Clownvis Presley Prepares in the Green Room at the Firebird: A Paint Story
Leahy started performing as Clownvis Presley six years ago, a fact that he and his local stage assistants mention with a slight sense of awe, and achieved some national notoriety after a performance on America's Got Talent in 2010, where he managed to get both Sharon Osborne and Howie Mandel to tell him to "fuck off." He recently finished a video to be released on YouTube for his song, "Barack O's Tacos," produced by the guys who do the Epic Rap Battles of History series.
As Little Rachel starts belting, Clownvis sits on the couch and begins finding his face in a seafoam-green Kaboodle he painted gold that holds his makeup.
The first step is the white base coat. His face has changed throughout the years; there were subtle variations of sideburn lengths, and the red-circle cheeks were once hearts. He's ditched the "broke ass makeup" he used to when he was starting out. Lois Lobbig of Gibbol's showed him the good stuff--the stuff Ronald McDonald buys when he comes into the store. "I ain't clowning around anymore," he says. (Wah wah.)
Soon, the other layers of makeup, a hive of impossibly tall hair, a new red nose, a sequined-blue jumpsuit, rings, glasses, a blanket of cotton-candy scented aerosol spray and the voice all pile on and bury Mike Leahy. He is Clownvis Presley now, The King of Clowns. He runs through a few stage cues with his assistants, Narvel P. Tuffnuts and "Butcher" Bautista, the sound man, accompanying musicians and Foxy LaFeelion, who provides a dazzling burlesque interlude midway through the set.
Then, his entrance music begins. It's showtime. He grabs his suitcase of props, takes a breath and hustles out the door and onto the Firebird's stage-right, just like hundreds of acts before him.
"Our greenroom's history is much the same as the venue it sits in," Cracchiolo says. "There is no room or venue that is inherently cool. It's the people who occupy it that make it cool."