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Cab TV

Smile, you’re on Papa Bear’s version of American Idol.

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If you see cab No. 1091 rockin', Papa Bear wants you to come knockin'.

Papa Bear, as he insists upon being called, is a Yellow Cab driver who has outfitted his vehicle with TV screens and video cameras and calls his setup "cabaraoke." For the price of a regular fare, riders can select from Papa Bear's 300-plus songs and sing along to lyrics that scroll on the screens. The cameras and microphones in the taxi record the hilarity; Papa Bear has uploaded 170 videos to YouTube and to his Web site, cabaraoke.com.

The Department of Burnt Ends decided to roll with Papa Bear to learn more.

Burnt Ends: Where'd this idea come from?

Papa Bear: I've been showing a library of 3,000 music videos in my taxicab already for six years. And after noting the amount of interest there was in karaoke singing — I'm always looking for something to make the cab ride more fun — I decided to give it a try.

Any memorable experiences with singing passengers?

Last night, I picked up a new set of customers at the Point and took them to the Granfalloon. They wanted to sing [Don McLean's] "American Pie," but the ride wasn't long enough for them to finish it. So when they left the 'Falloon, they wanted to do it over again. They called me back so they could do the whole thing. I posted both the videos this morning.

Anyone been too drunk to karaoke?

I keep Baggies in the car in case anyone gets sick. This year, I seem to be getting a lot more ones getting sick during the trip than I have in past years. In the past nine years, I might have gotten one every few months. Now, a month doesn't go by that I don't have to deal with two, three, four. I suspect it's probably because stress levels are up higher.

What's in the future for cabaraoke?

My goal is to spread this to cabs in every major city. I'm hoping to design and develop a cabaraoke machine that is simple for any driver to use, even with no technical knowledge and even if the cabbie doesn't speak English. All they have to do is hang the machine over the seat and plug into the system, and everything else is done by the passenger. It doubles as a security device for the cab driver because of the camera.

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