Sunday, April 1, 2012 | 7:18 p.m.
When Wayne Newton was headlining at the Flamingo in late 2007, the president of the hotel at the time, Don Marrandino, dearly wanted Newton to meet Toby Keith.
It made sense. At the time, Keith had just opened his own restaurant/hoedown zone Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill next door at Harrah's. So one night after a Newton performance at the Flamingo, the two braved the walk along the Strip to Harrah's. It was bedlam, as the sidewalk was crammed with tourists who mobbed Mr. Las Vegas as he strolled the Strip on a weekend night.
Marrandino and Newton made it over to Harrah's and met up with Keith, who was entertaining a few fellow music stars of varying ilk at his club. Jack Blades of Night Ranger was there, as was Michael Lardie of Great White, who was touring with Night Ranger at the time. Members of Keith’s own band also were prepped to play.
But what to do with Wayne? No one seemed to have a banjo at the ready.
“He had no idea that I played guitar. So he was saying to everyone around, ‘You’re on keyboard, you’re on drums. … He looked at me, and I said, ‘Guitar!’ Every time I see him now, he says, ‘Where’s your guitar?’ ” Newton said during the red carpet walk at tonight’s 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
That meeting led to an unannounced appearance by Newton in Keith’s performance of “Red Solo Cup” during tonight’s telecast from Grand Garden Arena.
“Toby called and asked if I would do it, and I said, ‘Of course,’ ” Newton said. “
Also recruited for the live version of the song, which won the ACM Award for Video of the Year, was Carrot Top, who has known Keith since the two filmed appearances in Rodney Carrington’s “Dancing With a Man” video 10 years ago in Dallas.
“Toby called me up about 8 months ago and said, ‘I’m doing this song called ‘Red Solo Cup,’ and it’s the dumbest song I’ve ever recorded,” Carrot Top said, also during the red carpet walk before the show. “I said, ‘Are you sure? You’ve recorded a lot of dumb songs.’ ”
Newton and Top rehearsed their appearance early today. Carrot Top was the more prominently seen of the two, as Newton and Keith's band were snagged in the hallway. Newton was more readily seen later in the show, in audience shots.
Mirage headliner Terry Fator also took part in the show, televised by CBS (tape delayed at 8 p.m. in the Pacific Time Zone). The head writer of Fator’s stage show made the connection between Fator and the ACMs.
“The folks here at the Academy of Country Music Awards called us and asked to do some stuff. The guy who helps write my show, Jon Macks, is one of the writers for the ACMs. He’s an incredible writer.”
Fator and one of his favorite puppets, country music artist Walter T. Airedale, appeared in a skit with co-hosts Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire.
Fator-as-Airedale said, “Of course, I said, ‘Listen, I’m really good friends with Reba! So she just better have me on that show!’ I drop her name all the time! You’d be surprised at how many doors it opens for me.”
And anyone who has seen Mr. AIrdale knows, he ain't opening many doors himself.