Business as Usual

Portland Meadows Clubhouse, 1001 Schmeer Road, 737-1069, Thurs & Sat 7 pm throughout the racing season, $42

I 'm usually terrified by dinner theater, but the Sopranos-influenced Business as Usual takes place at Portland Meadows and is produced by Rowdy Roddy Piper. That's a combination too weird to resist. And so Saturday night found me and coworker Katie in the horse track lobby, sucking down cheap wine brought to us by a Mafia character named Sal (real name: Sal), who managed to refill our glasses THREE times in less than 10 minutes.

Upstairs, there was a full bar, and in a startlingly short amount of time I was reeling drunk. The room became a haze of Italian gangster cliches and stomach-clenching meatballs. There was something about a misplaced dead body, and then the head of the family was running for mayor, I think. I wish I could be clearer, but then I'm not the one who gave myself three glasses of wine before the show even started.

Bored and confused, Katie and I started focusing on the details that mattered, like the Olive Garden-tasting bread sticks, which provided a buffer between the booze and our stomach lining. And Sal, who seemed to be paying special attention to us, what with the wine, and the fact he asked Katie to dance during one of the endless musical interludes. Then there was the extremely attractive exotic dancer character, Star (real name: Victoria Kepner), who came over and asked ME to dance. I eagerly complied, though my boozy legs were moving like jelly at that point. Still, I thought I was holding up pretty well because the crowd seemed to be enjoying our dance so much. They were all laughing and staring, which didn't seem like a bad thing. Back at the table Katie slurred, "What wuzzup with the head bobbing?"

"What head bobbing?"

"Your head wuzz bobbing all over," she said, then flagged down the waitress. "Hey. Wuzzhis head bobbing up there?"

She grinned. "Yeah, it was bobbing a little bit.'

"Jesuzz Chrisht," I said. Then the show ended and we staggered out. Star/Victoria, it was fun dancing with you. We should do it again. Give me a call at 294-0840. I promise I'll control my damn bobbing head next time. JUSTIN SANDERS