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Open Mic With Girl George

A lonely bachelor poet is reading his heart out to a room of beer bottles and Christmas lights when I walk into The Stork Club for its Sunday night Open Mic with Girl George.

This is not your typical hipster open mic, populated by hip-hoppers looking to spit a few rhymes. This is an old-school open mic, which Girl George has carved out in an odd little bar filled with Americana hodgepodge in the near vicinity of downtown Oakland.

Ten years in the running, the open mic has gained a name for itself, as evidenced by the award for The Best Trashy Open Mic from the San Francisco Bay Guardian in 1998 that is proudly displayed at the entrance, along with one of the open mic flyers showing a Shera-like Girl George cartoon dressed in boots, cape and a sword (you can buy a copy of her CD for the real thing).

Micki, one of the Stork Club's owners, has her Barbie collectibles at the bar, where other bartenders keep their bottles. The rest of the joint boasts the theme of Christmas forever with Christmas lights and party decorations hung up everywhere. Gold, pink, red and blue glitzy streamers live on the back wall of the stage behind the performers and random mismatched decorabilia haunt the rest of the place, like the stork that hangs from one of the two disco balls in the center of the room.

The interest here seems to be more the wacky characters that gather here for the open mic and their fearless leader, Girl George, rather than the actual performances. Girl George acknowledges that the open mic is usually more crowded with a mix of singer/songwriters, poets and comedians before she activates the canned-applause button for Ricky Richardson, the guitarist onstage. She calls out multiple requests to Ricky while she strolls around the bar and chats with patrons.

It's only a matter of time before Girl George herself grabs the microphone and accosts the few bar-goers in the other room to "get in here" to help her sing her bawdy favorites, like "Johnny Got Herpes" and "You Make Me Feel Like A Whore."

Five minutes later, Ricky is playing his guitar from his prostate position on the ground while three audience members are onstage backing up Girl George with a repeating chorus line of "perverts everywhere." The rest of the audience is clapping and singing and heavily encouraged by Girl George to continue the noise-making.

A man who was playing pool in the adjoining room pops his head in on the way back from refilling on beer; he makes his escape when Girl George motions to him to participate. Despite the low numbers, Girl George's open mic participants are making the best of it, singing their hearts out for the imaginary audience that will one day discover their talents and becoming a dysfunctional family while they're at it.

Open Mic With Girl George
Every Sunday @ 9 pm
Donations appreciated
The Stork Club
2330 Telegraph, (near 19th St. BART), Oakland, 510.444-6174