Television

'The Masked Singer' Kick-Flips Elephant to the Curb: 'I Watched an Episode and Said...Why Not?'

Elephant on The Masked Singer
Greg Gayne/FOX

The Elephant on The Masked Singer.

[Spoiler alert: This story contains the identity of the eliminated contestant on Wednesday night's (Feb. 19) The Masked Singer.]

The second group of celeb singers pulled on their cumbersome costumes on The Masked Singer on Wednesday night after group 1 booted Lil Wayne, beloved comedian/game show host Drew Carey and Chaka Khan. That set the stage for literally anyone to be inside the new characters unveiled on season 3's fourth episode: Elephant, Frog, Kitty, Taco, Mouse and Banana.

The judges seemed genuinely perplexed by the tall drink of water in the futuristic pachyderm outfit, with the guesses all over the place after Elephant rumbled through a workmallike version of goth greats The Cure's "Friday I'm in Love." The irony is that they were right with their very first stab at identifying him after the clues found him sitting behind a drum kit, talking about leading a movement and a visit to the White House.

Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg noticed a big bicycle poster in the background of the clue video, linking it to the Tour De France and guessing it might be disgraced riding champ Lance Armstrong. Nicole Scherzinger saw the drum kit and thought Blink-182's Travis Barker or Motley Crue's Tommy Lee, with Ken Jeong tossing up a huge airball with his twisted logic linking the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to former presidential aspirant and punk rocker Beto O'Rourke.

They should have stuck with their first guess: skateboarding icon Tony Hawk. While he's known for inventing some of the sickest moves in the game and rocking crowds with his signature 900, in a chat before Wednesday night's elimination, Hawk, 51, told Billboard that singing was one of the scariest tricks he's ever attempted.

You’ve done so many amazing things, but it's fair to say that singing is not really one of them, right? What made you think you could pull this off?

The idea of being anonymous was the first thing that spoke to me because I didn't want to do something like this and be on full display. I have a history of musicians in my family and I hoped that would rub off on me a bit. My older sister [Pat] used to sing backup for Michael Bolton and John Denver and my dad could play any instrument. I thought it would be a fun challenge.

Since you really have no singing experience, did you work with a vocal trainer? What did they recommend?

I did. Tamar is the vocal trainer on the show assigned to me and she was a big help. Her best advice to me was how to use my breath and just to project. There's a part of you if you're not a singer... you tend to want to hold your voice back because you’re not sure of it. It's better to be overconfident. I feel OK about it, and knowing Lil Wayne and Chaka Kahn were first out in their group... I don't feel so bad.

You mentioned in the package that you don't do choreography, but did the mask and costume make you more confident?

Yeah, it does. They definitely have people helping you with creating a little routine. But for sure if I was on full display, I would freeze up.

Do you ever do karaoke in real life?

Not really. I think it was always in the back of my mind, wondering if I could sing because of my family history and because of what I learned performing in front of crowds with skating. But I have a much bigger level of confidence skating in front of people. We did have a 20th-anniversary fundraiser for the release of the video game [Tony Hawk's Pro Skater] and the band played covers of hits from the games. That was the catalyst for this.

What song did you do?

"Amoeba" by the Adolescents. 

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How did that go?

It's a punk song, so there's not a huge range, but I figured if I could get up there and perform and remember the words... that was my first idea.

Whose idea was it for you to be on the show? Did you watch it first?

They just called me. They sent me an offer asking if I was willing to do it and I watched an episode and saw the caliber of people on there and I said, "Why not?"

Who did you tell?

Only my immediate household, my wife and two of our kids. We have three boys in college, so they were not aware of this; they will be soon. And a close friend who sings in a band because I was looking for his guidance in all of this...  Wesley Eisold from Cold Cave.

The clue video had you behind a kit. Do you actually play drums or was that a red herring? 

I think they were just trying to throw them off with that. I don't play, but I used to play violin and I've been thinking of trying to get back into it. It's not like riding a bike, you can't just get back into it after 20 years.

The guesses were hilarious -- everyone from Lance Armstrong to Travis Barker and Beto O'Rourke. Were you surprised by how off they were?

A little bit. I think I was more complimented by the idea that they thought I was a musician like Travis Barker. Beto O'Rourke I understood more because he used to sing in a band and there was a White House clue, so that made sense, but it was a little bit unexpected.

Did you try to throw them off at all with the swaggery way you walked onto the stage? 

I was just trying to throw anything I had out there. I wasn't trying to throw them off but just do the best I could with my limited skills.

You're known for your smooth moves, but was it hard to move around in that costume?

Kind of, yeah. There were some issues with that and I had some issues with the microphone, which got stuck on the chin strap of my helmet, so that was a challenge for me. I kept trying to move it into place during my performance. That was more because I didn't rehearse enough with the mask on.

You mentioned in the package that you’ve been to the White House. I've spoken to a number of contestants about the intense security protocol on the show. How much tougher was Masked Singer security?

[Laughs] They’re very coordinated, let me put it that way. I have no idea who else is on it and I never saw anyone else in the hallways. I could hear some faint singing sometimes, but I couldn't connect it to who it was and I never saw anyone else until the elimination. It's for real.

Why’d you pick the Elephant costume? What appealed to you about it?

It wasn’t the taco.

You’ve landed the 900 and invented the Kickflip McTwist, so how much harder was it to sing and dance in that costume?

I think it was more challenging because for the first time I'm trying to sing in public, it's on one of the biggest stages in the world. That is very daunting. I didn't work my way up through schooling or clubs or a failed band. I went straight to one of the top performances. It was pretty scary. But I have a level of confidence on a skateboard that I didn't have with my singing abilities. The only thing I had going for me was that I'm not afraid to get up in front of a crowd.

Did anyone catch on to what you were doing? Did you kids wonder where you were going?

Not really because I travel a lot for what i do and I live in San Diego and I go to LA a lot for the day, so it's not out of the ordinary. 

Did you expect to get beyond the first episode? Are you disappointed leaving first?

At the very most, I thought I might make it past two, but for sure that would be the end of it. So it was a slight disappointment to be eliminated in the first round. Part of it was song choice. I didn't pick something that was top 40 and I had another song that was up to me, which to do first, and I chose The Cure because it represented my culutre and my background.

What was the other song?

[Steppenwolf] "Born to Be Wild," which is flashier and had a better stage production. But I had to stay true to my culture.