“Pound for pound, day for day, Wayne Newton is the highest-paid cabaret entertainer ever,” writes Robert Windeler in People magazine. Newton has graced the stages of Las Vegas resort casinos for more than twenty years, performing two high-energy shows per night, seven nights a week, as many as forty weeks per year. His popularity in the nightclub setting is unprecedented; not even Johnny Carson or Frank Sinatra can command the high fees and lengthy engagement contracts that have become commonplace for him. “Nostalgia fans remember Newton as a pudgy, baby-faced, adenoidal tenor with three big hits: ’Heart,’ ‘Danke Schoen,’ and ‘Red Roses for a Blue Lady,’” notes Betsy Carter in Newsweek.” Today, Newton has … cultivated a silky baritone and outfitted himself in sequined cowboy suits—an image that has earned him the Las Vegas billing of The Midnight Idol.’… His mellow blend of pop, rhythm-and-blues, country and rock wins no fewer than five ovations each night from the predominantly middle-aged, Middle American audience.” Esquire contributor Ron Rosenbaum observes that Newton “has built an entertainment empire out of what was once a lounge act, transformed himself into a Tom Jones-type sex symbol, [and] become the highest-grossing entertainer in Las Vegas history” because he “has somehow captured and concentrated, become an emblem of, the essence of Vegasness.”
Wayne Newton was born in 1942 in the Virginia seaport town of Norfolk. Both of his parents were half American Indian—his father Powhatan, his mother Cherokee. When Newton was still young his family moved to the Shenandoah Valley, just west of Norfolk. There, in the town of Roanoke, he began a singing career at the age of five. “By the time I was 61 knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life,” Newton told People. Sometimes alone and sometimes with his brother Jerry, Newton performed on the local radio stations, quickly becoming a minor celebrity.
When Newton was ten, his family moved again, this time to Phoenix, Arizona. His parents thought the desert climate would help his bronchial asthma, and they were proven correct. Newton had his own radio show in Phoenix as a teenager, and at sixteen he dropped out of high school to perform in lounges with his older brother. They began at the Fremont Hotel. According to Windeler, “Wayne was too young to go through the Fremont’s front door, much less into the casino. In the lounge, however, the Newtons were an instant hit. Their two-week contract stretched to 51. They abandoned their Spartan digs in a fleabag motel for an apartment, then a house.”
The brothers realized that lounge singing could be
Born April 3, 1942, in Norfolk, Va.; son of Patrick (an automobile mechanic) and Evelyn (Smith) Newton; married Elaine Okamura (a flight attendant), 1966; children: Erin.
Singer, 1947—. With brother Jerry, singer for radio stations in Roanoke, Va. and Phoenix, Ariz., 1947-58; lounge singer in Las Vegas, Nev., and New York, N.Y., 1958-71; solo performer, principally in Las Vegas, 1971—. Has staged shows at the Sands, Caesar’s Palace, Desert Inn, Ramingo, Frontier Hotel, Harrah’s, the Aladdin, and Tamiment International Resort. Earned first number one hit, “Danke Schoen,” 1963.
Has entertained in numerous nightclubs in the United States and abroad; sang for U.S. troops in Vietnam, 1966, and for troops in Beirut, Lebanon. Television appearances include “Red, White & Wow,” “A Christmas Card,” and “North and South: Book II,” 1986.
Addresses: Office— Flying Eagle, Inc., 3180S. Highland Dr., Suite 1, Las Vegas, Nev. 89109-1042. Other— 6629 S. Pecos, Las Vegas, Nev. 89120.
come a dead-end street, so in 1963 they took their show on the road, opening for Sophie Tucker and Jayne Mansfield. While they were performing at the prestigious Copacabana Lounge in New York City, the Newtons met Bobby Darin, who offered to produce some records with Wayne. Newton scored a million-selling hit with “Danke Schoen” and propelled that success into top bookings in New York and Las Vegas. Both “Danke Schoen” and his other big single, “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” were performed in “an eerie, post-pubescent soprano,” to quote Windeler, marking Newton as an adolescent singer even after he reached twenty-one.
Two factors helped to change Newton’s image from that of a pleasant teen to that of a stage idol. First, he disbanded his partnership with his brother and began to perform solo. Second, he became a favorite of the aging Howard Hughes, who saw to it that Newton always had the best Las Vegas bookings. “For Wayne,” writes Windeler, “the split with his brother was a kind of watershed, a declaration of professional independence that coincided with a hard-won sense of personal freedom…. With Jerry gone, Wayne was his own man at last and anxious to prove it. Having already sweated off his baby fat, he scaled his voice down to a plausible tenor… clipped off his ducktail and pompadour and laid in a flamboyant new wardrobe.” He also settled into the Las Vegas showrooms like no one had ever done before, selling out night after night and eventually earning one million dollars per month.
Although Newton denies that he is dependent upon Las Vegas forhis fame, the fact remains that town and performer are inextricably entwined. Rosenbaum has analyzed the element that contributes to Newton’s domination of the nightclub stage. “At the heart of Wayne’s mesmeric mastery over his audience is the notion of Suspending the Rules,” Rosenbaum writes. “…From the very opening minutes of his act Wayne begins playing on the expectation of something special happening, the dream that tonight some magic suspension of the rules is in the offing—the ultimate unpurchasable Vegas experience…. Having established the illusion that there’s something extremely special going on tonight, some magical show-biz chemistry between himself and his audience, unique to this evening, unique perhaps to his three decades in show business, something so great that he’s ready to keep singing till dawn or till his throat gives out, he then proceeds to Step Three: creating the illusion that the rules have already been violated…. Everyone leaves The Show feeling totally satisfied, thinking how hip, how simpatico, how special the whole evening was; how they’ve been present at one of those rare moments when the rules went by the board; how Wayne drove himself past his own limits, knocking himself out for them…. It take a shrewd and talented showman to pull off an illusion of this sort night after night, show after show.”
This is not to suggest, however, that Newton’s show is founded solely on deception and hype. Newton is not only extremely sensitive to his audience, he is also an able musician who can play eleven instruments—all by ear—and who is equally at home singing pop, country, folk, and big band standards in his three-octave range. In addition, he takes full responsibility for song selection, costumes, lighting, and staging. “There isn’t anything up there onstage that I wasn’t totally involved in,” Newton told People.” I have to take all of the blame and some of the credit. People may dislike Wayne Newton, but they’re never gonna be able to say Wayne Newton didn’t work hard.”
In his spare time, Newton raises Arabian horses and flies light airplanes. He lives outside Las Vegas on a fifty-two acre ranch called Casa De Shenandoah with his daughter, Erin. For a time he owned the Aladdin Casino, but he sold his interest when adverse—and unproven—publicity linked him to organized crime. Finding his reputation sullied by the unsubstantiated charges, Newton sued NBC Television in 1986 and eventually won a settlement. He has since concentrated on performing, and his is still the most coveted ticket in Las Vegas. “I have to entertain,” Newton told People.” If nobody paid me, I’d do it on a street corner.”
Best of Wayne Newton, Capitol.
Esquire, August, 1982.
Newsweek, January 12, 1976; June 2, 1980.
People, April 30, 1979; November 17, 1986.
—Anne Janette Johnson
Newton, Wayne 1942–
Newton, Wayne 1942–
Full name, Carson Wayne Newton; born April 3, 1942, in Roanoke, VA; son of Patrick (an auto mechanic) and Evelyn (maiden name, Smith) Newton; brother of Jerry Newton (a musician); married Elaine Okamura (an airline flight attendant), June 2, 1968 (divorced, July, 1985); married Kathleen McCrone (an attorney), April 9, 1994; children: Erin (a daughter). Politics: Republican. Politics: Republican. Avocational Interests: Issues of concern to Native Americans, karate, the history of the American Civil War, raising Arabian horses, flying light aircraft.
Addresses: Contact—c/o Flying Eagle, Inc., WNIFC, 290 Akron Rd., Lake Worth, FL 33467. Agent—William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Career: Singer, actor, and entertainer. Singer at church functions at age six; with Jerry Newton, host of radio show in Roanoke, VA, c. 1951; with Jerry Newton, performed as part of a musical duo on local television, Phoenix, AZ, then at Fremont Hotel, Las Vegas, NV, 1958–63; performed in numerous nightclubs and concert venues, including Copacabana Night Club, New York City, 1963, Empire Room, Chicago, IL, Holiday House, Pittsburgh, PA, Harrah Club, Lake Tahoe, NV, El Patio, Mexico City, Mexico, Melodyland, Anaheim, CA, Palladium and Talk of the Town, both London, England, Frontier Hotel, Sands Hotel, and Desert Inn, all Las Vegas, NV, Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville, TN, Astrodome, Houston, TX, and in Sydney, Australia; toured the United States, 1983. Entertained troops for United Services Organization (USO) in Vietnam, 1967, Lebanon, 1983, and the Persian Gulf, 1987. Presented numerous performances for benefit of St. John's Indian Mission and School. Aladdin Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas, NV, owner, 1980–82; Tamiment International Resorts, owner.
Awards, Honors: Distinguished recording artist and humanitarian citation, 1971; Entertainer of the Year Award, Variety Clubs of South Nevada, 1973; Male Entertainer of the Year Award, Academy of Variety and Cabaret Artists, 1975; named among ten outstanding young men of America, National Jaycees, 1976; Governor's Award, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1976; Certificate of Appreciation, Governor of Nevada, 1978; Freedom Lantern Award, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1979; named Outstanding Indian Entertainer of the Year, Navajo Nation, 1980; University of Nevada at Las Vegas, L.H.D. degree, 1981; Founders Award, St. Jude's Children's Hospital; Humanitarian Award, AMC Cancer Research Center; award from American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast"; Gold Record, Gold Album, and Platinum Record, Recording Industry Association of America, all for "Danke Schoen"; named distinguished citizen of the year, National Council of Christians and Jews; Saturn Award nomination, best supporting actor, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, 1992, for The Dark Backward.
Mark John Winters, 80 Steps to Jonah, Warner Bros., 1969.
Voice, C'mon Babe (also known as Danke Schoen), 1988.
Professor Joe Butcher, License to Kill (also known as License Revoked), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1989.
Julian Grendel, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990.
Jackie Chrome, The Dark Backward, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, 1991.
Weldon, Best of the Best II, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1993.
Himself, Vegas Vacation (also known as National Lampoon's Las Vegas Vacation and National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation), Warner Bros., 1997.
Elvis Is Alive! I Swear I Saw Him Eating Ding Dongs Outside the Piggly Wiggly's, 1998.
Boxing spectator, Ocean's Eleven (also known as 11 and O11), Warner Bros., 2001.
Peter Mack, Who's Your Daddy? (video), Screen, 2003.
Elvis Has Left the Building, Capitol, 2004.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Guest, The Wonderful World of Burlesque II, NBC, 1966.
Host, One More Time, ABC, 1968.
Host, Opryland U.S.A., NBC, 1973.
Host, The Wayne Newton Special, NBC, 1974.
Happy Birthday, Las Vegas, ABC, 1977.
Host, The Wayne Newton Special, ABC, 1982.
Celebrities Offstage, The Nashville Network, 1990.
Children's Miracle Network Telethon, syndicated, 1991.
Spy Magazine's Hit List: The 100 Most Annoying and Alarming People and Events of 1992 (also known as Spy Magazine 1992 and The Spy 100), NBC, 1992.
A Branson Country Christmas, The Family Channel, 1993.
Robert Schimmel: Guilty as Charged, Showtime, 1994.
"Addicted to Fame," First Person with Maria Shriver, NBC, 1994.
A Night to Die For, 1995.
Las Vegas, Arts and Entertainment, 1996.
"Mr. Vegas All-Night Party Starring Drew Carey," HBO Comedy Hour, HBO, 1997.
Las Vegas on Ice, 1997.
Feed the Children, 1997.
Himself (cameo), Elvis Meets Nixon, Showtime, 1997.
Diff'rent Strokes: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 1998.
Andrew Dice Clay: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 1999.
ABC 2000: The Millennium, ABC, 1999.
Wayne Newton: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 2000.
Intimate Portrait: Jenny Jones (documentary), Lifetime, 2000.
Dana Plato: The E! True Hollywood Story (documentary), E! Entertainment, 2000.
Las Vegas-The American Fantasy (documentary), NBC, 2000.
Burt Reynolds: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 2000.
Jenny Jones: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 2001.
Guest announcer, VH1 Divas Las Vegas, VH1, 2002.
Appeared as a host in Red, White, and Wow! and A Christmas Card.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The 25th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, NBC, 1990.
The 47th Annual Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1990.
The 1996 Billboard Music Awards, 1996.
The 1997 Billboard Music Awards, 1997.
The 2001 Billboard Music Awards, Fox, 2001.
Speaker, The 38th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, CBS, 2003.
Television Appearances; Series:
The Entertainer, E! Entertainment, 2005.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine, CBS, 1962.
Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine, CBS, 1964.
"Lucy Discovers Wayne Newton," The Lucille Ball Show, CBS, 1965.
The Danny Kaye Show, CBS, 1965, 1966.
The Benny Goodman Show, 1966.
Andy, "The Unwritten Commandment," Bonanza, NBC, 1966.
"A Christmas Story," Bonanza, NBC, 1966.
"Lucy Sells Craig To Wayne Newton," Here's Lucy, 1968.
Bonanza, NBC, 1968.
"Lucy and Wayne Newton," Here's Lucy, 1970.
Celebrities Offstage, The Nashville Network, 1990.
Himself, "Viva Las Joey," Full House, ABC, 1990.
Lawyer Brian Byrd, "The Gods Must Be Lawyers," L.A. Law, NBC, 1990.
Himself, "Vegas, Vegas," Roseanne, ABC, 1991.
Country Music Spotlight, The Family Channel, 1994.
Wink Barnum, "The Pit," Tales from the Crypt, HBO, 1994.
Casino manager, "Viva Lost Wages," The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC, 1995.
Doctor, "Secrets and Ellen," Ellen, ABC, 1996.
The Real Las Vegas, 1996.
Going Places, PBS, 1997.
"Wayne Newton: The King of Las Vegas," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 1997.
Harold Wicks, "They Eat Horses, Don't They?," Ally McBeal, 1998.
Voice, Disney's Hercules, ABC/syndicated, 1998.
Himself, The Pretender, NBC, 1999.
"Vegas Baby," According to Jim, ABC, 2003.
Celebrities Uncensored, E! Entertainment, 2003.
"Pros and Cons," Las Vegas, NBC, 2003.
"A Salute to the USO!," War Stories with Oliver North, 2003.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2004.
The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, CBS, 2004.
"Fantasy Camp: Part 1 and 2," My Wife and Kids, ABC, 2004.
Larry King Live, CNN, 2004.
"Waynes World," 7th Heaven, The WB, 2004.
Live with Regis and Kelly, syndicated, 2005.
Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC, 2005.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Major Thomas Turner, "North and South: Book Two," ABC Novels for Television, ABC, 1986.
Television Appearances; Movies:
August Gurino, Night of the Running Man, HBO, 1995.
Television Work; Specials:
Producer of Presidential Inaugural Celebration, CBS.
Television Work; Series:
Executive producer, The Entertainer, E! Entertainment, 2005.
Wayne Newton, Capitol, 1963.
Danke Schoen, Capitol, 1963.
Wayne Newton Sings Hit Songs, Capitol, 1964.
Wayne Newton in Person!, Capitol, 1964.
Summer Wind, Capitol, 1965.
Red Roses for a Blue Lady, Capitol, 1965.
The Old Rugged Cross, Capitol, 1966.
Wayne Newton: Now!, Capitol, 1966.
It's Only the Good Times, Capitol, 1967.
The Best of Wayne Newton (compilation), Capitol, 1967.
Song of the Year: Wayne Newton Style, Capitol, 1967.
God Is Alive, Capitol, 1967.
Walking on New Grass, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Records, 1967.
Wayne Newton: The Greatest, Capitol, 1968.
One More Time, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Records, 1968.
Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast, Chelsea, 1972.
Can't You Hear the Song?, Chelsea, 1972.
Pour Me a Little More Wine, Chelsea, 1973.
While We're Still Young, Chelsea, 1973.
Just a Closer Walk, Word Records, 1973.
The Best of Wayne Newton Live (compilation), Chelsea, 1974.
Everybody Knows Wayne Newton, RCA, 1974.
Tomorrow, Chelsea, 1976.
Christmas Everywhere, Chelsea, 1976.
Change of Heart, Twentieth Century-Fox Records, 1978.
Wayne Newton Live!, Musicor, 1978.
The Best of Wayne Newton Now (compilation), Curb, 1985.
Coming Home, Curb, 1989.
Capitol Collectors Series (compilation), Capitol, 1989.
Merry Christmas from Wayne Newton, Curb, 1990.
God Is Alive, 1991.
Rock of Ages, CEMA, 1992.
Moods and Moments, Curb, 1992.
A Merry Little Christmas, CEMA, 1992.
Showstoppers, CEMA, 1992.
Greatest Hits (compilation), Capitol, 1993.
Christmas Songs, PSM, 1995.
Ultimate (compilation), Bransounds, 1995.
Danke Schoen & Other Hits, EMI-Capitol, 1996.
Branson City Limits, Unison, 1998.
Wild, Cool & Swingin', Capitol/EMI, 1999.
Sings the Hits of the 70's, Varese Vintage, 1999.
Danke Schoen/Red Roses for a Blue Lady, Collectables, 2003.
Best Of, CEMA, 2003.
In Person!, DRG, 2004.
The Real Thing, Bear Family, 2004.
Mr. Las Vegas!, Capitol, 2005.
Other albums include Somewhere My Love and Songs for a Merry Christmas, both Capitol. Popular songs performed by Newton include "Danke Schoen," "Hearts," "Summer Wind," "Red Roses for a Blue Lady," "Dreams of an Everyday Housewife," and "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast."
(With Dick Maurice) Once Before I Go, Morrow (New York City), 1989.
80 Steps to Jonah, 1969.
Esquire, August, 1982.
Insight, May 6, 1991, pp. 42-45.
Interview, September, 1986, p. 241; June, 1990, p. 80.
Newsweek, January 12, 1976; June 2, 1980.
People Weekly, April 30, 1979; November 17, 1986; July 31, 1989, p. 74; April 25, 1994, pp. 108-111.