The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on August 22, 1976 · Page 217
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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 217

Cincinnati, Ohio
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 22, 1976
Page 217
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IS s 8 Slim Wayne Newton eats once a day and pads them in twice a night By Colin Dangaard There are people in Las Vegas who remember Wayne Newton when he was the fat kid working the smoky lounge down at the Fremont Hotel. His voice was so high people looked up when he sang. Liberace made jokes about it. But then, it didn't matter much because Wayne wasn't the star. His big brother Jerry was. Jerry's suits were cut sharp, like his dialogue, and his acne was not rioting. Today at age 32, Wayne Newton is the new undisputed king of the Las Vegas Strip, commanding more dollars than Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra. His $35-million, five-year contract makes him the highest-paid entertainer in nightclub history. His records have sold 16 million copies, and he has a personal staff of 75. On his off-hours, you'll find him on his 51-acre ranch, five miles out of town, looking over his 120 Arabian horses. In the past five months he has sold 24 at an average of $21,000 a head. Just a hobby, you know. When he tires of the view on Casa de Shenandoah, he Rolls over to his other ranch, which has 218 acres. Like the man says: "You gotta have room ..." At a trim 174 pounds, Newton doesn't need nearly the room he once did. Backstage between shows at the Sands Hotel, he is a study in success: attitude easy, tanned frame snug in velvet robe, men and women and roses wall to wall. The King rests, while outside they change one capacity crowd for another. He allows a single phone call to do with the purchase of a jet from Elvis then sips something hot and talks of his wife, Elaine Okamura. He met her in 1968, in Vietnam. She was the stewardess on the plane; he was on tour. Elaine is exquisitely beautiful. ". . . what I wish every guy had in a woman," Newton is saying. "The total show-business wife. When she comes to see my show, it's as a fan, for which I am thankful. I sure don't need her telling me what to do, and what not to do. Got enough critics already." He laughs, and you know his mind is back at the ranch. "They say my marriage is on the rocks, that I'm supposed to be in love Colin Dangaard is a Malibu, Calif., freelance writer. tT f 4 2fcg m:mm w a- V. V 5 r - 4 it 1 h with a redhead. I don't even know a redhead. I go home . . . because I want to. "Oh, sure, we argue. Mostly about outside influences. My wife is very gullible, you see. I'll come home and she'll be very excited because four or five charities have called, wanting her to model or something. ' Now I've got nothing against charities, but one has to be wary of being used. I warn Elaine against spreading herself too thin; you must decide what it is you want, and really commit yourself to it. "Other times, our arguments come just because we're plain tired. We get our hostilities out, laugh . . . then it's over." Part Cherokee Indian, Newton has always made a little Indian go a long way. He did his first gig at age six in West Virginia. People loved his pure soprano, a taut thread of sound that entered the ear like a needle. By the time he was a high school dropout, in Arizona, his first hit "Danke Schoen" was selling a million. Strangely, as the kid got fatter, his voice got tighter. It seemed only natural that the on-stage jokes of brother Jerry would take a sharper edge. Sometimes, Wayne hit back. Like when Jerry suddenly asked what he would do if his voice changed, and Wayne replied: "I'm not sure but you'd be out of a job." The brothers landed the Fremont contract in 1959 and stayed five years, doing six shows a night, six nights a week, a schedule that rendered little Wayne begging for somebody to lower the keys. Jackie Gleason gave them their first big break when he hired them to entertain on his train, out of Phoenix, in 1963. When they stepped off days later, he had signed them for his television show. The boys also met Bobby Darin, who helped with record production. Thus Wayne's teen years found him enjoying success with Jerry, but locked in the role of dumb, clean-cut kid. Together, they were trapped in the lounges, squeezing in songs between the drinks and the chatter, searching in the smoke for recognition; they were desperate for the big rooms. "One day," recalls Wayne, "we decided to quit lounges, regardless. A producer in northern Nevada offered us $10,000 a week to play his lounge; we countered with a proposal to play his main room for $1500 a week. Nadice. So we just sat, and sat . . ." Almost out of boredom, Wayne, fluent in eight instruments, did a concert tour of his own in Australia. Jack Benny was also in Sydney, and caught his act. He suggested they do something together, promising Har-rah's in Tahoe as their first appearance, not knowing Wayne had already been turned down there 109 times for the main room. In Tahoe they pleaded with Benny to drop Newton, but he said, "No. I'm bringing the kid in. That's it. It's my package, and I'll bring in who I want to bring in." Wayne was a hit. When his brother Jerry retired, Wayne's rise was even more spectacular; he broke out of his casting, quit eating out his frustrations, and went in search of lower notes. Newton and Benny became life-long friends, often "dropping in" unannounced on each other's act. Wayne was thoughtfully playing his violin before a packed house in Las Vegas one night when Benny walked in from the wings, snatched the instrument from his hands, and walked off, not saying a word. The audience gasped, at Benny's unexpected appearance, and Newton doubled with laughter. Several weeks later, when Benny came to the part of his own act where he called for his famed Stradivarius, Newton threw a cheap violin out onto the floor. On other occasions, he cut Benny's mike cord, and appeared in the orchestra, playing a violin loudly and much off-key. Newton has apparently done the impossible: survive all year in Las Vegas. He has proved that it's impossible to become stale in a small town with nine million visitors a year. Seldom has he failed to fill each of the 1200 seats in the Sands Grand Ballroom. Some nights more than that have been turned away. Still, he does each show as if it's his last, often working two hours, although his contract calls for only one hour 20 minutes. Once he went almost three hours. Explains Newton: "I'm happiest on stage. I go out there and really have fun. Once people had the attitude of, 'All right kid, now entertain us, show us what you can do.' Today they know a little about me, it's like we're friends. Time goes right on by when you're having fun. I make up a lot of my show as I go along." He relaxes with equal enthusiasm. "I took several weeks off once and somebody came up and asked me to sing a song. And Continued 14

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