In my never-ending quest to find and archive things I’ve written, I’ve come across a little gem here about a friend of mine we all know. And rather than posting it with the date I wrote it, I’ll just post it as current and tell you when it happened, because I remember when it happened. But not when I wrote it. This was back in July of 2002. This story is about Katy 80. Sweet little Katy Fanning, who almost never writes here, but always has something to say. Or in this case, to sing. She had just turned fifteen.
I work at a web hosting company, building the web servers. I often go into work at midnight or later and grab my stack of server build sheets and stay until five or so knocking them all out. My boss doesn’t care when I come in or leave, so long as I get them all built by their due date. And I work better at night. This frees up most of my days to do more important things like baseball games, beer drinking and, well, whatever I want. I live in Flower Mound, but work in Las Colinas. My friend Kim and her sister live in Coppell, and we often have lunch together when Katy has decided to skip school or is off for a teacher’s work day. Oh the glorious Teacher’s Work Day. Yes, that should be capitalized. I think she told her big sister she was out for TWDs a lot more often than they really were. On Friday of last week though, we were all off. It was the day after Independence Day, so everyone was off. And most of the world was at the Vista Ridge Mall. Which is, for whatever reason, where we decided we should head for lunch.
I had called a couple of friends of mine to meet me for lunch, and Kimbre was one of them. Her sister tagged along. Then there was the usual band of space-cadets – Stout, Carter and Jeremy were there. We walked through the mall like we own the place – I guess in a way we do. We stopped at Dickey’s Barbecue joint and picked up some food, then sat at a dirty little table munching our sandwiches and onions, making fun of the people who walked by. The mall was packed like a sardine can, so there was plenty of fodder for the ridicule. When we finally got up and made our way back toward the exit, we passed a stage that had been erected for a talent show. There stood on it a single microphone, lonely on its shiny steel stand, and plugged into an insipidly large PA system at the base of the stage.
Katy grabbed my shoulder and halted us as a group as we passed it, and looked at the mike up on the stage. I stared at her, wondering what was going through that wild young mind of hers. Her eyes were filled with awe and wonder as she stared. She finally found her voice, and put her mouth close to my ear. “Turn me on,” she said. Then she promptly bounced up onto the four-foot stage, and positioned herself behind the microphone. I flipped the power switch on the PA and stood back to watch what she’d do. The others stood with me, and we watched with our arms crossed, amusedly, as she started singing.
It was incredible. She sang loud and long and passionately, a song we all knew well. She wasn’t on key – or in fact, anywhere close to it. But that didn’t matter. No one cared that she wasn’t a singer. The fact was that she was up there singing, and they weren’t. She had the balls no one else had. It was readily obvious that she belonged on that stage. Every cell in her body belonged on that stage entertaining the hundred or so people who gathered to watch her perform. And there wasn’t a soul in the crowd who didn’t have a smile on his or her face. They were all nodding with appreciation and approval. She put on a great show for us that day, singing that song with no music to back her up, very much in love with the attention she’d commanded as she belted out the lyrics with perfect spirit and enthusiasm.
When she finished singing, she was greeted with an overwhelming blanket of applause, people shouting and hollering, and lining up to shake her hand as she came down off the platform. She was all smiles, but silent as she made her way back to my side. I put my arm around her and kissed the side of her head in excitement.
“You were amazing!”
“Thank you,” she said, laughing. She was laughing so hard her face was turning red. I could tell she was ecstatic with the attention she’d been given, and with the way the people were crowding in around her now, it was obvious they felt the same way: she’d been promoted to instant celebrity status. We tried to push our way through the crowd and make exodus, but it was too thick, and they were too vehement. I can’t say I really understand what all the fuss was about. I knew her well, so I had a reason to like her. But aside from our already friendly relationship, I can’t say I’d have even stopped to listen except from just a bordering curiosity – had I been walking by while she was performing. These people were in love with her. They were enamored of her spirit, I suppose. Because she had definitely given all of herself to the unlikely performance. She even signed a few autographs on the way out, smiling and thanking people as she shook their hands.
I had to remind myself that this girl was only fifteen years old. How did she have that much courage? I have played the guitar, piano and drums in front of people before. Many people in some cases. I love to play at parties. But I don’t think I’m quite cut out to get on stage and sing a song through a mike with no accompaniment. That takes someone (or something) special, doesn’t it? I also had to remind a few of the people there who had gathered that she was only fifteen. A few spoiled smiles turned into shock and defeat as their owners wandered off disappointed and dejected. Katy is before anything else a cutie pie. She may someday grow up to be a model. That’s the first thing people notice about her. They fail to realize she’s just a kid.
As we left the crowded mall, we could see people whispering behind cupped hands into close ears, pointing and smiling at the starlet leaving the premises. It was pretty wild. And I felt pretty honored to be the one with my arm around her. We should all know someone like Katy 80. Lest I say your life is not complete.