Former Calypso Monarch Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osouna—the story goes—once tried to get touch-feely with the then-fresh faced MC at his calypso tent, Rachel Price. The response to the calypso world’s ‘king of bling’ was withering.
“I tell you I looking for a man resembling ah Maharaj showcase?”
If Aloes was the first local celebrity to be diminished by Price’s sharp tongue, he would not be the last. On 8 December, ‘Pricey’ treated patrons to two hours of her edgy, inimitable comic delivery in her Katang Christmas show at the Cipriani Labour College in Valsayn.
Aloes, his pride wounded, became increasingly verbally abusive—allegedly, of course—with the then 20 year old Price; only to be stopped in his tracks one night by the considerable frame of the late Dr Winston “The Mighty Shadow” Bailey.
“Interfere with she one more time,” Shadow supposedly growled, in front of the entire cast, “and I will meeeeence you up!”
The imaginary sight of the jerry-curled would-be bully forced into an ungracious retreat by an unexpected Good Samaritan brought howls of laughter from the packed auditorium. But, like much of the material on the night, it was a joke not easily retold. Like a good curry, Pricey’s comedy is better enjoyed fresh from the pot.
Incidentally, the tale of Shadow’s intervention dovetailed perfectly with the Coalition for Domestic Violence’s recent ‘Man to Man’ series, which tried to impress upon men the need to not only refrain from abusing women; but to do more to stop abuse as well.
Twenty nine years ago, in the backstage of a calypso tent, Shadow—not for the first time—was ahead of his generation.
Spare a thought again for the storyteller, though. Price does not go for the easy gags. Her show seemed like a raucous cross-country journey through the country, as seen from her eyes; and it involved everything from religion, corporal punishment and parenthood to crime, death and Petrotrin.
Price is the earthy Diego Martin girl who ‘done good’—albeit only good enough, in her retelling, to stress over Audi payments and a possible visit from the bailiff at her townhouse.
“You ever get sex so good that the man snatch yuh soul?” asked Price. “And yuh feel like giving the man the deed to your place and say ‘here, you worry about the bailiff now yes’…”
In another vignette, Price is at Adam’s with her Syrian-Lebanese friends, drinking tea with pinky finger out and munching on manicured cucumber sandwiches while listening to discussions about the maid and the children’s ballet lessons, or sometimes the violence enveloping Trinidad and Tobago’s other 99 per cent, as a sympathetic outsider.
“Oh lord, Pricey, what ever are we going to do about this crime thing?” she said, mimicking a well-heeled friend with an accent that provoked a flashback of Donna Hadad.
Price offered a disclaimer to her audience in case they felt she strayed too far from her roots.
“Oh gosh, is not everyday I could take fighting for a two piece and fries in KFC and listening to poor people problems about who buss who head…”
At 49, Price, who is also a radio show host, seems to have long mastered the ability to move seamlessly through the various factions that make up the two island republic. Not even politics could force her into a box.
“PNM always talking bout how dey tief all we money,” noted Price. “Anybody from the UNC make a jail yet? Well then hush allyuh arse!”
Amidst the raucous laughter, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley might have squirmed in his seat, just a little.
The main difference between the two political parties—at least for a comedian?
“PNM too boring,” she said, “all now [Dr Glenn] Ramadharsingh done squeeze a breast or two…”
Shadow’s passing clearly touched her closely. Price gave brilliant anecdotes of her early life in the entertainment business, under the wing of Dennis “Sprangalang” Hall, Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste and, most of all, the unforgettable Shadow.
“What wrong with De Fosto, dying so close to Shadow?!” asked Price. “He pushy eh?! When De Fosto reach heaven they must be ask him, ‘what you doing here? Nobody send for you yet’?”
Sharlan Bailey was a surprise guest as he closed off the show with a montage of his late father’s hit songs. His impeccable delivery and rich voice entranced the audience.
It was one of the show’s most obvious lurches towards the melodramatic; but not the only one.
‘Pricey’ lightened up the mood at the close, as she returned to the stage to dance alongside the younger Bailey and even offered a new verse to “Obeah Man”, which seemed to fall in the yard of the royal couple of soca.
“The boy had real good ways/but now he passing me straight/O-beah/They wukking o-beah…”
There is no shortage of entertainment right in your home these days, between cable television, Netflix and YouTube to multiple movie streaming sites. But none can bring Trinidad and Tobago to life—the good, bad and the indifferent—like Pricey.