They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha

Refugees from the Blue Martini hook up with a hyperwarped Neil Rogers at the Mental Ward

The entertainer asked into the microphone, "Martin, why are you enjoying yourself so much?"

I turned to see what was up. Martin had a goofy grin on his hairy face.

"He said schtup!" my friend said, giggling like a bar-mitzvahed Butt-head, admitting he'd dated enough Jewish girls to relate to the song's advice.

Tony Gleeson

KJ found a way to relate to just about everyone.

"He's an equal-opportunity insulter," the big guy assured us as the piano man took his sombrero off the Ward's black-eyed, mental-patient mannequin to play "Illegal Latino."

Had he finished a few minutes later, things might have really gotten nuts, because not long after the song ended, two Hispanic-looking guys claimed seats at the end of the bar. When Martin asked about it, KJ insisted that he would have performed the song even if they'd been there. Probably because no one wants to mess with a crazy person.

When the insane entertainment ceased, it was so KJ could play the Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra that Lauren and Chris had requested. The couple began to slow-dance while another couple played glow-in-the-dark pool. In the lull, the big guy came over to talk. This was Anthony, the manager.

"The owner would kill me if I didn't tell you what else goes on here," he said, explaining that the Tuesday-night open-mic comedy and karaoke was a real hit.

"So this guy's act fits right in," I concluded.

"I like this guy — he's really funny — but don't call him a comedian; he'll go crazy."

I wondered how that would be different.

Taking us to the back room, Anthony showed us "The Sanitarium," where the walls are "padded" with a painted, pillow pattern and where the usual Friday- and Saturday-night band shows happen, including the usual weekend industrial scene. Did it draw a bunch of disturbed, antisocial types?

"They aren't scary kids — they're my best crowd," Anthony said.

As with Chris and me, Anthony had been attracted to the place by the name alone: "I was like, 'I gotta get in there: My people are there. '"

And as with Chris and me, the name appealed to our desire to belong, a secret need for group therapy — something the crazed KJ was evidently feeling too, since he was back and more excitable than ever.

"I'm blessed by God — I'm so blessed. I've never had to take a straight job," effused KJ, who lives in Wilton Manors with his wife and daughter.

"Are you on medication?" I asked when he launched himself into the air and attempted to swing himself around in a 360, stumbling through the last 20 degrees.

"No, I'm on wine... and marijuana," KJ corrected before bouncing away to pack up his gear.

The Ward seems to have found a prescription that works — the right mixture of meds, music, laughter, and acceptance. Personally, I was lucky enough to have found an on-call specialist, an MD (thanks to his initials) to supervise my week of restorative therapy. Now cleansed of the grit built up from everyday worry, I was ready to return to the real world.

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