Des Moines Tribune from Des Moines, Iowa on August 3, 1979 · 32
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Des Moines Tribune from Des Moines, Iowa · 32

Des Moines, Iowa
Issue Date:
Friday, August 3, 1979
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I . 32 Wayne Newton has never reached stardom on a nationwide scale, but in Las Vegas, he's .the top entertainment draw around, appealing to young and old alike. He makes an estimated $400,000 a week for singing in major Las .Vegas hotels that's twice as much as President Carter makes in a year. "I've been in the business for 30 years," says Newton. "I work very hard at it." Right: On his 240-acre ranch, he raises prize Arabian horses. He lives in a $2-mii'ion mansion outside Las Vegas called Casa de Shenandoah. Below: Along with entertaining in Las Vegas for 36 weeks each year, Newton appears on TV shows like here with Mike Douglas and concerts. In the future? Newton says he'd like to make a few movies and possibly open his own hotel and casino in Las Vegas. tliiil Mi t-wvv-v'SK IN Vi' IvviU- I' ill If Mil ! v:ir;v? J P'fet V? v iliftSSlsM &ypMlaft y Wzfagymsff ' . w vsil litis. & Is W , "" " ' I ' x . . fel By Bil1 Farmer . wr'"" V$. DES MOINES TliluUJNiS H May, August 3, 1919 A 4 AS VEGAS, NEV. - Pete Rose will work six months to earn what Wayne Newton makes in one week. For the president of General Motors, it'll take all year. What can an asthmatic high school dropout with a high voice and a weight problem do to earn $400,000 every seven days he works in Las Vegas? The answer is simple: ' Pete Rose fills bleachers. Wayne Newton fills casinos and his Las Vegas audience is the high-grade ore of American entertainment. "You have to remember that I grew up in this town," says Newton. Nobody, but nobody, packs 'em in the way Wayne does. For 36 weeks a year (remember, that's at $400,000 a week!) he sings to full houses for two shows a night, moving along the strip from the Sands to the Desert Inn to the Frontier. "I have been in the business SO years (he's 36 now). I've done it my entire life. I work very hard at it" Very hard, indeed. Excruciating, some would say. Newton will go 20 weeks or more without a day off. His shows are celebrated marathons of musical entertainment that bring wild devotion in this land of hype. Newton's formula is fluid, with a simple axiom its test tube: Know Thy Audience. The man is a populist at heart No one, including himself, knows what songs will go into any night's performance. His tactic is to stitch a crazy-quilt of song in his first three or four numbers. It may be a big-band ballad followed by rock and summed up with stompin' music from the hills of Tennessee. , Newton weighs the results computer quick. The audience tells Wayne what to do. And he listens very keenly. For the next hour and a half he pulls from no fewer than 200 numbers in the evening's two shows. Rewed-up, the audience keeps him a half hour longer, aUimes, even more. What is the longest he has ever performed on stage without leaving? "Three and a half hours," Wayne remembered ... and it was the third show (of the night). Singing for an annual special showing for people in the transportation business here, Newton stayed on-stage through 16 or 17 standing ovations for three and a half hours. "And we didn't even start until 3 a.m. Ke never looks at his watch. "Look, I have no delusions of grandeur," be said of himself and the art of house-packing. "If they could get 10 people to do it they'd get them. I know that." "They call me King of the Strip and all that crap. It's a joke." After a decade of ecstatic honeymoon with Las Vegas, Newton now is looking for more of an open marriage. "This year or next year I may go for 26 weeks in Las Vegas. I'd like to make some movies . . . albums . . . and a couple of TV specials a year." He is not interested in musicals, but rather in doing dramatic work in films. Newton has been a serious student of Las Vegas since he opened in the Fremont's lounge at age 15. : "Six shows a night six nights a week. I couldn't even stay in the casino between shows, because I was too young. I'd have to wait outside." CIS1 "jlhe kid from Roanoke, Va., i had moved west with his 1 family partly because he was an asthmatic youngster and the desert air was beneficial. He is refreshingly undisturbed by his decision to drop out of ' school. He had taken music lessons at $6 a week when his dad was earning only $49 a week. So getting a two-week guarantee at the Vegas lounge for the portly, baby-faced teenie with the high voice was an opportunity to slip out of school and into harness. Although be bad several hit records ("Red Roses for a Blue Lady," "Danke Schoen," "Apple Blossom Time"), and although he has appeared repeatedly as child and adult on national television, and although his concerts throughout the United States are booked solid, he has never carried off the super-stardom status nationwide that he has so indelibly developed in Las Vegas. Whv? . v - j & : Ten years ago, Newton weighed 280 pounds and his career was a joke. There are 400,000 good reasons each week why he stays in bis hometown. "A full showroom is more important than just the crowd at the show." ' - His business acumen captures the scent of what Wayne Newton is all about here. "It means that you could only be able to get tickets (to his show) by checking into the hotel where I am playing. And if the hotel is packed, the casino and the restaurants are packed. And the lounge is packed," be says. Even in dog periods, when business in town is low, the name Wayne Newton on one of those big, splashy strip signs can turn 22 percent occupancy into 96 percent occupancy. The people who work in Vegas love him. After be leaves a hotel, they may cut their work force up to 50 percent. An associate put it this way: "Way back, a hotel owner told me that if Wayne could pull three or four high rollers (heavy gamblers) into a casino, that was all that was necessary. "Well, now, he'll pull in 11 or 12." As for Newton, he is not even a roller, let alone a high roller. Newton never gambles. "In the 21 years I have been here I have never been to one of the (gambling) tables. I don't even know the rules for shooting craps. I come in the back door and I leave the same way." " One day it may be his own back door. Newton, while negotiating for a new work contract for himself and his musical entourage, also is toying with the idea of his own hotel and casino in Vegas. He spoke as he drove one of his Rolls Royces through the gates that lead to borne a mansion at the edge of Vegas that rivals Tara in "Gone With the Wind." ewton lives a Hollywood script there. The 12-million manse, called Casa de Shenandoah, is not to be confused with his 240-acre ranch where be raises prize Arabian horses 150 of 'em. Home is a Never-Never Land swarming with peacocks and sheepdogs and even junior sized wallabies (midget kangaroos) that run wild upon the grounds. Two small lakes and a trickle of precious desert stream glutted by swans and ducks are the backdrop for the house. Inside, twin bannisters swirl upstairs. Ceilings are made of berled elm, fireplaces of stone are ignited by a switch flick. There is even a secret room behind a false wall. He lives there with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, his parents and about 70 servants, aides and hangers-on. The casinos he works are owned by Suma Corp., the largest gaming force in Las Vegas. If Newton goes into business for himself it will be his one big gamble. In the garage at home, in addition to the 1959 Silver Cloud, are runs-of-tbe-mill Rolls and Mercedes Benzes for Him and Her, along with a Clenet show car roadster, a Rolls convertible and several other automotive playthings. This is the same Newton whose dad earned $49 a week and gave $6 of it to his son for music lessons. "Plus," Newton remembers, "25 cents for guitar rental." He has undergone considerable change including a weight drop that shed 100 pounds eight years ago. When be sang at a porky 280, his career was a joke. "He did it on Diet Pepsi and Caesar salad," said the bodyguard at his stage door. Newton feeds, too, on his Indian heritage and has used Indian and Western motifs in his self-image profusely. Now, at age 36, he commands the center stage with a pencil-thin moustache and a sex-symbol attitude that hearkens part Tom Jones and part Elvis, a little Tony Bennett and a touch of Roy Clark. As the Silver Cloud whispers through the iron gates and heads away from Casa de Shenandoah, the tape deck plays "Miracies." The voice is that of Englebcrt Humperdinck. Wayne Newton is on his way to wcrk. 11 r I

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