Monday, October 31, 2011
Joey Bill is an obnoxious, frumpy slob of a fellow who can't quite walk a straight line (in most senses of the phrase) and who isn't particularly coordinated in any other area than his fingers. This is not because he's an alcoholic with a chronic masturbation problem, but because he's an alcoholic whose passion is a good tickling of the ivories. That is, he plays piano.
He is currently employed as a performer at the WIVE and JAIL Dueling Piano Bar, located somewhere vaguely downtownish in any number of cities and in no particular state. There's only one thing in the entirety of all the world that Joey loves more fervently than playing piano, and it's alcohol. When his hands aren't busy at the claviature, they are most certainly busy with a bottle or two. And even when he's at the keyboard, it's not unlikely that he'll be playing with only one hand in order to cradle his beer in the other.
Joey grew up in an orphanage for most of his life (as all well thought-out characters do), and it wouldn't be quite accurate to say he doesn't remember much about his parents because honestly he did at some point before the alcohol. He remembers that his mom was never there and knows that his dad was left to raise him almost entirely alone. The most potent imagery he has left of his dad is that of him lying on the floor, passed out on his back in front of the television. Joey would set on his dad's impressive gut and bounce up and down while watching football or Nascar or The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross or whatever was on, sneaking sips of his father's alcohol, which still didn't make Bob Ross any more enjoyable.
On his 6th birthday his grandpa or uncle or some relative who wasn't either of his parents got him a Playskool toy keyboard that was yellow with a blue handle on it so he could carry it around with him everywhere. And that he did. The beast of an instrument had all of one octave of keys and a little demo button in the shape of a star which would play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This irony was not lost on Joey, however he would prefer to sit in front of the TV watching Disney musicals teaching himself the songs and learning the melodies from them. His Oliver and Company VHS tape was almost worn out.
In about 5th grade Joey was taken out of his parent's custody by the state as they were deemed unfit parents for letting him watch The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, and it was at this time that he was placed in the aforementioned orphanage. He got along quite well with the other kids at the orphanage, as he did with the other kids at school, being that he was usually the center of attention. When he wasn't putting on a show or entertaining the other kids with his songs and vocal impressions, he was most certainly acting out or acting up in some way, shape, or form because he craved the attention he so seldom got from his parents.
In highschool he went to a lot of parties and drank a lot, as all well-rounded highschoolers do, however Joey was already accustomed to the act, having grown up unsupervised with plenty of beer in his parents' home. This made him particularly good at drinking games or spin the bottle or whatever the hell highschoolers do when they drink.
Currently, as I've said, he's been performing at the WIVE and JAIL Dueling Piano Bar for a number of years. He's one of about 5 other pianists at the bar who got the job because they have an insane repertoire and could play just about any song on cue. The 5 of them are on a rotation and Joey usually ends up working at nine o'clock on a Saturday, which is conveniently right about the time that the regular crowd shuffles in.
Now John at the bar is a friend of his, and gets him his drinks for free, and he's quick with a joke and he'll light up your smoke but Joey doesn't smoke nor does he really care for John's jokes but he humors him so he can get booze. Joey considers the drinks payment enough, and while he doesn't receive a paycheck, he makes a lump sum in requests every night; the premise of the dueling piano bar is that the customers throw money up there and write down a song they'd like to hear. The customer who places the biggest bill usually gets their song played first.
It's bar rules that if you hand them enough money, they'll actually let you go up and play a song yourself, but this pisses Joey off both because he can't stand not being in the spotlight for a few minutes and because that piano up on stage is the closest thing he's ever had to a lasting relationship with someone. So seeing someone else sitting on his sweaty piano bench, caressing his black and white woman, and stealing his neon orange spotlight is an invasion on his turf and he takes it very personally. Of course usually by now he's pretty trashed and he's started a number of fights with customers over the matter. The only reason they've kept him around is because he's the best performer in town, naturally, even when drunk.
On his breaks between sets he enjoys taking a much needed piss, however he'd prefer to stumble sloppily over to various women and hit on them. This usually ends in a swift slap to the face and Joey crawling back up stage to the only thing he's ever wished he liked more than alcohol.
VISUAL REFERENCE AND INSPIRATION:
There was an actual guy who played at a dueling piano bar in St. Peters (called the Jive and Wail), and he looked like this 30-something-year-old man trying to dress like a teenager (wearing skinny jeans, having curly boyish locks...) and this lovely button-down shirt where the bottom button had busted open and his beer gut was poking out. I watched him the whole night and I sketched him out because he just seemed like he should be developed into a character. I don't have photo reference unfortunately.