Tuesday, October 12, 2010

International Singing Sensation Tony Clifton Live and In Person

As a young kid, I really liked the show Taxi. It's kind of a weird show for a 7-year-old to like. Latka was my favorite character. I named my snake after him.

Later, once I was a teenager in a punk band, I discovered that Latka was played by a man named Andy Kaufman, a performer who did all kinds of unusual things. He became one of my heroes. I read his biography, tracked down tapes of his performances and watched Man on the Moon, the movie based on his life, over and over.

The second and third albums by my punk band, Question the Answers, included me doing an impression of Andy's nasal, obnoxious lounge singer alter ego, Tony Clifton. I used to steal his bit and call clubs trying to book a show, then call back as Tony and say, "I heard those Question the Answers assholes want to play here. They're a bunch of good for nothing losers! Owe me a lot of money. You ought to stay the fuck away from them if you don't want a bunch of low lives in your club! Listen to me! I play in Vegas..."

We continued to include abrasive, confrontational elements in our live show, largely inspired by Tony Clifton. Tony was so much more punk than most punk bands. Considering Andy died about four months after I was born, I assumed I'd never get to see Tony Clifton live.

But this weekend, I finally did. How is this possible? Find out in my review of the show for the Oregonian.

There was a lot on the line here. If the show sucked, it would truly have broken my heart. Luckily, it was amazing. Near the end, my friend Jake and I sneaked up into front row center. Tony looked right at us and I worried he was going to attack. Instead, he shook our hands and said, "Thank you."

Listen to me doing Tony on the song "Holy Pubes, Batman," recorded by Question the Answers in 2000.

And if you've never seen Tony Clifton before, watch this 1982 news segment about him.

Also, Tony has a website.

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