Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christmas Parties - A night at 'Crazy Wendy's'

10th December 2011

Christmas Parties – what a phenomenon!

Last night it was ‘Running Club’ Christmas dinner. 

If you remember – I’m not technically a member of my local running club. 

Just like Pink Floyd, I help people through ‘The Wall’, by threatening and swearing at them during races. In return this means I can gatecrash social events and pretend I’m fit!

Last night I had a déjà vu moment. The ‘do’ was at ‘Crazy Wendy’s’ a Thai restaurant in Didsbury.

‘Let Crazy Wendy entertain you with her rendition of Elvis hits’!

I last went there back in 2004 for my birthday when it was half the size and called ‘Thai E Sarn’. It was small and dark, the food was mediocre but if you took a decent sized group of people, you had the place to yourself.

Besides, you didn’t go there for the food – you went for the experience.

‘Crazy Wendy’ would appear half way through the night and fill the room with light and madness - a tiny Thai woman in a lurid spandex dress, sequins, feather boa and enormous hair clutching a microphone - belting out ‘Hey Big Spender’, from her book of karaoke classics. By the end of the evening it was guaranteed that even the most reserved of diner would have kissed goodbye to their inhibitions and be singing ‘It’s not unusual’ at the top of their lungs.

An evening at ‘Thai E Sarn’ was quirky, mad and definitely unusual.

Back in 2004, there I was, w*nkered and dancing on the table. I’m never the first to sing, but once I get a microphone in my hand, you have to fight me for it, to get it back. I vaguely remember strutting up and down the table singing ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease – both parts!

Seven years later, I was back doing it again. But something had changed. Instead of the tiny, friendly, dingy restaurant I remembered, it had doubled in size and had rebranded, modelling itself on a cross between the Blackpool illuminations, a strip joint and KFC. Resplendent at a pinnacle of pink neon was a massive picture of ‘Crazy Wendy’ herself, magnificent in full performance outfit. For a moment I was back on the Ko San Road in Bangkok.

Wendy’s unique character, which sets her apart from other oriental restaurants had clearly bought her a ticket to the big time. 

Being searched and patted down by a security guard on the way in wasn’t the best start to the evening. Do I look like the kind of person who is going to smuggle bottles into a restaurant? 

Apparently yes! Still, it was our Christmas do and we were all together which was what mattered.

Once inside the full extent of the transformation became apparent. Crazy Wendy had gone corporate – all the staff wore t-shirts with Wendy’s picture on the front and had curly wires and ear pieces. It was all rather bizarre. I felt like I’d entered the Pentagon on acid. 

Like little worker ants, the staff constantly tidied up, even when you hadn’t finished. Dare to mingle and leave your chair and table unattended, you risked coming back to find they’d been tidied away – carried off at head height over the diners and taken down below.

With Crazy Wendy not making an appearance until 10.30pm, the DJ pumped up the volume, while the staff, like a well oiled machine circulated amongst the diners with microphones, thrusting them at people who looked on the cusp of bursting into song. I was the first to be thrust at – but as I said earlier, it takes me a while to warm up. 

‘Living on a Prayer’, that Bon Jovi classic did the trick, so when, like the runners on ‘Question Time’ the microphone came my way, this time I hung onto it. I took a deep breath, remembered that I’ll be a long time dead and performed - and blow me down, if it wasn’t ‘Summer Nights.’ Tell me more, tell me more - exactly the same song that I’d sung seven years earlier. So true to form I sang both parts. I was both Olivia Newton John and John Travolta. But this time, I had my husband to sing it to.

 Took her bowling in the arcade. We went strolling drank lemonade.

While I couldn’t actually hear myself singing, apparently I was really rather good. Even people from other tables stopped, turned round and listened. There were many photographs!

Sadly, not all our party witnessed my stellar performance, preferring their larger in a quieter bar across the road, where the volume of the music didn’t make your ears bleed.

When Crazy Wendy finally did come out, she was dolled up like a Christmas tree, leaping up onto the table for a bit of Elvis before making her way through the crowds around the room. All the time followed by nervous looking Thai ‘minders’ with ear pieces in Crazy Wendy t-shirts, helping her up and down from tables and chairs - like Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in the film ‘The Body Guard’, but slightly less in tune.

I have to say, for all its glitz, glamour and consistent branding, I actually preferred how it was before. It was quirky and intimate. Somehow it had lost its magic – or maybe I just wasn’t drunk enough.

Someone suggested that I open up in competition – ‘Crazy Al’s’. Songs from the 1980’s with a menu of prawn cocktail, (Po) coq au vin and a free curly wurly for all diners. I could sing a Weird Al Yankovic medley whilst dressed as Boy George. Do you think it would work? Hmmmm maybe.

Would you book your Christmas Party at ‘Crazy Al’s’ next year?

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