Fantasia stands up fans at the Sky Bar

by Lauren Cartwright

It’s her party and she can show up if she wants to.

That is exactly what the gravelly alto Fantasia Barrino didn’t do Wednesday night at the Sky Bar in downtown Greensboro. Hometown fave and ‘“American Idol’” winner Fantasia left fans hanging, as they anxiously awaited her scheduled 12:30 a.m. appearance to celebrate her birthday.

Early in the evening I’m sitting in Next Door Tavern, trying to grab a moment of Next Door and Sky Bar part owner Lee Moore’s time. I’ve heard he’s the man to talk to about getting the scoop on a Fantasia sighting.

Lee is nice enough to take a minute with me. He tells me the Fantasia deal has been set up through a DJ at 102 JAMZ. He says the radio station has been advertising the event through flyers and radio spots. The Sky Bar, which normally only operates on weekends, is staying open this Wednesday for Fantasia to celebrate her birthday. He tells me that the idea of the Sky Bar opening more through the week heavily depends on the events he has to offer. ‘“We’ll see’” seems like a promise from a man who has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Lee’s got some nervous energy in him’— jitters for the big night. He’s expecting a packed house. As we move on to talk about who will be the DJ for the evening, one miraculously materializes at our side. The DJ tells Lee that there are two other DJs claiming their stake as tonight’s DJ.

‘“Excuse me for a second.’” Lee hurries off to settle the dispute.

I take this downtime as a chance to check the place out. The warm wooden décor of the Next Door Tavern makes you feel like you’re in someone’s study rather than a bar. Like all bars on Elm Street, this one has its own theme to set it apart. Theirs happens to be doors and doorways. The bar is kept cool and smoke-cloud free by a dozen or so fans spinning hard above your head. Abercrombie-clad college age males make up the majority of the crowd. Every once in a while, a voice breaks apart from the general din in laughter. The bartenders joke easily with patrons, calling some of them by name.

I overhear the couple beside me gossiping about seeing Fantasia exit a stretch limo and enter the Empire Room, where she is supposed to be having a birthday dinner. So at least she’s in the vicinity.

Lee is back in no time, very apologetic for the interruption. Fantasia’s arrival is creeping up, so I suggest to Lee that I head on over to the Sky Bar. When I slip through the front doors, the bass from the hip-hop being played inside takes over for the thump of my heart. A scan of the room tells me that it’s likely there are more bouncers than customers, but it’s still early in the party timeline ‘— 11:30 p.m. and Fantasia’s go-time is one hour from now. I walk up to the bar to see what the buzz is over there. If something’s going down, the bartender will know about it.

Drink-slinger Mike Bosco eagerly tells me Fantasia is in the Empire Room for dinner and should be arriving any minute. Old news, but I nod my head in acknowledgement. More importantly, from Mike’s point of view, she’ll be bringing some of the crowd that was lined up outside the Empire Room. He says he doesn’t think all those waiting people would fit in either club.

The bartenders have the plastic cups stacked high, a dry-erase board is lit up with ‘“Happy Birthday Fantasia’” on it, and the bouncers are milling around ready to bounce anyone who gets out of hand. Now all we need is the birthday girl to get the party rolling. I’m a people- watcher by nature, so I stand back, bob my head to the beat of the new Will Smith song pumping through the speakers and try to soak up the scene.

It’s 12:30 a.m., and no Fantasia Barrino.

I hear murmurings of $75 admission for the Empire Room from a young woman taking off her heeled shoes ‘— the kind with straps that wrap around her calves. As she’s rubbing her aching foot, I ask her if she had been in the Empire Room. She says no; the cover was too high. A few people are on the floor dancing. I notice from a trip up the stairs that one of the VIP areas has been cordoned off with a velvet rope ‘— very Hollywood. I ask the people sitting near my spot by the bar if they are here to see Fantasia. Some say yes. One guy says a friend works here and this is his spot to party, but if Fantasia stops by then that’s cool.

One group of young women complains about the high-dollar cover at the Empire Room. One of them spots my notebook and asks if the bar makes mudslides. Her friend says, ‘“Girl, she’s a reporter. She doesn’t work here.’” I try to help out by saying that I didn’t see a blender behind the bar for the mudslides.

Dustin Clodfelter, a High Point native, talks up Fantasia while we wait. He quickly clears up the six degrees of separation between himself and Fantasia. He graduated with Fantasia’s younger cousin, but not from the same school Fantasia attended. He said the cousin would bring pictures of her and Fantasia to school. He says he thinks Fantasia is still a small-town girl, but that he once saw her getting out of a limo at McDonald’s.

I start hearing the buzz that Ruben Studdard, Fantasia’s fellow ‘American Idol’ winner is also eating dinner a few yards away ‘— it’s too much. I don’t know if this is true, but it seems plausible.

I decide to pass that rumor on to the next person I talk to. April Butler says she was more a Clay Aiken fan than a Ruben fan, so that news doesn’t really excite her. April’s not here to check out Fantasia, but if she does see her then that just adds to the evening, she says. At 1 a.m., an announcement comes over the mic from Lee Moore, saying the American Idol would be there in fifteen minutes.

Super, let’s get the show on the road.

I sit chatting with Dustin for the next hour, when another announcement comes over: ‘“Fantasia will not be appearing. The Sky Bar is not at fault.’” I’m out the door, headed for home, tired and a little disappointed. As I sidestep the line for the street vender, I think to myself, ‘“I’m getting too old for the bar scene.’”

The next morning soon after crawling out of bed from my long, non-eventful evening, I get a call from an irate Lee Moore. He’s upset at 102 JAMZ about the deal with Fantasia falling through. But, like I said earlier, it’s her party and she can do what she wants. I think Lee’s more sorry his bartenders got shafted on tips earned on a night they usually have off. But Lee vows that bigger and better things are on the horizon. Like I said, he’s a man with a trick up his sleeve.

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