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Tom Ross: Beware the karaoke machine

Here's wishing a blue Christmas to ye and all your kin







I tanked as an Elvis impersonator in front of 110 of my colleagues and their significant others Sunday, and I know that people will never regard me in quite the same way again.

Wherever I go in the newspaper building, reporters, copy editors, ad sales reps and graphic artists will shield their mouths with one hand and ask, “Remember that night when Tom Ross got up in front of everyone with Santa Claus, Rudolph and a disreputable elf and attempted to sing ‘Blue Christmas’?”

The reply always will be something like, “Oh my, how could I forget it? I was so embarrassed for the guy!”



The occasion of my complete and utter humiliation was the annual holiday party for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, Steamboat tv18 and esteemed guests from the Craig Daily Press. We all felt fortunate to be treated to a festive dinner.

It was a really nice party – right up to the part where I opened my mouth and began to croak: “I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you, I’ll feel so blue just thinking about yo-o-o-ou.”



Our social director, Blythe Terrell, had come up with an ingenious plan to ensure that our party would not turn into one of those duds where people snarf the appetizers, exchange small talk over the entree and then slide into the coat room and out the door before anyone has a chance to make fools of themselves.

Terrell cleverly decided to play on the naturally competitive nature of media wonks and decreed that every table of eight people formed a team. We faced off in a karaoke, trivia contest, joke telling and air guitar throwdown.

Holiday office parties are notorious for causing people to go a bit too far in terms of dropping their inhibitions and bonding with their colleagues. I mean, it really can be healthy to party with your officemates and get a little crazy, as long as it doesn’t go too far. And I know you know what I mean.

Things you should never do at an office party include talking about work, hitting on your boss’ spouse, bringing your children along because you can’t find a baby sitter, wearing a T-shirt with holes in it and telling jokes about political figures from Alaska.

For those very reasons, I have refrained from consuming punch and other party beverages at our last few office parties. Sunday night I limited myself to a single beer in four hours. Consequently, I made only one rude remark all night, a record that I am proud of.

However, my sobriety didn’t help my singing one bit.

The beginnings of my demise can be traced back two years to a going-away party for one of our newspaper colleagues. I stood up to sing George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning,” and somehow pulled it off.

It was different Sunday night, when I went down in flames.

It didn’t help that the karaoke man inexplicably set up the monitors so that they faced the audience.

It meant the performers (and I use the term loosely) had to choose between three options: turning their backs on the crowd in order to sing the lyrics, attempting to look over their shoulders, or singing from memory.

I should mention that I was preceded on stage by two dynamite performers. Our advertising guru rocked the house with an uninhibited version of “I’m Too Sexy” (for my shirt). He was followed by the local television personality with a version of “That’s Life” that oozed all the confidence of Sinatra.

I walked on stage next, accompanied by an elf in striped stockings and sunglasses, a guy wearing felt antlers and a rented lion suit, and a Santa who already had endeared himself by inviting assorted adults to sit on his lap.

Like a dork, I actually had rehearsed “Blue Christmas” at home and felt confident that I knew three simple verses by heart. I was so arrogant that I announced I didn’t need to be able to see the stinkin’ words.

Famous last words.

With my back to the monitor, I fell behind the instrumental track and came off like one of those losers on American Idol that leaves even Paula Abdul speechless.

I should have listened to my father all those years ago.

When I left my hometown for my first professional job, the professor gave me some sage advice.

“Tommy,” he said, “think carefully about how often you socialize with the people you work with.”

He forgot to tell me to stay away from “Blue Christmas.”

“You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of wh-i-i-i-ite.

“But I’ll have a bloo, bloooo, blooo, bloo Christmas.”

– To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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