|The event poster|
Now, I know Kelly. The man has never played a show in Austin for whatever reason--demographics of the city not right compared to Houston and Dallas; not enough interest in large-venue shows; too many hipster white kids who would totally attend. But I thought, what could be MORE Kellz-style than a private show in a strip club to show his Austin fans some love?
So I checked around. Friends at the Statesman, which published an announcement about the show, and on the Austin Music Commission confirmed that the event was a go. I bought a ticket. Just a $30 ticket; the lowest level. I convinced some friends to go with me. And here is the story of the night I touched R. Kelly.
When we arrived at Mansion, the $20 parking in the lot at the club was already full. People were dressed "classy and chic," as the event description mandated. The heels were high. The hemlines were short. The rhinestones were blingin'. People looked good. I bought a dress for the occasion and painted my lips. My companion wore a sequin mini and a copper leather bomber jacket. This was our one and only chance to see R. Kelly for chrissakes--we had to make sure he knew we meant it.
At 10:30 when we walked out onto the floor of the club, the VIP areas upstairs were full; the music was good; and a ton of well dressed black and white people packed the floor. The excitement was palpable. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and everyone there couldn't believe their luck. The $500 VIP level--table for 4 and a bottle of Ciroq--was sold out.
DJs Inverse, Bobby West and eventually Kurupt played decreasingly good music to try to keep the crowd interested. A promoter wearing gold aviators yelled about showing some love for R. Kelly. But by 12:30, my feet hurt and the black women of a certain age in the front were clearly about to get pissed.
The smoke machines went on; the music ground to a halt. Eventually R. Kelly did come onstage. He wore a red leather vest, black Ray Bans, and held a mostly-smoked cigar. Neither hand contained a microphone. He reached into the crowd; I was in the front and I touched his hand. Twice. It was surprisingly not sticky. The DJs kept playing music and we all started to look around, wondering how much longer we would have to wait.
He went backstage; I found a nearly-empty stripper platform to stand on and I could see he was in the VIP section, getting love. The promoter yelled to cut the music; Kells sang a few bars of "Ignition" and the crowd went wild. His voice was beautiful--exactly what we'd waited for. But then he stopped, handed the mic back.
The promoter invited "all the beautiful women" to come to the VIP; Kelly had not come all the way here, after all, to hang out by himself in this club. Many women pushed to the VIP; a lot of others were leaving. Kelly grabbed the mic again and the crowd got tense--was this it? But he said, "I want some ladies up here! All the beautiful ladies--it don't matter what you look like. As long as you got a beautiful heart and some love for R. Kelly, come up here to the VIP. Especially the drunk ones."
My friends and I, defeated, decided to bail.
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|"Ignition", sort of|
Kelly, I love you, but you've got one less friend in this area code.