of the last of a generation whose footprints, image
and voice echo in the canyons of the Las Vegas strip
|It doesnt get any better than this.
Never star-struck, Im admittedly "person-struck," and at my keyboard, just
four hours after an odark a.m. departure from Wayne Newtons dressing room at
the Stardust, having attended his show.By Carolyn
Photo of Mr. Newton by Ladi Novotny
Warm, genuine, friendly, intelligent, direct, and more adjectives than are available, describe this legendary,
Wayne is one of the last of a generation whose footprints, image and voice echo in the canyons of the Las Vegas strip and downtown showrooms.
He tells me hes just getting started. He has plans and he has ambitions.
He also has an incredibly beautiful, clearly devoted and loving wife, Kathleen, who breezed in and out of the room while we visited. Shes an attorney, he told the audience. Having had to use attorneys from time-to-time, he wanted one he could love.
In attempting to separate Wayne Newtonthe showman, from Wayne Newtonthe man, I found him one in the same. The personality on stage is the man at home. While he is aware of every mistake and error in his performance, so is he aware of every mistake and error in his life.
In his maturity he reflects on old demons, and has begun to be comfortable with himself. Reputations, we concluded, particularly of those celebrated for good or ill by the media, generally have no relation to the reality.
We talked about appearances and what observers make of them. I found him uncharacteristically lacking the usual celebrity manners and affectations. We chatted about pride, ego and arrogance. "Arrogance," Wayne said, "is the assumption of a missing quality." It would follow that some de-tractors may just then be arrogant.
"Ive been in martial arts all of my life. One of the ancient wisdoms taught in the arts, is that the nail which sticks up the highest is the one that is hit the most."
When I asked him what in his life makes him feel more balanced with the years, he told me its principally his wife and family, including his high spirited daughter, Erin, but next, it is his ranch which provides him a link to nature. The Arabian horses hes known to love and breed bring him a special, earth-bound reality.
"I arrived home one evening and asked about Delair, a mare past her time to foal by several weeks. They told me she was angry and irritated in her stall, and should be left alone.
"As I headed for the barns, even my wife asked me not to try to work with the mare. I asked Kathleen if she would work with me. We slipped into the stall slowly, and quietly crouched in a corner. The horse sensed our presence while we made no move toward her, and began to calm down.
"I have deep relationships with each of my horses, and almost immediately, Delair was nuzzling my face.
"Before long she lay down and birthed her foal with no problems. Weve birthed more than 600 horses on this ranch, and never lost a single foal in the process. This is my reality," he said.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Waynes family moved to Arizona when he was eight years old. An asthmatic, in the days before inhalers, Wayne was chronically ill and could have died from the inclement weather and seasonal changes.
With feet already set on his path to stardom, having seen a traveling Grand Ol Opry performance at the age of four, Wayne crossed one state line and grabbed the early, dusty shirt tails of Las Vegas when he was just 15.
It wasnt many years later as a "fat kid" of 20 or 21, and contracted to the Fremont Hotel, his recording of Danke Schoen hit the top of the charts. Even though he was rolling in fame, fortune, and offers, Wayne honored the remaining year on his contract.
In remembering his past performances, I asked why he didnt wear his belt buckle anymore.
"Pleats," he blurted, laughing. "That buckle just doesnt work with pleated pants; but pants without pleats are coming back in," he continued, "and the buckle will come out of the drawer."
For those who dont remember, the belt buckle is an enormous silver wrap around piece, designed by Wayne after one hed seen. A Native American friend of Waynes carved the centerpiece, an eagle in flight with a wingspan of no less than twelve inches. Wayne wears the buckle proudly with a tuxedo or jeans.
While we visited, the door to a side room opened and a group of three or four, including Kathleen, came in with a cupcake and lighted candle, singing "Happy Birthday." Tricia McCrone, Waynes delightful publicist sitting unnoticed at the far end of the room was celebrating her birthday. It was midnight and I couldnt help but be caught in the moment.
Even though discussing entertainment and performers wasnt my objective, visiting in Waynes dressing room with him still in stage make-up seemed to draw us back to the subject. We talked about the old days; and he used the words, "star power."
Mr. Las Vegas... Wayne Newton.
The Newton family, daughter Erin, wife Kathleen and Wayne enjoy a beautiful Las Vegas afternoon.
The resort casinos had, years ago, stopped booking the best entertainers in the world, with rare and brief exceptions. Productions as we see today, became the mainstay of the strip showrooms.
"I dont believe the Stardust was prepared for what has happened since we opened," Wayne told me. "If people are provided entertainment they really want to see, they will come," he continued, "and their lining up is evidenced in the resorts increased revenues." Star power may be on its way back, like pants with no pleats.
I asked Wayne some questions about his history as known to most of us, mainly regarding his feelings when recalling various incidents.
With respect to his purchase, with a partner, of the Aladdin Hotel Casino, Wayne reminisced about it being closed by the State of Nevada and the loss of almost 3,000 jobs. In 1980, that was a terrible blow to the community.
"I remember doing a benefit performance with the proceeds set aside for the employees to pay for emergency and necessary items. It wasnt long before those people were employed again, at the newly operating property."
He left the partnership after four years for no reason other than a difference of management philosophy. Given Waynes generosity and hospitality, and given todays property owners emphasis on profits, he would still find himself marked by his difference in management philosophy.
"When I did leave the Aladdin, I felt Id accomplished what I had set out to do."
We visited the NBC litigation over their misinformation regarding Waynes purported mob connections. "The lawsuit and appeals process lasted ten years," Wayne told me. "The trial set a precedent that is referred to even now after the turn of a century." Wayne Newton scored a history making win in that debacle.
I wish I had been able to visit with Kath-
leen. Just her presence now and again, added an ambiance to the room. I did ask Wayne how hed met his wife of six years, and almost slipped from the leather couch when he told me shed been sitting in his audience about nine years ago.
Wayne had seen her as he wandered through the large crowd with a cordless microphone, singing, shaking hands, kissing the ladies, and visiting with his audience. Kathleen, with her sisters and mother, as well as a local traffic court judge who Wayne knew, were in a far, back booth beyond his reach.
"Id never seen such beautiful eyes. I couldnt get past them. She just lit up the room.
"When I left the stage to remove my jacket, I asked a friend to be certain to locate her and please invite them back stage for a drink at the closing. My friend delegated the request to his friend, and when Kathleen was found after the show, my request couldnt have been stated any more improperly. She alone was asked back stage. Thank you, but no thank you, was Kathleens polite refusal.
"Fortunately for me, the judge brought the ladies back stage.
"As fate would have it, our paths had crossed before this occasion. Kathleens father, a judge in Ohio, along with others, had taken a keen interest in my lawsuit against NBC. Id met him and his wife on three separate occasions." The judge had recently passed away, and the ladies were in Las Vegas for the holidays.
"While we visited, I asked Kathleen, what do you do? She said, Im a working girl. I started to laugh and said, I dont think you ought to use that term. In this town, of all the places in the world, those words take on an entirely different meaning. She realized I knew something about the phrase that she didnt. She asked me what it meant, and I told her it referred to a Lady of the Evening.
"So, I tried again, asking her what she really did. When she told me she was an attorney, I did laugh and said, all the more reason you should never use that term.
"We quickly became friends, and over the years, the growing friendship turned to love."
I was reluctant to leave this interview, and Ive no doubt this celebrity will remain in my heart and mind for a very long time.
Before I did leave, however, I told him a story. In 1980, I was visiting Las Vegas with a pack of girl friends. Two of us, same age, friends but competitive, considered very attractive where we came from, were seated across from one another, stage center in the front row. Wayne sang to her and not me. I cried across my bed after the show, and have waited twenty years to tell him. We both laughed, he apologized, and we agreed that time truly does heal all wounds.
Youre a new friend Wayne Newton, and all of us at the LAS VEGAN wish you and yours the very best life has to offer in the years ahead. LVN