Mel shields: Wayne Newton's still got plenty up his sleeve

02/03/2012 12:00 AM

02/02/2012 9:49 AM

Ironically and somewhat sadly, the Las Vegas Strip has little room these days for Mr. Las Vegas.

So, consummate showman Wayne Newton has been appearing at Indian casinos across the country regularly for the past several years. His latest engagement will come Saturday at Cache Creek Casino Resort outside Sacramento.

"It's wild, all these changes," Newton said of corporate Vegas, in a telephone interview. "I have to be very careful how I say this, but in those earlier days in Las Vegas, when things were run by 'those people,' things were run very well, actually better than large corporations. If I had a question, I could go to just one guy, for instance, and an answer would come and a decision would be made.

"I knew the man Robert De Niro played in 'Casino,' for instance. (The character in the movie was Sam Rothstein, based on the real-life Frank Rosenthal.) In some ways I sure miss the old days when there was a mystique to Las Vegas."

Newton acquired the nickname "Mr. Las Vegas" in those days, which he has always appreciated but sometimes disputed because of the other giant personalities that have played there. But now he has no regular gigs in Las Vegas.

However, he's working to re-create that mystique, not on the Strip but on Sunset Road across the street from his Casa de Shenandoah. It is there he has plans to build a Las Vegas Hall of Fame, complete with a showroom in which he will perform.

"I'm going to pattern that room after the old Copa at the Sands. I want an intimate and saloonish atmosphere, as opposed to the stadium seating in all the showrooms nowadays. Those were the days of the maitre d', and even though they could be intimidating, there was something special about taking your wife or girlfriend into a showroom and slipping him a $20 or $50.

"Those times were amazing. I remember the maitre d' at the Sands coming in after the early show and asking if he could borrow a drawer in my dressing room. Then he would reach into his pockets and pull out all these bills and put them in there, making room for the second show."

The idea for the hall of fame came to Newton "like a ton of bricks" when he realized that football, baseball and rock 'n' roll all have their halls of fame and were big tourist attractions, but there was none in Vegas where all of those big stars – he mentions Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Elvis – played so many times.

"It's long overdue, and I think maybe we can have a television special every year honoring the inductees," Newton said.

Meanwhile, across the street sits his famous residence, behind large fencing. Only treetops and the tail fin of a Fokker F-28 small airliner are visible, once his private plane but now stripped down and surrounded by trees.

"People drive by or are on tours and wonder what is on the other side of those walls," Newton said. "Now, we are going to be running shuttles onto the property, and they can see the horses and my home. We've built a couple of new barns and a new garage, which will house my antique cars. A few will be let into the main floor of the house to see my Red Room."

When Newton had the house built, he insisted to "my then-wife" that he have one room exclusively his. His favorite color is red, and so he installed "red velour wall coverings and red furniture."

He also uses it to hold part of his massive memorabilia collection, some of which will be transferred to the hall of fame.

"A lot of it was given to me and inscribed to me by the entertainers," he explained. "The visit to Shenandoah will be special. It's a property with artesian wells and lakes, and when you're here, you can't believe you're in the middle of the desert. It's like you're in Virginia or Connecticut."

Although Newton cheerfully answered all the questions about his planned hall of fame, he also talked about the show he's bringing to Cache Creek.

"I'm pretty excited about what we've come up with," he said. "I'm showing some film clips of my career, times I appeared with other entertainers. They're on film, and I sing with them live.

"It's been a tremendous success, and for me, it's wonderful because it takes me back to earlier times and places."

(8 p.m. Saturday; 14455 Highway 16, Brooks; $49, $50, $75; (800) 772-2243,

Elsewhere this week

The Super Bowl gives Nevada its biggest betting day, and there is hardly a casino without special promotions for Sunday's game. Many of them have former NFL stars attending the broadcast, such as the Eldorado's Frank Hawkins of the Raiders, Dan McGwire of the Seahawks and Dolphins, and Quinn Early of the Chargers and Saints (345 N. Virginia St., in Reno); or Thunder Valley's Anthony Bell of the Raiders and Cardinals, Anthony Simmons of the Seahawks and Chargers, and Adrian Ross of the Bengals (1200 Athens Ave., Lincoln).

Comedy prevails in Reno with a teaming of Bobby Collins and Bobby Slayton at John Ascuaga's Nugget on Saturday (8 p.m.; 1100 Nugget Ave., Sparks; $20; 800-648-1177 or

Harrah's Reno's launch of late-night comedy in Sammy's Showroom tonight and Saturday features Jimmy Shubert (10:30 p.m.; 219 N. Center St., Reno; $20; 775-788-2900,

And Bill Maher, who recently appeared in Sacramento, will be at the Silver Legacy on Saturday (8 p.m.; 407 N. Virginia St., Reno; $45.50, $60.50; 800-687-8733,

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