the Apollo. Talented young men and women belted out everything from gospel hymns to pop anthems like Last Night a DJ Saved My Life. The performers touched the Tree of Hope (a good luck charm on stage) and then went on to do their thing. As a valued audience member, I was asked to either "show the love" by clapping or to boo and bring out the Executioner, who would ring an alarm and escort the act off stage similar to the Gong Show. While all this was very exciting, the warm-up act had me the most entertained.

After a hearty welcome from the emcee, who asked us to “put our hands together” about a million times, the audience shouted out names and home towns in response to his questions. Witty banter with the crowd lead to the emcee pulling people on stage for what he called, “The Apollo Soul Train.” About ten people stood in two lines, squinting under the bright lights. The band started playing some funky beats and then the unsuspecting Soul Trainers were asked to come to center stage and perform an impromptu dance solo. Some, like Kiko from Japan who REALLY shook her booty, weren’t phased while others like Larry from New Jersey could only move their elbows. The house band, Ray Chew and the Crew, tried to play something they thought each person would respond to but some stood motionless until they tried one desperate move. Some ran in place or shook their hips while others just flailed wildly like Elaine on Seinfeld. The unprepared were the real amateurs... and they were hilarious.