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Karaoke: Where everyone is a star

By by kayla bell/kbell@vicad.com
Feb. 16, 2011 at 3:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 15, 2011 at 8:16 p.m.

Michael James Veit, 47, doesn't need the lyrics to perform in front of the crowds at Shooters Bar. A musician from Shiner, he is a natural performer.

IF YOU GOWHAT: The 2011 Victoria Livestock Show Amateur Karaoke Contest

WHERE: Community Center Annex in the Beer Garden

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26

WHO: Finalists from four preliminary rounds held at Shooters

Peggy Lorenz-Chiles rolled her eyes when she saw that one wretched word that haunts anyone who's ever been out to a night at karaoke.

"Picture."

The 11-year-karaoke DJ veteran has grown to hate that song so much, she limits its glass-breaking renditions to two painful attempts a night.

No matter how greasy the hair or how snug the wife beater, no one can quite pull off Kid Rock. And no matter how many times they've fantasized about being with Lance Armstrong, nobody can quite match Sheryl Crow.

Or, as Peggy put it nicely: "There's very few people who can do it well."

But that's about the only stipulation the 56-year-old, who's probably musically hipper than most of the bar's 20-something crowd, said.

"My No. 1 rule is, it's gotta be fun," she said at Shooters, where she DJs three nights a week.

While the take-charge woman on the mic can be intimidating from the stage sidelines, she's hardly pretentious and didn't even laugh (or cry) at that night's "Picture" posers.

At the end of the night, the dreaded last call, Peggy is just a businesswoman. A businesswoman who just so happened to land the sweetest gig in the world, if you're into music and bars and weekends off and watching people make fools of themselves. Yes, please.

"I tell people I get paid to have fun," she said over a cigarette break on the bar's patio.

But not everyone's cut out for the job, Peggy pointed out.

"I don't think people realize how much work it is to keep the equipment and everything up to date," she said.

Peggy has endured so many drunken renditions of "Summer Nights" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," she remembers transitioning from lugging hundreds of CDs to some other kind of ancient technology called CAVS, to now, all digital tunes.

She has a collection of something like 50,000 jams, which she updates monthly.

But the variety of songs and her new speakers aren't what have kept this AARP-aged woman so beloved by a crowd she calls her karaoke babies.

"My specialty is making people get up to sing," Peggy said. "I think one of the most rewarding things is getting somebody up there who wouldn't sing and watching them become addicted."

She calls it popping cherryokes.

"Didn't I get your karaoke cherry?" she asked 19-year-old Mariah Kowald, who Peggy said started out with a timid, baby voice.

Mariah nodded and admitted to being terrified the first time Peggy convinced her to sing.

"But what's my No. 1 rule?" Peggy asked her.

"Always have fun," said Mariah, who was the first to bust out a bellowing act that night.

The two, who otherwise might not have anything in common, told of an underground posse of strangers turned friends that emerged from a shared karaoke addiction.

"They are almost like family," Peggy said, exposing a soft side in a job that could easily become annoying, especially sober.

She said she's been blessed to have been a part of her regulars' proposals and weddings. And she cherishes them so much, she keeps their 60 to 80 request slips in organized piles for them to grab each night.

She was quick to go back to her lighthearted self. "I'm saving trees," she quipped.

That pile of regular recyclables only stands to get larger, with Peggy not stopping her cherryoke popping anytime soon.

"I hope to be doing karaoke 'til I'm 95," she said, before seeing that damn "Picture" request. "I don't ever see me stopping."

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