Mr. Las Vegas is a unique show-biz figure—or two
By STEVE FRIESS
What this Wayne Newton is saying about the other Wayne Newton could seem convoluted and a bit vainglorious, but after speaking to him for a bit more than an hour, I think I’m getting it. He’s describing a scene filmed for Vegas Vacation that he successfully had nixed from the 1997 release.
The original script called for somebody called Wayne Newton to lecherously tell Beverly D’Angelo’s character, Ellen Griswold, that he wants her to become a “Newton broad.” She asks what that means and he tells her that it’s a woman who has had “a nose job, a boob job and a butt job.” Then Wayne would part a curtain to reveal 200 such women.
“When I got the script, I went to the director and I said, ‘This is one scene that Wayne Newton can’t do,’” he recalls. “Notice my verbiage. Not that I can’t do, that Wayne Newton can’t do. Wayne Newton is almost in some ways a third party. I almost become a protector of Wayne Newton that way. It becomes humorous, because they write things that Wayne Newton cannot say as Wayne Newton, you know?”
I do. I went into my first interview with the Wayner early this month with a very specific impression of what he’d be like, only to realize that there are at least two—and maybe more—Wayne Newtons.
In fact, Wayne Newton is a peculiar show-biz animal, the likes of which there may be no modern peer. Sure, there are actors like Michael Cera, Joe Pesci or Sandra Bullock who always play the same sort of characters, and there are personalities like Larry King or Oscar Goodman who pop up here and there as themselves.
But Wayne Newton is an actor and singer whose image has been so completely swallowed by a certain persona—the sunny, buffoonish, slightly-but-never-explicitly sleazy elevated-lounge-lizard representation of an older Vegas era—that his only choice is to play it on screen and stage.
In fact, I can be forgiven for expecting that Wayne Newton when we spoke, because that was the Wayne Newton I met the prior evening at a meet-and-greet before his show at the Tropicana. He appeared then in a black velour smoking jacket, with a grove of chest hair a-popping, kissing my female companion so frequently that half his smooches ended up in her hair because she wasn’t paying close enough attention.
Then he got on the stage in Once Before I Go, told his story from 15-year-old Vegas wunderkind to aging survivor of the tuxedo-clad Vegas era before a 23-piece orchestra, his voice significantly, uh, weathered and almost nobody in the audience caring a whit.
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