Miss Cleo dies: That time we argued as judges of a West Palm Beach karaoke contest


I was very saddened to hear about the untimely death of Miss Cleo, famed psychic and, for a while, my fellow Lake Worther (Lake Worthian?) I used to run into her at what is now Mother Earth Sanctuary Cafe, run then, as ever, by the phenomenal Patti Lucia, and she was always very sweet to me. A couple of times she offered me a reading, and I never took her up on it, although a visiting buddy from up north did and was so thrilled to say that THE Miss Cleo had done her reading. I got a kick out of telling people that I knew her, a little, and hoped that she would say the same.

However, there was at least one night that I can tell you that Miss Cleo was decidedly NOT pleased to know me, like, at all, and that was in…I wanna say 2008 or 2009, when both of us were celebrity judges of a summer-long karaoke tournament at Roxy’s Pub. I am not a real celebrity, so who the heck knows why I was there, but that’s West Palm Beach for you, and it’s fun. I wasn’t there every week, and I don’t think Cleo was either, but I seem to remember that she was there more often. Every other time, besides this particular night, Cleo and I got along like a house on fire – she was a lovely woman, with a charming smile, and we chatted about random randomness. But not this night – there was a singer whose name I cannot remember, who was talented but not my favorite. He was sort of hammy and phoning it in, and I was turned off. I preferred another guy, whose name has also been lost to time and my 40-something-ness, so when the judges came together at the end of the singing to compare notes,  I had him on my list, but not the other guy.

EXCEPT: Apparently the week before, for which I was not in attendance, the guy I thought was hammy had been transcendent. I mean, the other judges, including Cleo, said he was brilliant. And because they knew what he could do, it hadn’t even registered to them not to put him through to the next round because they weren’t going to hold one weak performance against him. So Cleo led the charge to get me to put him on my list. I admit that I dug my heels in more than was probably important for a local karaoke contest, but there was a lot of money at stake, and I didn’t want to possibly deny someone who gave his all on that actual night in favor of someone who didn’t.

Cleo was…not happy with me. She was a big fan of the other guy – tried passionately to convince me that he was really good, better than the other guy, and it wasn’t his fault I wasn’t there the other week. No, I answered, but it was his fault he wasn’t good tonight. This did not go over well, and Miss Cleo, who I had admired for years as a fan, came over to me and told me I was wrong. And it was a bizarre place to be because I don’t like getting into public arguments unless you’ve been ignorant to me, and this was not that. She was just being passionate, but it wasn’t sitting right with me, so I said that they could do what they wanted, but that I wasn’t coming back. There was some indignant arm-crossing on everyone’s part and I don’t believe we parted as friends that night. It was super weird.

But everyone got over it – both singers were advanced, and I think I did come back to judge another day Cleo wasn’t there. And the next time I saw her, she made a point to come over and hug me and call me Darlin’. I hadn’t seen her in a while, but cancer is evil and takes too many people before their time. I’m so sorry she is one of them. And I’m so glad I had a story.


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