How Brenda Braxton Helps Keep Fresh Air in Smokey Joe's

How Brenda Braxton Helps Keep Fresh Air in Smokey Joe's MAD ABOUT THE BOAS
At Smokey Joe's Cafe, a good dozen songs along into the golden oldies of Leiber and Stoller, boa meets girl: The highly girlish Brenda Braxton slinks across the Virginia Theatre stage, dragging a chair and a 12-foot feather boa, stating the musical case of a hard-hearted gold digger ("Don Juan/Your money's gone/And when your money's gone/Your ba-by's gone").

MAD ABOUT THE BOAS
At Smokey Joe's Cafe, a good dozen songs along into the golden oldies of Leiber and Stoller, boa meets girl: The highly girlish Brenda Braxton slinks across the Virginia Theatre stage, dragging a chair and a 12-foot feather boa, stating the musical case of a hard-hearted gold digger ("Don Juan/Your money's gone/And when your money's gone/Your ba-by's gone").

Not only does she have fun with the number, of late she makes fun of it, appearing at various charity events in a hilarious send-up that flashes forward 20 years and finds her the oldest rocker this side of Keith Richards, dispatching "Don Juan" with determined (if arthritic) bumps and grinds. The parody came out of backstage chatter where she fancied herself a wizened old vamp strutting out that ditty while waiting for another Smokey Joe's to come along.

Keeping the show fresh after 1,000-plus performances is no trick, she says, because it's still fun. And, too, she has other irons in the fire--like Leading Ladies Just for Teens, which she started early in the run. Every other Sunday she has 15 or so young girls to the show. "We sit in the lobby and talk about having dreams and setting goals. They have no idea there are so many opportunities for women backstage. Then, they see the show, and we do autographs afterwards."

One of them may one day step up to the Tony podium and thank Brenda for that initial spark. She, of course, will be at Smokey Joe's, sending Don Juan on his way.

-- By Harry Haun