I have been to a lot of Baby Dee shows, but Sunday night was a first: Baby Dee and Little Annie at a bowling alley in Cleveland—Lakewood, actually, one of my favorite suburbs on the West Side. I drove there straight from the airport in a rented car, with directions printed out from Google maps. I felt like some out-of-body version of myself. For one thing, it was a late-model car, and I am used to trolling around in a 1990 Honda Civic. For another, I don’t usually require printed directions to get anywhere in my home town. It probably added to the disorientation that I had flown in from Madison, Wisconsin (I usually arrive by car from the opposite direction), and that I had seen Dee and Annie perform in New York two nights earlier.
The bowling-alley venue was not as odd as you might think (though I did accidentally get in line to rent shoes instead of to buy a ticket). The lanes were on the other side of the building, past the bar, and you couldn’t hear the pins crashing. My friend Paula was there with her sister Donna, and my cousin Nancy brought Alice, who is also my cousin. Alice was raised by my grandmother, and as a young mother she was our upstairs neighbor, in the house just up the hill from the Cleveland Zoo, where the peacocks shrieked in the night and a Galápagos turtle occasionally made a break for it.
There was an opening act: a girl called Blisse, who hopped around like a boxer and sang to the accompaniment of her laptop. She introduced Baby Dee, who made a spectacular entrance and vamped as Little Annie took the stage. They did songs from their new CD, “State of Grace,” and indulged in an occasional anecdote. One number that is not on the album but was in the show was “The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities” (“Bobby Slot and Freddy Weiss were not so nice but I like their names a lot, so I’ll say them twice”). Bobby Slot and Freddy Weiss were actually known to three people in the audience: Nancy had lived at the family compound long enough to have an indelible memory of Bobby Slot, and Alice had lived there earlier and knew things about them that we never knew. For instance they were brothers from different fathers. (Dee said, "I always thought they were gay.") Freddie was the older, and he was born without testicles. When his father died, Rose, Freddie’s mother, remarried and had Robert, as Alice called him. So Bobby Slot’s mother was Rose Slot.
As it was a home-town crowd, Dee favored us with a few extra songs: she did “Fresh Out of Candles,” and for an encore “I’m not the only pisspot in the house.” There was another liturgical number (“Jesus has a plan for you”) and she finished with the Mormon underwear song. At the end, Dee, acting as her own impresario, shouted out “Little Annie!” and the audience applauded. Then she shouted, “Me!” Wild applause. The next morning, they were off to Toronto, and then on to Detroit, Minneapolis, Cedar Rapids, Calgary, Dee Creek (in Washington), San Francisco, Los Angeles, and—whew!—Louisville.
And I am on the way back to New York, worried about friends who regularly attend the Boston Marathon. Dusty, are you O.K.? Deni? Hoping to hear from you.