Love, Hot Rod
Watching middle-aged men and women dance is an experience akin to watching your friend get his ass kicked by a midget at a county fair -- it's a bit sad but also totally hilarious. Watching them bump and grind after they've imbibed six gin and tonics is an experience far more surreal but no less amusing. The dance floor at the George and Dragon Pub & Restaurant in north Fort Lauderdale on this breezy Thursday night is full of parental types dancin' and singin' and movin' to the groovin.' And just when it hit me, somebody turned around and shouted:
"Dancing is more fun than screwiiinng!" This plaintive call emitted from a tall, scarecrow-thin woman with a short, blond, pixie cut who was dressed in a black velvet jumpsuit. She's been doing the whitest dance ever for the past hour: a combination of off-beat handclaps, awkward twirls, and hokey pokey-esque footwork while trying to pull her (only assuming here) husband off his barstool. He finally gives in and does the "shame dance" with her (arms up in the embarrassing "Gosh, you got me" stance, legs moving robotically). A few minutes later, the dancing machine digs her hot-pink, diamond-studded talons into my arm.
"Do you dance?" she asks. I just smile and raise my beer in a friendly please-don't-spill-this gesture. She gets an inch away from my face and shouts:
"Do you do drugs? This is like being on drugs!" I'm not quite sure what "this" means, but as she's trying to coerce me into shame-dance territory, a guy who looks eerily reminiscent of Nick Nolte in his mug shot shoots past her, hands in the air, like a kid running after an ice cream truck, and he's screaming something like:
"Thanks for coming here tonight for free instead of going to see that other guy for $200 tomorrow." The thick Scottish brogue blaring from the stage is that of George Orr, a.k.a. Hot Rod. Dressed in tight black jeans and a white tuxedo shirt -- with three buttons undone, natch -- sporting the trademark bleached blond spiky 'do, and swirling a glass of chardonnay, Orr is Fort Lauderdale's faux Rod Stewart. (Of course, as we all know, the real deal lives part-time in pricier Palm Beach.)
During the course of the night, Orr and keyboard player Larry Janca soar through karaoke versions of "Maggie May" twice, "Do You Think I'm Sexy?," "Young Turks," "Forever Young," "Downtown Train," "Have I Told You Lately," and "Hot Legs," as well as "I Shot the Sheriff," "Sweet Home Alabama," and Lionel Richie's "All Night Long."
No, Orr doesn't hate the real Rod; the remark was just a friendly jab at outrageous ticket prices for the next night's Rod Stewart concert at the Office Depot Center. But he is most definitely the reason the George and Dragon is overflowing with steamy 40-something debauchery every Thursday night, when you can witness a vast sea of hair plugs, Botoxed faces, and -- God no! -- high-waisted jeans. The men and women packed into the bar are going absolutely apeshit for this guy, staring at Hot Rod like extras from Village of the Damned during breaks between songs.
They want to dance, dance, DANCE. And it's the music that's making these folks get down. Literally. As Hot Rod breaks into the Top 40 tear jerker "Forever Young," a mustachioed man in a muscle T and gold chains leaps into the air to do a half-assed rock-star kick and hits his head on the disco ball. Who says irony is dead? I wonder how many of these folks had bad acid trips in the '60s.
Hot Rod plays for three hours straight, something Orr's become accustomed to at his weekly gigs. By the end of the marathon set, he is almost baking under the bright-red stage lights. But he is still clutching his chardonnay, and his hair still looks pretty good. "We play pretty much anything," he says as we stand outside the G&D after his set. "We played at a bar full of bikers one night, and they wanted to hear 'Sweet Home Alabama,' so we were like, 'Uh, OK!'"
The Rod gig sort of fell into Orr's lap. Actually, it sort of taunted him from the stage.
"I wasn't even singing in a band at the time, and I found myself in a bar one night," he says. "Obviously, people think I look like Rod, and the band that was playing started making fun of me from the stage, saying, 'Look, Rod's in the house!' I just laughed because I'm used to it. And then after the next song, they said 'Well, Rod, I guess you want to give us a song, don't ya?' So I stood up from the back of the room and said, 'Yes... I... do.' I got up on-stage and asked them if they knew how to play 'Maggie May,' and they looked aghast. They didn't think someone would actually take the piss outta 'em."
Just then, a petite brunet in a skintight, white miniskirt and matching white fringe boots prances up to Orr:
"Are you gonna see Rod tomorrow night?" she slurs. She is speaking to Orr but looking down at the ground because she is, well, tanked. Sensing imminent spewage, we both back up a bit.
"No," Orr laughs. "I already know what he looks like and what he sounds like!"
The resemblance is uncanny, although Orr is, according to him, a few years younger than the real Rod. He hits the same notes in that gruff Stewartian wail and shakes his hips with the same swagger. But don't think he's trying to bite Rod's style. "People ask me if I always looked like Rod, and I have to tell them no," he says, lifting his glass to yet another incoherent passerby. "I tell them I looked like Brad Pitt and had to take ugly pills. I don't pretend to be Rod. I don't want to be him -- except when I'm broke."
Zing! After steady accolades from Hot Rod's verbose fans, you have to ask...
"I wouldn't say I have groupies," he says, sensing the brewing curiosity. "Those were the people you shagged in the back of the van. My fans are couples, women from the Lauderdale Yacht Club, and I get up there, take the piss outta 'em. But of course, Rod's stuff is very female-oriented, so we get a lot of single women, and we do the love songs. I dance on the tables. I busted a $350 pair of leather pants and several teeth doing that one night! Another night, I got up on a table, and -- I always do the same gag -- I said, 'This is the part of the night where we all get naked.' Sure enough, people started jumping up on tables and taking their clothes off. [Larry and I] just believe in entertainment. We're the hosts of a party. And when people see me up there with this glass in my hand, they want to drink and have a good time."
A swarthy, bearded fellow in a flannel shirt and work boots stumbles over. "Hey, Rod, hey, hey... I don't wanna interrupt, but that was the best friggin' show I seen in a long time. I'm a Rodaholic! Keep up the hair up..."
And following that enigmatic statement, Orr walks away. But he'll be back next Thursday.
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