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Clearwater, FL YAL Convention 2005 Log

Saturday, May 28, 2005

June 6, 2005

Saturday, May 28, 2005

While there were more Greeks in town by this point in the weekend, the beach didn’t see that drastic of an increase, mostly due to many of those who had been on the beach the last few days or partying the nights before staggering their way on to the sand at different times. Checking in with different groups during our time in the water we discovered that one of the Denver girls having a somewhat rough morning having had a beer for breakfast. A mile high tolerance brought to sea level allowed these girls to drink most guys at the conference under the table but didn’t make them completely immune to the effects of all night partying and 90 degree heat.

It was been 12 hours since we’d eaten and we decided to break the monotony of pizza and subs and spend a little bit of money on a local favorite. We went to Shephard’s for their seafood buffet right when it opened at 4:00. It was a little pricey at $21, but well worth it for a great variety of seafood and prime rib and the first time we had ever seen Bananas Foster on a buffet next to key lime pie. (You can’t leave the state of Florida without having Key Lime Pie.) A bit of overindulgence led to an uncomfortable afternoon nap because I couldn’t sleep on my stomach because of all the food and sleeping on my back was only slightly better because of the sunburn.

The main event for Saturday was the Mercouri-Sarmbel concert at the church hall. This was competing this year not only with a traditional “unofficial” Greek Night in Ebor City but also the Triantafilos concert which was taking place in a hotel downtown. The Clearwater Convention organizers had made it known from early on that Mercouri-Sarmbel was the official concert and that they weren’t supporting the other concert not only due to the fact that the Convention received none of its proceeds but also because its venue was more than a little questionable.

We were surprised that despite the competing concerts, most everyone went to the Mercouri-Sarmbel concert at the church. It was the first show on the short tour for them considering the New York concert the night before was cancelled because the performers had visa problems and weren’t in the country in time. But for Clearwater they were ready and in full force. The set up was pretty elaborate, so much so that you forget at times you were in a church hall. The stage jetted out into a catwalk so that the performers could reach right out and touch the audience. When the concert started surprisingly on-time at 11:00 scores of camera phones and lighters popped out. The opening act, Vanessa, was rather well received particularly from the guys in the audience. One of them passed her up what appeared from 12 rows or so back where I was standing to be a $20 bill, which she quickly checked for writing and gave it back. Sarmbel’s appearance was met with screams from all the girls and dancing on tables. He had dance moves including some shoulder-shaking tsifteteli moves that surely would be parodied later in the weekend. Mercouri came on later and I started to move farther and farther back in the crowd with each successive performance. This is not a slight against Mercouri, just that my attention span and that of several others in the crowd started to wane a little. It picked up later in the night as the concert turned into more of a Greek dance.

In both our years at Clearwater it seems that we’ve seen people from DC who had since moved away but somehow unexpectedly shown up at one of the bigger events of the weekend for one night only. This time it was an old friend of the family from Maryland who had moved to South Beach last year. She was as surprised to see us as we were to see her because she didn’t know it was a YAL sponsored event and she would never show up to any YAL events in DC. She was with a First-Generation Greek girl who lived in Switzerland who was in the middle of an extended stay in Miami to learn English.

After the dance ended I went with these girls to grab food at a late-night diner called Perkin’s that was within walking distance of the church. They were bummed that Clearwater is not South Beach and that places to go drink don’t stay open later. We waited in line at Perkin’s as Greeks from the concert and townies were seated as tables were made available. A few minutes after we were seated at a booth we were shocked to see Mercouri, Sarmbel, Vanessa and their handlers come in and start clearing a dirty corner booth right behind us. The waitress told them that they couldn’t do that and that they’d have to wait in line with everyone else. One of their handlers told the waitress that these were international performers and that they needed to eat. Apparently she was not impressed as the next words out of her mouth were something to the effect of, “Well I don’t care and I’m just going to get to you when I get to you.” And she stayed true to her word as she waited an inordinate amount of time to take their order.

Obviously the rest of the heavy Greek crowd in this diner realized who was sitting in the back booth. A few girls also at a booth right next to them started taking pictures of each other, but we knew that they were really just getting pictures of what was in the background. (Since Camera Guy wasn’t with me, there was no way such pictures would be on DCGreeks.com.) We soon discovered that while Sarmbel was fluent in English, having grown up in London, Mercouri and Vanessa were not. In case any of you were wondering, Sarmbel got the chicken soup, while Mercouri had a cup of hot tea with lemon. I’m not sure what if anything Vanessa had to eat. Some of the other Greeks did not even pretend to be respecting these folks’ privacy as questions were posed in Greek to Mercouri about Sarmbel to confirm or disavow certain rumors or suspicions about the artist. The highlight of our time there was when Mercouri asked one of her handlers to ask the Greek Swiss Miss I was sitting next to about her blonde highlights. Once they realized that they both spoke Greek they continued the conversation to discover that it was nothing more than do-it-yourself John Frieda Beach Blonde, probably an overpriced brand of “Sun-In” as I knew it in middle school. I found myself in the middle of an exchange of beauty secrets as the Greek Swiss Miss asked Mercouri if her eyes were real or if she was wearing colored contacts. (Concert-goers had noticed a unique purple tint to them throughout the night.) Mercouri answered that they were real and also complimented the Greek Swiss Miss on hers. As they exchanged number for when they both back in Europe and took a picture with each other, I was prodded by one of Mercouri’s handlers to write down the name of this wondrous hair product so they could make a 4:00 A.M. run to the a 24-hour CVS. Now while she may have said “Beach Blonde”, and the side of my brain that controls my sense of humor at that time of night may have heard “Nair”, I caught myself before balding Mercouri for the remainder of her tour.




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