Q&A: Wayne Newton
No entertainer’s name is more closely and inextricably tied to Las Vegas than Wayne Newton. That’s why it makes so much sense that he’s now performing at Caesars Palace (Monday through Wednesday), a union of two Vegas legends. “Caesars has almost been like the flagship for Las Vegas over the years, so it’s really wonderful and exciting to go back there,” says Newton, who has performed in so many Strip resorts throughout his incredible career. “Come May I’m celebrating my 60th year performing in Las Vegas. I’m looking forward to the next 60.” Las Vegas Magazine’s Brock Radke recently spoke with Mr. Las Vegas.
You’ve certainly performed at Caesars Palace before but what’s it like to take your show to Cleopatra’s Barge now?
It’s really interesting to me because when I look at the original showroom I played and Frank (Sinatra) played and all those performers, they did away with that one. That’s when they built the (OmniMax) and all that stuff. This one is the Barge and that was a totally different kind of room also, but when they asked me to go look at it, I made some suggestions I thought would benefit our show and the other performers there and Caesars was really nice about it. Anything we wanted, they were ready to do. So it’s kind of like being home again.
What changes are you planning for the show?
We’re adding some musicians and some singers. We spent three years at Bally’s and it was very nice and I enjoyed it and I watched the show really morph into something that was not anticipated when we started. I think from that growth and change, we’ll be doing more music than we did at Bally’s. It gave me a chance, if you’ll pardon the pun, to really get up close and personal with the audience and find out what it is they truly want to hear and what they want to know about.
It sounds like you’ll continue to tell some of those great stories from your career.
Maybe not as much, maybe a little more live music than we did. But we’re going to keep a lot of those stories because it’s amazing how many people do not know so much about our city and the evolution of Las Vegas. When I came here in 1959 there were around 70,000 people and now we’re looking at 2/5 million. We’ve grown into a major city and I think we as performers need to realize we have to grow and assimilate in different ways to stay relevant and have the people enjoy what we’re doing.
What are your thoughts on the current Strip phenomenon of the resident headliner? Do you think that will continue to be a dominant force in Vegas entertainment?
I think it’s finally come back to what it was when I came here. You could drive up and down the Strip and there was always a major star at each hotel. Now we’ve been moving back to that star policy and I’m thrilled about it because it’s really what started this town and started people coming here. There’s this new group coming here and making this their home venue and I think it’s a big plus and I see it continuing.
You’re still popping up in movies and TV. Do you have a favorite role or cameo appearance you’ve done over the years?
Oh yes, of course. I have one coming out this year we shot in Canada called Puppy Love and do a cameo in that. But my favorite so far would have to be Vegas Vacation simply because so much of it is Las Vegas, and working with Chevy (Chase) and all those people was such a ball. And it’s still taking on a whole new life. I was walking through an airport about a month ago and there was a lady walking toward me with her son who I took to be around 9 years old, and he started grabbing his mother’s sleeve when he saw me. As they got closer and he was more sure it was me, he yelled, “Mom, look, there’s that guy that played Wayne Newton in ‘Vegas Vacation’!” (Laughs) It was kind of humbling, but at the same time it was a lot of fun.