Oodles of Noodles

After lunch, Noodles hunts for the great red spot
Colby Katz

A trail of glitter on the New Times carpet presents irrefutable evidence: Fort Lauderdale's lovable Noodles paid a visit. It's not often Bandwidth sees guests during office hours, but something about Noodles' rambling voice-mail message from the previous day made us realize this was no ordinary local musician pumping an overly ambitious event.

No, there's nothing like Lisa "Noodles" Hayden -- a cute, irrepressibly positive, and enigmatic sprite so charmingly elfin she makes Bjork look like Ernest Borgnine. She's a real vanguard in these parts. After they made her, they broke the mold.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Noodles, and so much more, promises to be revealed this weekend at Stranahan High School. With the drama department's help, she'll present a triple helping of Noodles on Jupiter: An Alien Fairytale, an elaborate if wacky musical production that's been in the works for, uh, the past five and a half years.

"This whole thing grew out of a couple of songs written around 1996," explains Noodles, whose magenta hair was one day away from becoming as outrageously pink as an 8-year-old girl's bedroom on Valentine's Day. Noodles drives around town in a blue pickup with a camper shell festooned with heart decals and the slogan Love & Enchantment. Shiny dots of sparkly blue/silver glitter cling to her neck, hair, and clothes. A few disappear momentarily as she scrunches her nose.

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"This is my statement, my way of changing the world," she continues breathlessly. "Through love and enchantment, you know?"

Exactly what this alien fairytale is about is awfully difficult to deduce from Noodle's quasimystical attempts at description or from perusing her CD of the same name, except that it revolves around -- guess what? -- light, love, and enchantment. And glitter. Noodles, a singer/songwriter and pianist/piano teacher, assembled an entourage of about 30 musicians, friends, and students from Stranahan's drama department and got its head, Jason Zembuch, to direct the whole maelstrom.

"The students, who are always using theory, are actually working with people who make a living at being performers," Zembuch reports, calling Noodles "very, very eccentric and very, very passionate. She's awesome for the kids to be around. And it's an absolutely fun project -- you certainly can't do something with Noodles without it being fun."

During rehearsals last week, Noodles got dramatic herself, breaking into tears as she witnessed her dream undeferring itself onstage. Drama, it would appear, has long followed Noodles like a pot of piping-hot marinara sauce. Her disarming perma-grin and upbeat zaniness are like her second skin now, but that hasn't always been the case. Apparently, Noodles used to drink a lot, until 11 years ago, when the 39-year-old put down the booze for good. Unfortunately, that exacerbated her craving for chemicals, though she's now successfully navigating her way through recovery.

Noodles' nickname was bestowed upon her during the mid-'80s while living in a Boston flat decorated with red light bulbs, crimson velvet curtains, and roommates like Chinatown Jake, Deucey, Bribe-O, and Mondo Lobotomy. One day, M.L. -- a cough-syrup addict wearing an Elvis wig -- saw her tucking into another bowl of Oodles of Noodles brand ramen (six for $1!), and deigned to rename Lisa. "Noodles" stuck. And she still eats a lot of 'em. "I have stomach problems," she relates, "and they don't hurt my tummy."

Following that adventure, Noodles spent some time in Los Angeles, but after a solo cross-country wintertime motorcycle journey, she ended up in South Florida. She's been a recognizable fixture on the music scene ever since, first showing up at open-mic nights, then appearing in cover bands, eventually surfacing with an outfit called Nasty Noodles and the Devil's Groove. That band had a song titled "You Make Me Feel Like Dog Shit," which indicates that a certain paradigm shift has occurred within Noodles since. See, back then, Noodles had issues. And her issues had issues. Al dente, she was.

"Before I got some serenity in my life, I used to be very unpredictable," Noodles says, a wan frown momentarily replacing her gleaming smile. "And my mouth... I could kill with my words, trust me. I was a drama queen. Now I focus it -- I put the drama in its proper place. My life's at peace. But I used to be a big troublemaker. Everyone used to want to kick my ass. I wreaked havoc everywhere I went."

That changed when she cleaned up. Her act, that is: Noodles is still banned from performing in a few local clubs because she won't ditch the glitter, which apparently creates vexing custodial issues come cleanup time.

"I woke up in this town" is how she describes her transformation. As the fog slowly lifted, Noodles found herself a member of Rat Bastard's legendary Scraping Teeth, voted worst band in the land by Spin magazine two years in a row. "We used to count how many people left when we got on-stage," she laughs. Now, Rat is one of the many folks who've donated time and/or effort (in his case, five-plus years of allowing Noodles free use of his Miami Beach Recording Studios) to the Noodles on Jupiter cause. "He loves me," she beams. "We're friends for life." In recent years, she's aligned herself with the area's friendly femme-folk faction, including Magda Hiller, Teri Catlin, and Diane Ward. Other helping hands, heads, and feet on the recording belong to Catlin (guitar and vocals), Derek Cintron (drums), Ray Diaz (percussion), Steve Parker and Rich Penney (bass), Fernando Perdomo (theremin, Radio Shack Moog), sisters Alana and Nicolle Chirino (vocals), and ZAC (percussion and artwork). For the performance, Martini Band bassist Ed Ethridge will keep the low end anchored.

Despite all this prodigious talent, the Noodles on Jupiter album is Noodles' show. Her songs are surprisingly easy on the ears, given how crazy they are, with narrative snippets, echo-soaked voices, and squiggly spoken-word dialog swimming in and out of the mix. It's goofy yet noble in a Nilsson Schmilsson sort of way, as "Eating Noodles" and "Circus" attest. Her funky, high-gloss piano remains the centerpiece of the record's best songs. The simple, uplifting chord changes that grace "Sun and Moon," the triumphant, penultimate track -- not to mention her delicate yet big-lunged vocals -- are unbeatably pretty.

So, Noodles' twisted treatise on love, enchantment, light, space-dust fairies, snicker doodles, "the yuckies," and Jupiter ("being, of course," she explains, "the planet whose number one export is glitter!") is a labor of crazy love. No one will be paid a dime to help Noodles realize her choreographed, showtune-drenched dream; in fact, the three performances at Stranahan (1800 SW Fifth Pl., Fort Lauderdale) are free. The show opens Friday, November 8, with a 10 a.m. matinee, followed by an evening show at 7 and a grand finale at 3 p.m. Saturday. The CD will also be for sale. For more information, call the Noodles on Jupiter hotline at 954-462-6498.

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