There was already an all-girl a capella group on campus. We told ourselves that was the reason for the sausage fest, but really we just didn’t have any girls show up to audition. (Unless you count Rachel, née Roger, which you probably should, but she wasn’t transitioning yet at the time.) Leo was all ready to make fun of us, and himself, for that, but I was like, chicks dig all-male a capella, though, right?
Shut up, we were brilliant.
Of course I got to have the last laugh there, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Anyway, before we even started practicing we wanted to come up with a name. Something catchy, you know? Something that said “We’re here, we’re singing without instruments and we really like puns.” Rockapella was already taken, of course. So were Troubletones and Treblemakers. “What about Basses Are Wild?” said Dan, but we voted it down when Jerry came out with
“The Clarence Glendale Experience.”
We were all a bit confused at first.
Said Tommy, “Dude, what the fuck’s a Clarence Glendale?”
“Isn’t that a town in California?” asked Mike. “Or two?”
“No, it’s brilliant,” Leonard spoke up. “It’s inspired. You know, it gives us a mascot, a front man, but without any of us having to actually be the front-man.”
The irony here was that all of us knew, even then, that Leonard (Leo, never Lenny) was gonna be the front man, just ‘cause that’s who he was, but Leo had this weird thing where even though he was super charismatic, he was, like, aggressively modest about it.
It could be kind of annoying, actually.
But the point is, about as soon as the words were out of Jerry’s mouth, it was decided. We knew who we were now. It was all good.
The rest, I mean, I don’t really think I need to give a whole lotta detail, it was kind of an eighties training montage for a while there, only in song, as we built our repertoire, Leo quietly making all the decisions and Ryan, the only one of us who was an actual Music Major, making all the arrangements and then running practice and conducting and all that.
We were actually really good friends with the Femi-Naughties, that all-girl a capella group I mentioned before? We had a couple of harmless scrimmages with them, all in good fun, but when we performed the first couple of times, we performed together, with them, even did a couple songs as a unified group.
Before long, though, folks were approaching us to do solo gigs, pro bono at first, ‘cause we were a student organization, but then eventually we were like, well, hey, if it makes us money, right? The Femi-Naughties got pretty upset when we “abandoned” them. Colin and Ada, who’d done all the cutesy duets, even broke up over it. That and Colin turned out to be gay, but whatever.
Roger was the biggest hold-out, though. We didn’t know why at the time ‘cause he wasn’t out yet, but she told us later, it was ‘cause he’d been scared to death we’d kick her out once she started transitioning. But I mean, come on. We’re not those guys.
But I’m really here to talk about the name. I mean, it was a gimmick, it was based on the idea that “Clarence Glendale” was our front man, but he never made it to any of our shows. First thing out of our mouths every night (we kinda took turns making the announcement) was to apologize, Clarence Glendale couldn’t make it tonight, but we’ve got a great show for you anyway! And there’d be giggles and cheers and everyone would be in on it.
Well, that was great as long as everybody really was in on it. But as we got bigger, we started to run into some issues with fans who were maybe too many degrees removed from the action and hadn’t gotten the memo as a result. We tried not to talk about it in public, on talk shows or anything, but if we caught anyone like that in private, we’d kind of quietly take them aside and lay it out for them and usually—not always, but usually—they’d be fine after that.
Then there was this weird thing where it happened on a chatboard, someone brought up how disappointed they were that “he” didn’t show up and then another girl was, like, “You know he’s not real, right?” and there was shock and awe from all corners and then it got ugly and someone brought up Santa Claus and I was like, that’s not cool, man. (I had beers with that guy, by the way, he’s really cool—well, not actual beers ‘caus neither of us like beer, but I had a rum and coke and he had a hot cider—great guy, really.)
I heard the girl who put the revelation on the net like that got fired from her job over it.
“You guys,” said Benny at the next meeting, “I don’t know, guys, this is starting to get real. I think think we should, like, you know.”
But we didn’t know. Not really. We were in too deep and Leo especially was determined to keep up the joke. No matter how many times we told him “Dude, you need to come out as Clarence Glendale; make that, like, your official pseudonym or something,” but that wasn’t gonna happen—Leo was too proud of his modesty. Even Roger couldn’t coax him into it with his feminine wiles.
Finally, there was the Concert. I give it the capital-c treatment ‘cause that’s how we all talked about it. It was our first major gig in a major city none of us had ever been in before, Alex gave the announcement and immediately, we knew something was wrong. There was, like, a hush over the crowd, but too much, you know? We were used to some confusion, but not this. There were too many people there who didn’t know what was really going on and too few who did, and they were too spread out and isolated to support each other. They started ganging up on us. “We want Clarence!” they started chanting, which, if you’ve never heard people chant that phrase, it’s a terrible phrase to chant, all the wrong cadence, but they kept saying it, “We want Clarence!”
So Alex looked at Leo—we all looked at Leo, and I swear, I could see it in his eyes, he was gonna break, he was gonna come out and say it, and that would be the end of it. And I started thinking about what might happen next, right? Would it be on the news? Would there be, like, a public inquiry? Would they decide there had once been a Clarence Glendale and now we were trying to cover it up? Would we all be arrested? Would this be an eighties movie again, like it was with the musical montage?
And that’s when it happened. Just when we thought they were gonna storm the stage and riot, he showed up.
That’s right. Clarence feathermucking Glendale.
And, like, we all knew who he was. We all breathed a sigh of relief when he got there, like we’d been waiting for him, but then we caught ourselves, like, Wait, what? Because none of us had ever seen this guy before, right? We’d even had conversations about what Clarence Glendale would look like if he was real, and we all had different ideas about that. I kinda thought he’d be Asian, but with dreads he’d died hot pink, I don’t know, he was imaginary!
Except now he wasn’t. “Hey, guys,” he called to the audience, “Sorry I’m late.” And they all calmed down and we went on with the show, all of us up here on stage really confused that he knew all the choreography and was able to fit himself in so well with the harmonies that he filled in holes we never even knew were there.