- One of the All-Time Greatest Performers
Wayne Newton’s act grosses more than Elvis or Sinatra ever did: a million dollars a month, making him the highest-paid entertainer in nightclub history. The show he puts on is twice as long as those of other Vegas entertainers and includes fog machines, a spaceship, tight pants, buckets of kisses, sweat, tears, and a costume.
Part Native American, Newton was a musical prodigy at six, a regular on all the hit fifties TV variety shows by sixteen, and, with his brother Jerry, was a downtown Vegas act at 17. Regardless, the clean-cut cherub grew depressed until, at twenty-one, pop idol Bobby Darin produced Newton’s weird hit single, “Danke Schoen.” The hits ended when his soprano voice lowered, and though his Vegas popularity grew, the rest of the country (led by Johnny Carson, whom Newton threatened to knock on his ass) mocked his baby face, flabby body, and sissy voice. Newton retooled his image in his late thirties, as “the Midnight Idol” (a.k.a. “Mr. Excitement”), learned karate, grew a mustache and hair on his chest, and honed his act into a slick money-making machine. He acquired the Aladdin Casino, an Arabian horse ranch (with a swimming pool for the horses), and the 50-acre Casa Shenandoah (with eight guest houses, twenty cars, a jet, a helicopter, a flock of albino peacocks, and a snake rehab center). He lost a libel suit against NBC in 1991 (the network had reported that Newton had used mob money to buy the Aladdin hotel), and had to declare bankruptcy in 1992, with over $20 million in debts.