Wednesday, June 6, 2012 | 4:04 p.m.
Joey Lawrence meets Johnny Carson
Just a few minutes before Joey Lawrence is to call for an interview to talk about his upcoming role as guest host of Chippendales at the Rio from Thursday through June 24, I suddenly remember an old TV show: “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
When he was 5 years old, Lawrence appeared on the show with Carson, who gently asked the little boy seated Indian-style on the seat next to him, “Have you ever seen this show?”
“Well, once when I was up once, vomiting …” Lawrence, wearing a kid-sized tuxedo and a round, Beatle-esque haircut, started. The audience’s laughter cut the explanation short.
Today, that little kid is starring in one of the city’s most successful adult revues, and successful shows of any type, in the city. Hiring famous guest stars has become commonplace for Chipps, with Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees and “The Bachelor” star Jake Pavelka taking the stage as star hosts in the past year. (One-off guests have included Ronnie Ortiz-Magro of “Jersey Shore” and BMX racer Ricardo Laguna.)
Lawrence is certainly well known, as his roles on “Blossom” in the 1990s and today’s “Melissa & Joey” remind. He also has performed on Broadway as Billy Flynn in “Chicago” and found fulfillment in the recording studio, as his single “Nothinʼ My Love Canʼt Fix” ascended to No. 10 on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream charts. He is working on his third studio album in an apparent effort to master all entertainment domains.
With so many appealing options, Lawrence has curiously veered into a production where he is to introduce nearly naked guys performing dance numbers.
The phone beeps, and it is Lawrence. The conversation:
Johnny Kats: “I was just watching you on YouTube, your appearance on ‘The Tonight Show’ when you were 5.”
Joey Lawrence: “Oh, yeah (laughs). I love that. Wow.”
J.K.: “What do you think when you watch that clip today?”
J.L.: “What a cute kid (laughs)! It seems like it’s a different person, you know? I’m just reminded of how long I’ve been in this business. The first 31 years have been great practice and training.”
J.K.: “If you look at it from a purely statistical point-of-view, you could easily have a career of 60 years if you wanted.”
J.L.: “I could have an acting career that long, no question, if I’m lucky enough to be sought after that way. A leading man can be anywhere from 35 to 60, 65 years old. Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery have all had incredible careers for a long time.”
J.K.: “The guys who have taken on this type of role with Chippendales have said they’ve done it to somehow expand what they do creatively, to reach new audiences. Why are you doing this?”
J.L.: “For me, it’s something I’ve never done. It’s crazy, way outside of the box. I thought I’d let loose and do something nuts. Chippendales people had asked for several months, I said no, then my friends said, ‘Go do it! Do Vegas for a while!’ So I said, ‘Screw it, I’ll have some fun.’”
J.K.: “What did you think of the show when you first saw it?”
J.L.: “I had thought it was something other than what it was. This show is an extravaganza, it’s not a dollar bill in the underpants show. It’s a big, male revue. The women who come have an awesome time. It’s really, really well done.”
J.K.: “What are you going to be doing in the show?”
J.L.: “I’ll emcee, sing, dance a little bit. I love the Old Vegas kind of vibe, so I’ll be singing ‘Chicago,’ like Frank Sinatra did. I want to change it up a little bit, and they liked that idea.”
J.K.: “The other guest hosts haven’t shed their clothes. What about you?”
J.L.: “Oh, no (laughs). I don’t want to make those guys feel bad. Ha! But really, I’m in good shape, but those guys look like Thor.”
J.K.: “You know, that could open up a whole new area of opportunity for Chippendales -- superhero numbers.”
J.L.: “Right? Captain America, Batman, like that.”
J.K.: “You could come out as Robin.”
J.L.: “I could come out as Robin! It would be great. We could do, like, a whole Avengers routine.”
J.K.: “Stranger shows have actually been staged in Las Vegas.”
J.L.: “We have a guy in the cast who looks like Thor already. It is conceivable we could do this. Remember when this idea came up. We’ll sell it.”
J.K.: “And we will be rich.”
J.L.: “And we’ll be famous, too (laughs). This is what I like about doing this. We do know how to have fun.”