Good times, better oldies at the Wagon Wheel

The whole scene was surreal. Michael proceeded to cover the canon of American popular music from the 50s and 60s, using a remote control to cue up the background tracks. He gave shout-outs to his fans and also to Billy Leather, a Billy Idol tribute performer whose bleached-blonde head sometimes blocked my view. Mr. Leather wasn’t the most conspicuous member of the audience, however. There were the numerous lipsticked 60 year-old women, including one sitting at a picnic table next to me, who danced as frenetically as one can while still sitting down. And then there were the hecklers—a table of wasted, grey-bearded bikers (one of whom wore a hand-crafted cut-off t-shirt which proclaimed “I <3 STRIPPERS”) who, when they weren’t falling over each other, somehow mustered the wherewithal to shout obscenities, insults, and Southern rock requests at the performer.


“Hey—you can’t handle this audience!” “Lynyrd Skynyrd!” “Just end it already!” “My brown-eyed girl—yeah, right!” “Free Bird!”


But the striking thing was that so many people seemed to know and love the Michael Jayne Project. “There’s something you guys always stick around for, isn’t there?” Michael asked, and the audience erupted into excited (albeit inebriated) cheers as he began “Mack the Knife.”


The other striking thing was Michael's talent. He sang those standards well, and we couldn’t stop laughing because his washed-up 80s metal exterior truly belied the tuneful warbler within.


“My third set is always for the diehards,” Michael announced. “We actually push the limits—we do some Doors, we do some Gregg Allman.”


I wasn’t sure who besides himself Michael’s “we” referred to. His remote control? Billy Leather? Was Mr. Allman himself about to show up? Maybe that’s who the second pair of sunglasses wa[image-1]s for.


Ted and I left the pavilion dumbfounded and even a bit star-struck. Ted shook his head a lot. The strange thing was that the whole experience seemed indicative of a larger scene—a Flea Market Circuit, if you will, frequented by the bleached and bearded and tattooed and fake-fingernailed and tightly leathered, brought together by their common love of Ol’ Blue Eyes and Bobby Darin.


On our way out we saw a full suit of armor with a yellow sign taped on the pectoral area:


Handmade Stainless Steel Medieval Armor


includes stand


$1995.95


Please Do Not Touch!!


Take ME Home TODAY!


 


In another state of mind, I might have tried to bargain this baby down to $5. But on this Saturday, I was content to stroll on by with my beer in hand, snapping my free fingers and whistling “The Girl from Ipanema.”


--Brian Reed

What: the Michael Jayne Project

Where: Wagon Wheel Flea Market, 7801 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park

When: Mid-day on a Saturday

Must-Do? Says Who? Billy Leather and a bunch of drunk bikers

Casualties: Possibility of death-by-laughter. You might enjoy yourself that much.

Ted and I approached building B at Wagon Wheel Flea Market with high hopes of haggling for the most absurd item we could find. We had done some role-playing in the car, imagining booths full of tarnished Purple Hearts and chipped Nazi dinnerware. I had emptied my wallet of everything except for a crisp $5 bill. Ted brought no cash at all. We were ready.

But after twenty minutes wandering past vendors hawking crates of Crocs (those hole-ridden rubber shoes designed for the fleet-of-foot, $5), exotic forms of weaponry, and bulk shipments of incense sticks (which come in a variety of fragrant flavors including “Church”, “Country Potpourri”, “Musky Amber”, “Midnight Lovers”, and the ever-odiferous “Juicy Pussy”), nothing had enticed me out of my money—not even the “JP.”

And then we heard him. The strains of his powerful tenor wafted above the buzz of bartering in the market—“You are so beautiful…to me…can’t you see…?”—transcending the transactions and drawing us trancelike to the performance pavilion. There stood a thin man in his 40s. He had long, wavy, golden locks, and wore tight black leather pants, biker boots outfitted with chain metal, a silver pistol-shaped belt buckle, a black leather vest on his bare torso, a crucifix around his neck, and two pairs of yellow sunglasses—one on his eyes, and one perched high in the nest of his curly blonde hair. He grabbed the mic stand passionately as he belted one high note after another over the karaoke track, flexing his biceps and rocking his hips to ascend into the song’s climax, knees bent in a scandalous Elvis-stance, blood vessels bursting through his sweaty forehead. “You’re everything I hoped for…You’re EVERYTHING I need…”

He had more stage presence than Evel Kenevil. It was called the Michael Jayne Project, and as far as we could tell, he was an intensely professional karaoke-ist.

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