Wayne's World: Mr. Entertainment Brings Sin City Style to Shooting StarMAHNOMEN, Minn – To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Shooting Star Casino called the one person who might know more about how to play to a casino crowd than anyone else – Wayne Newton.
By: John Lamb, Forum Communications
MAHNOMEN, Minn – To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Shooting Star Casino called the one person who might know more about how to play to a casino crowd than anyone else – Wayne Newton.
With more than 50 years performing on the Las Vegas strip and over 30,000 shows under his cummerbund, Mr. Entertainment has earned the nickname.
Newton plays Shooting Star Friday night. But he’s not the only start celebrating the casino’s anniversary. Other headliners throughout this month include Martina McBride on May 11, Lynyrd Skynyrd May 18 and Randy Travis May 25.
Playing a tribal casino means something extra special for Newton, whose mother was part Cherokee and his father part Powhatan.
“Without being very vocal, because I think sometimes we can affect social changes with sometimes a twinkle in the eye, a smile on the face, versus, standing on a soap box, I truly believe Indian gaming is one of the best things to happen to the Native American people after the government moved them from their homelands and stuck them in the corners of the world,” Newton says.
While he performs in Vegas casinos two weeks of every month and owns a ranch just off the Vegas strip, the 70-year-old says getting out of Sin City is a breath of fresh air. Though the touring show is somewhat similar to Newton’s Vegas set, he says he doesn’t have a set show and instead reads the crowd within the first three songs.
Fans can be fairly certain they’ll hear the crooner’s standards, “Daddy, Don’t You Walk So Fast,” “Years,” “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” and of course, “Danke Schoen.”
The one thing fans can see is the Midnight Idol shine on a number of instruments. He plays 13 instruments and says Friday night he’ll likely play piano, guitar, banjo, violin and depending on the show, maybe the drums.
When he was just 15, Newton moved to Vegas in 1959 with his older brother Jerry. The musicians had an act and soon found themselves doing six lounge shows a night, 40 minutes on, 20 minutes off, six nights a week for five years. (He says his personal record was working 36 weeks without a day off.)
“You can’t sing that much without blowing your throat,” he says.
So he started playing a number of instruments to allow his voice a rest in the set.
“People say, ‘I’m surprised you didn’t get messed up in drugs and partying and all of that.’ ” He says. “But when you’re working that much and that hard, you’re too damn tired. You go back, go to sleep and get ready for the next day.”
He’s seen Vegas go through ups and downs and tastes come and go. (While the Cirque tickets have been hot for a decade, he says it wasn’t long ago everyone flocked to impersonators like Rich Little and Fred Travalena.)
Newton’s current stage show incorporates video work featuring clips with his late Sammy Davis Jr. or Dean Martin allowing Newton to again sing with his old pals.
Asked if he sees himself as the last of the great Vegas entertainers, he shrugs.
“There’s probably some truth to that, but I don’t think of it a lot simply because I don’t live in the past,” Newton says.
He admits missing some of the old landmarks and thinks the city has lost its history, “other than maybe the mob museum.”
The Vegas makeover isn’t the only one he views warily. He doesn’t like how young singers are treated on televised talent shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
“The first thing they do is try to change them into that mold I call – and this is not meant in a derisive way – but I call it the Disney mode. They want to change what it is they are as opposed to letting them evolve and learn their trade,” he says.
“It’s necessary at some point in time to develop a sound that people can recognize, people can know who it is without sounding like 50 different people who sound alike,” he says, noting that he’s released 165 albums.
“Of course, that was when they were still called albums.”
If you go
What: Wayne Newton
When: 8 p.m., Friday
Where: Shooting Star Casino, Mahnomen, Minn.
Info: Tickets are $20 - $45. (800) 313-7469