A Dozen For Tony Clifton

Oct 12, 2008 by

Tony Clifton

Recently, I had the pleasure to see International Singing Sensation Tony Clifton live and in person at Pittsburgh’s Rex Theater in a Comic Relief sponsored benefit for New Orlenians displaced by Hurricane Katrina. It was bliss. I was born too late for the Beatles and the Sex Pistols played Baton Rouge before I hit town, but through some twisted strand of kismet, I found myself in the right place at the right time and I must confess, when the Man Himself, Tony Clifton took the stage, I peed myself a little.

For over three hours, I was captivated by the deft showmanship, the sheer animal magnetism and brute force of wit of the world’s most consummate entertainer. From the opening strains of the plaintive ballad Lonely Girl to the grand finale spectacle of God Bless America, complete with not one, not two, but three statuesque Lady Libertys, Mister Clifton held his audience spellbound as he shared not just the greatest hits of yesterday and near-today in his own inimitable style, but wisdom and philosophy from the Tony Clifton Book of Life. As he stated early in his show, “You ain’t gonna b’lieve tonite!”

Without giving too much away, Clifton performed a veritable gamut of classics including old chestnuts such as Volaré, Lightning Strikes and Goldfinger and added some newer staples to his ouvre with stunning renditions of Black Magic Woman, Paradise and Synchronicity II, all backed by the incredible Katrina Kiss My Ass Orchestra, a rag-tag collection of extraordinarily talented musicians all displaced by that bitch who came to New Orleans three years ago. Their soulful rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown moved the audience to tears as Tony and his entourage roasted marshmallows over a can of Sterno. That’s entertainment!

I used to fall into an angry sulk when thinking of the foot of water Katrina brought inside my home, but after hearing the KKMAO, I now feel that’s a small price to pay for bringing these devotees of the Euterpean muse together. Add in the Cliftonettes, sprinkle liberally with the Burly-Q troupe Fleur de Tease and top it off with an exuberant hitcher, Keely, (whom Mister Clifton has taken under his meaty wing,) and you have the recipe for an entertainment cocktail that goes down smooth, slams you into the wall and leaves you breathless, spent and begging for more.

After the show, the lovely Peggy Di Gioia, Goddess of All Trades, hostess divine and wife of the shows executive producer Mauro Di Gioia, (a demon of a sax player himself,) was able to sneak me past the formidable security team and into Tony’s dressing room for an interview. (And yes, I peed myself a little more, but I anticipated this and managed to stuff some napkins down my trousers beforehand!) So here, in a Humid City exclusive, are a Dozen for Tony Clifton.

M Styborski: Why a benefit for the displaced people of Hurricane Katrina? There are Wall Street CEO’s suffering from the financial implosion, hundreds of cruise ship victims are getting sick every day and Hollywood’s collective box office receipts are dwindling from internet piracy. With all this recent suffering, why do a benefit for a three year old disaster?

Tony Clifton: Fuck those sons of bitches. I could care less. I got sucked into this shit when I was down in New Orleans and some bartender on Bourbon Street slipped me a Mickey Finn. When I came to, I went back to my hotel and somehow my keycard opened the wrong door. Some seventy year old broad started screaming and the cops arrested me. When I went before the magistrate, these guys from Comedy Whatsis… Comic Relief told the judge to give me community service, so here I am doing sixty hours of this shit. It’s fucking Liberal bullshit, is what it is.

MS: The Bush Administration has just taken North Korea off the Terror Watchlist. Might we see a North Korean Tony Clifton tour in the near future?

TC: Yeah, I heard about that. Can you fuck underaged girls there? I guess so, It’s a third world country, huh? I’ll tell you what someone told me about New Orleans: It’s a little town disguised as a major city stuck right in the fucking middle of a third world country. Is that something, or what?

MS: Has the recent financial upheaval affected your portfolio? If so, what can the public do to help Tony Clifton?

TC: I don’t need no fucking help. I’m doing great and I’ll tell you why: All my money is overseas! This financial shit is a ruse. They cause a panic on Wall Street so no one will put their money into stocks, then the FDIC comes in and says, “OK, we’ll raise the insurance from a hundred grand to two-hundred and fifty grand, put your money in the banks,” but they don’t tell you the fine print! Read the fine print! You’re insured, but they can dole it out to you a little at a time, say a thousand bucks a year for the next 250 years! So they get to keep your money as long as they want! I take fucking travelers checks to other countries and stick ’em in their banks. I travel the world! I got no financial worries!

MS: We all know that Tony Clifton is the Pablo Picasso of Family-Style Las Vegas Entertainment. What do you consider your Guernica?

TC: My Guernica? Jesus, that’s a good question! I’ll tell you my philosophy: Andy Kaufman died for my fucking sins, and I will not besmirch his memory by not sinning!

MS: Speaking of Kaufman, have you communicated or communed with him since his mysterious disappearance so long ago?

TC: Mysterious? Bullshit. He’s fucking dead, twenty-five years. No. Next question.

MS: No matter who wins the upcoming presidential election, Obama or McCain, either is almost certain to implode under the stress they will be facing in the next four years. Could we see a Tony Clifton run for the White House in 2012?

TC: No, no, I stay out of politics. Only 33% of the country ever bothers to vote and only about 12% of those votes ever get counted, or go to anyone with a chance of winning. You’re a smart guy, you know the numbers.

MS: So you have no interest at all in politics?

TC: Well, I tell you, I’d fuck that hockey puck bitch. Yeah, I’d fuck her like a pitbull.

MS: During your stay in New Orleans, did you meet any of our fine political figures such as Mayor Ray Nagin or William Jefferson? Do you have any ideas that could help them to rebuild the city?

TC: No, I didn’t get to meet those guys, but I’ll tell you what that city needs to do. Corporate sponsorship! You guys got that Mardi Gras down there, load up all them parades with corporate sponsors, get some money coming in! Follow what the mayor of Vegas did. He’s tied to the mob, everybody knows it. Vegas went with that Disney family shit and the real money disappeared. The mayor came up with those “What happens here stays here” commercials and that hints at sexual pleasure. You see? You need to sell New Orleans as Sin City. Get my good friend Dennis Hoff, you know him? No? He owns the Bunny Ranch in Vegas, they got that cable TV show going. Get him to reopen that Storyville area and get some good whores in there and I can’t tell you the revenue you’ll see. You need to have at least two brothels for the women, too, they go for that stuff, don’t let ’em kid you.

MS: Since the release of the film “Man In The Moon,” you’ve been thrust like a sharp stick back into the public eye. Has this resurgence in fame and success changed the man behind the shades, or is Tony Clifton still the same man he was twenty-five years ago?

TC: I haven’t fucking changed. Andy Kaufman came to Vegas in 1969 to see Elvis Presly and he found me. What did that Jew kid know about Elvis? He found me working there and I’m still the same guy I was back then.

MS: When people see you at a bar or club, what type of cocktail should they send over to you in order to show proper reverence? Jack Daniels?

TC: Fuck no, that’s piss! There are three Jacks: the Tennessee Whiskey, Gentleman Jack and the Single Barrel. I drink Gentleman Jack, the one in the middle. I went to Lynchburg and toured the distillery and you know what? Well, first off, it’s a dry fucking county! You can make whiskey there but you can’t buy it! What the fuck is that? But in the distillery, they don’t have machines to put those labels on. It’s all done by six old fucking ladies that sit there and lick the back of each label and they stick ’em on the bottles! I tell you, when those caves run out of water there gonna have a problem. We’re trying to get them signed on as a sponsor.

MS: Well, if you’re looking for sponsorship, you might try Aleve. With your signature song being “I Will Surveeve” that might make a good tie-in don’t you think?

TC: The pain pills? Lemme see… I will surveeve, da-da-da-daaaaa… as long as I have Aleve… yeah, that might work at that!

MS: Lastly, we all know that Frank Sinatra didn’t make a move without the approval of Mel Tormé. As an entertainer, you surpassed Frank a long time ago, but have you surpassed Mel Tormé?

TC: That’s true, you got that right, Frank didn’t do shit without Mel’s say-so. No, I don’t think I’ve surpassed Frank, but Mel? Yeah, he’s fucking dead, I’m still here and I’m still going strong.

And going strong he is. There are still two dates on the current tour: Oct 12 at the Lakeshore Theatre in Chicago, IL and Oct 19 at the Sunset Strip House of Blues in Los Angeles. I strongly advise you to catch either, (or if possible, both,) of the remaining shows. If you don’t you do a disservice to yourself, to Tony Clifton, and to the spirit of good old-fashioned, red, white and blue entertainment. God bless America, and God bless Tony Clifton!

More photos can be seen here!