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Carrot Top, Paul Shortino star in new Vegas version of ‘Send In The Clowns’

Updated February 27, 2020 - 6:52 pm

It’s a story that began Labor Day Weekend of 2009 and, finally, is entering the final chapter.

We speak of the hard-rock version of “Send In The Clowns,” recorded for Carrot Top’s stage show at Luxor. More than a decade ago, the prop comic heard an original version of the Stephen Sondheim classic one night while driving, and thought a heavy-metal version would be an ideal way to open his show at Atrium Showroom.

So it was on that Saturday afternoon in September ’09 when I was invited to watch a video shoot of the song, which was famous in Liberace’s performances at the Las Vegas Hilton. The song and video were recorded at the home studio of recording engineer and producer Tom Parham. The vocalist was Paul Shortino of rock bands Quiet Riot and Rough Cutt, and also the glazed-over Duke Fame in “This is Spinal Tap.” Pantera’s Vinnie Paul eagerly agreed to play drums.

That afternoon was famous because Paul showed up very late — we’d actually started a pool tournament while waiting in the home studio. When the heavy-metal drumming legend did finally arrive, he showed up wearing a full clown costume “to get into character.”

When Paul walked in, he grabbed my pool cue and shouted, “Who might you be!?”

That’s how I met the co-founder of Pantera.

The “Clowns” project was later shelved, but never scrapped. Shortino, a longstanding member of Raiding the Rock Vault, has finally revived the project, and Thursday recorded a new video for an updated version of the heavy-metal cover, using his original vocals and Paul’s drum parts. Carrot Top is featured at the center, in full Joker regalia, including a vest he wore years ago for The Amazing Johnathan’s Halloween party.

International acclaimed film and TV director and cinematographer Gary Orona directed the video. Orona is married to famed adult-film star Tabitha Stevens, who also appears in the “Clowns” project, filming her segment last Friday.

The shoot went on for several hours over two days at The Counts — Desert Moon Productions in Las Vegas, operated by Danny “The Count” Koker of the “Pawn Stars” and “Counting Cars” reality series. Shortino, Carrot Top (real name Scott Thompson) and Japanese guitar great Nozumu Wakai thrashed about as they were bathed in strobes and machine-generated smoke.

International acclaimed film and TV director and cinematographer Gary Orona directed the video. Orona is married to famed adult-film star Tabitha Stevens, who also appears in the “Clowns” project, filming her segment last Friday. Carmen andSean Jensen of Cirque du Soleil’s creative operation set up the video’s dazzling light design.

Shortino arrived in black-and-white, Goth-styled makeup and his ever-present, jewel-encrusted cane. Topper was in full character. He even spat fake blood, in his “Mean Clown” mode, and by the end was so tired he could barely speak. “I’m getting too old for this!” called out the prop comic, who turned 55 on Tuesday. The song is further boosted by Marco Mendoza (late of Whitesnake) on bass.

“Send In The Clowns,” heavy-metal version, is being released on the Shortino album “Make A Wish” in Japan in April, followed by targeted release in Europe and the U.S. The final video is to be released on YouTube, likely by the spring.

Carrot Top says he’s folding it into the show, as planned, likely as the intro. He’ll use it on tour, too.

The entire project is largely an ode to Paul, who died of a heart attack at age 54 in Las Vegas on June 18, 2018. As Shortino says, “The album is a tribute to the memory of Vinnie Paul.”

No question, Paul was a friend of everyone involved in the project, a massive fan of Carrot Top and was a regular visitor to Atrium Showroom.

The comic remembers Paul’s thunderous performance in 2009, when the drummer was one-and-done.

“He went into the house and did one take, just incredible. And I said, ‘Let’s do a couple different versions, just to be safe, we have paid for all this studio time,’” Carrot Top said. “And he goes, ‘Nah, we don’t need to. I’ve got it. Let’s do lunch.’ That was so Vinnie, and that take is what we’re using.”

Cool Hang Alert

On the topic of getting the band back together … the annual St. Baldrick’s/birthday fundraiser for yours truly headed up by Kenny Davidsen is 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Tuscany Suites’ Copa Room. In lieu of a cover charge and gifts (no gifts, please), we are passing the hat to raise money for St. Baldrick’s campaign to fight childhood cancer.

The list of Vegas entertainers set to perform include boxing broadcast legend and frequent Vegas vocalist Al Bernstein, Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie, Daniel Emmet, Skye Dee Miles, Pia Zadora, Sonny Charles, Enoch Augustus Scott, John Di Domenico, Jimmy Denning, Vin A. of Bronx Wanderers, Michael and Lucie Grimm, Lisa Marie Smith, Isaac Tubb, Andrew Freeman, Tyriq Johnson, Stephanie Sanchez, Eric Sean, Carnell “Golden Pipes” Johnson, Lynnae Meyers, Sarah Lowe, Valerie Witherspoon, Ayler Evan, Colin Cahill, MaKenzie Fly, Troy Burgess, Michael Shapiro, Krystal Goddard, Kelly Vohnn, Coty Alexander, Angelina Alexon, Yvette Clutterbuck, Joe DiNunzio, Jerry Jones, Kevin Mullinax and more, many more.

Danielle Lewis, daughter of entertainment legend and world-class philanthropist Jerry Lewis, is spearheading the donation effort and St. Baldrick’s Las Vegas co-founder Brian McMullan will take the stage for a few words about the charity. Once more I’ll be part of the shave-a-thon at Nine Fine Irishmen at New York-New York on March 7, with Augustus Scott performing this year’s shaving. We are also set to host a shave-a-thon that afternoon at McMullan’s Irish Pub, where the McMullan’s launched the campaign in 2008. Go to my www.stbaldricks.org to support, and as we say, see you Sunday.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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