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From Las Vegas, Wayne Newton Plays Not My Job

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From Las Vegas, Wayne Newton Plays Not My Job

From Las Vegas, Wayne Newton Plays Not My Job

From Las Vegas, Wayne Newton Plays Not My Job

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131457714/131457697" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Wayne Newton performs in Las Vegas
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Las Vegas-based singer and entertainer Wayne Newton has performed tens of thousands of shows, and while he may be the most famous Newton in Vegas, there are other Newtons out there, you know.

So we've invited Wayne to play a game called "Hey, wait a minute ... you don't have a delicious fig filling!" Three questions about the world's other Newtons.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

And now, the game where we invite on big stars and ask them little questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: When we think of Las Vegas, we immediately think of three things. One will bankrupt you; one will get you arrested. But the third is Wayne Newton.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

SAGAL: He has performed tens of thousands of shows here and around the world. Wayne Newton, Mr. Las Vegas, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

WAYNE NEWTON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

NEWTON: Thank you.

SAGAL: So, not the first time you've been on a Las Vegas stage.

NEWTON: No. As a matter of fact, I've been on most of the stages. And frankly, when they started to implode the hotels...

SAGAL: Yeah.

NEWTON: ...you know, I was really upset when they imploded the Sands.

SAGAL: Right. Now, this is one of the old casinos.

KASELL: Yeah, because I was onstage at the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really? So you really brought the house down. Did you...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So when did you first play Vegas?

NEWTON: I played Vegas at the age of 16 years old, in 1959.

SAGAL: Wow.

NEWTON: At the Fremont Hotel downtown, six shows a night, six nights a week.

SAGAL: You were still in school, I remember.

NEWTON: Well, not really. By the time I got here is when I started school.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So tell me, I mean, you are the quintessential Las Vegas entertainer. Can you define that term? What is a Las Vegas entertainer? Is there a style to it?

NEWTON: I think there is. I think there is a style of performing that by virtue of doing it every night, you either get it right or you have a heart attack - or they shoot you. It's one or the other.

SAGAL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: So...

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Do you get to pick?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: No.

ADAM FELBER: At the end of every show.

NEWTON: No, you really don't get to pick.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Because I know some entertainers in town like, get this sort of cultish following - people who devote themselves just to that performer. Has that ever happened to you?

NEWTON: What's wrong with that?

SAGAL: Nothing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I've been looking for it my whole life, but it hasn't worked out yet. You know, did you have a name for your fans, like the Waynettes?

NEWTON: As a matter of fact, they call themselves Wayniacs.

SAGAL: Wayniacs?

FELBER: Oh, that's good.

SAGAL: There we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you played - you were here during the great old "Oceans 11" days with the rat pack and Frank and those guys, and Dino. And you've also, you know, survived into the new Vegas, with the huge casinos and the themed casinos, and the corporations running the town. Which do you prefer?

NEWTON: I actually prefer the older days. I think Las Vegas...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

NEWTON: ...Las Vegas was more personal in those days. There was a camaraderie among performers like Frank and Dean, and Sam and Elvis, and Bobby Darin, and on and on and on - that really doesn't exist anymore.

SAGAL: Was it weird being so young? Because you were a teenager, as you said, when you started in Vegas.

NEWTON: Yes.

SAGAL: Was it odd being a kid, hanging around here?

NEWTON: I didn't know. I mean, the truth of the matter is, I came here, I got hit with six shows a night, six nights a week. And that's about all you have energy for.

SAGAL: You started performing - I had no idea this was true, at the age of 6?

NEWTON: Actually, I started at 4...

SAGAL: Oh, excuse me.

NEWTON: I got paid at 6.

SAGAL: You got paid at 6.

NEWTON: Yeah.

SAGAL: So from 4 to 6 were your amateur days.

NEWTON: Right.

SAGAL: Just doing it for the love of it. At 6, it became all about the money.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FELBER: Five years old, he was just doing three shows a week.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Okay, you're known - your signature song, "Danke Schoen," how did that come to be your song, the Wayne Newton song?

NEWTON: The song was meant for Bobby Darin to record.

SAGAL: Yeah.

NEWTON: And Bobby had seen me on "The Jackie Gleason Show," which was my first national television show, in 1963. He came in to the Copa Lounge, where I was appearing, and he said, are you recording this? No, sir, I'm not. And he said, you are now. Bobby has received "Danke Schoen" for him to follow "Mack the Knife" with.

SAGAL: Yeah.

NEWTON: And he said, I want you to have this song. And he had an acetate record of it - a demonstration record - which you would play at 33 and a third, for those of you who remember those days.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: And Bobby said, I'm going to show you how this will sound now when you record it - because the acetate had been sung by a German baritone singer. So he sped it up to 78 RPMs.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: And that's exactly how I sounded.

SAGAL: Okay, so tell us about your house, which has been in the news lately.

NEWTON: Has it?

SAGAL: You have a beautiful - yeah, it has been. You have a beautiful spread here in Vegas that's called Casa de Shenandoah. Did we get that right?

NEWTON: Yes, that's correct.

SAGAL: And tell us about what that place is like.

NEWTON: It's about 50 acres. We have Arabian horses. We have penguins. We have wallabies. We have all kinds of birds, swans...

SAGAL: I'm sorry, I stopped listening when you said penguins. You have penguins?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: Oh, yes.

SAGAL: How do they like the climate?

NEWTON: They love it.

SAGAL: They do. Really?

NEWTON: Yeah, they're from South Africa. And most people don't realize - and I know this is probably not the forum - but of the 52 species of penguins in the world, there are only three species that are Arctic penguins.

FELBER: It's a stereotype.

NEWTON: That's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: All the others come from South America. They come from the Galapagos Islands. They come from Chile. They cannot take cold weather.

SAGAL: Really?

FELBER: This is so awkward because whenever I have penguins over, I crank up the air-conditioning.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You said you had...

FELBER: I feel like I was being so insulting.

NEWTON: But that's why they die on you - or close by, anyway.

SAGAL: So you have...

FELBER: I thought it was my cooking.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You have a menagerie.

NEWTON: Yes, we do.

SAGAL: You have Arabian horses, you have penguins, you have wallabies.

NEWTON: We do.

SAGAL: What else?

NEWTON: African crown cranes.

SAGAL: Sure.

NEWTON: Horses, dogs, cats, chickens. We have chickens that have been thrown over the fence.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you have this huge - and you have this...

FELBER: Your dogs must feel so inferior. Like, they're the best pet in anybody else's house. And this dog is - looking at it, going oh, there's a crested thing over there and I'm just a...

POUNDSTONE: I was thinking the chickens couldn't feel that good with the African crested cranes and the penguins. The chickens are just totally depressed. Just pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: Now, you can speak plainer than that, come on.

SAGAL: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

POUNDSTONE: Clunk-ka-cluck. Clunk-ka-cluck.

SAGAL: Well, Wayne Newton, we are delighted to have you with us. We have asked you here to play a game entitled?

CARL KASELL, Host:

"Hey, Wait A Minute - You Don't Have A Delicious Fig Filling."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The point is, you may be the most famous Newton, but you're not the only one. We're going to ask you three questions about other Newtons. If you get two right, you'll win our prize on our show, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is legendary entertainer Wayne Newton playing for?

KASELL: Wayne Newton is playing for Rebecca Bendel of Las Vegas.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: There you go. Let's start right in with the Fig Newton. In the mid-'70s, Nabisco tried to market the cookie how? A, creating a dance craze called the Big Fig Newton; B, starting a beauty contest, Miss Fig USA; or C, rolling out a new ad campaign with the slogan: Why Not Just Stuff It?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: Absolutely, Big Fig.

SAGAL: The Big Fig Newton?

NEWTON: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right. You remember that?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I remember that.

NEWTON: It was a good guess though, huh?

POUNDSTONE: It was a very good guess.

SAGAL: It was a very good guess.

POUNDSTONE: It was a skilled guess.

SAGAL: All right, that was good. That was good, Wayne, but here we go. Your next Newton is the Apple Newton. It was one of Apple's only failures, back in the '90s. It was a precursor to like, the Palm Pilot, a personal digital assistant. People remember its handwriting recognition software, which never seemed to work. But where did this software come from, is the question. Where did the handwriting recognition software come from? A, it came to their senior programmer in a dream, but he was interrupted before he could write the whole thing down.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, it was delivered by an anonymous Russian programmer who came to an Apple exec's hotel at midnight, then disappeared forever; or C, Steve Jobs was inspired to created it in order to decipher his own doctor's handwriting?

NEWTON: Definitely the first one.

SAGAL: The first one?

NEWTON: The first one.

SAGAL: It came to the senior programmer in a dream, but he was interrupted before he could write the whole thing down?

NEWTON: Yes.

SAGAL: You're very confident but no, not in this case, you're not correct. It was, in fact, the anonymous Russian programmer.

POUNDSTONE: Oh, wow.

SAGAL: According to the story, an Apple VP was in Moscow when he heard a frantic knocking on his door. He opened it to find a programmer who handed him a disk, and then fled. That software became the basis for the Newton's handwriting recognition. A true story.

FELBER: Please take this, it will bring your company to its knees. Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well this is very exciting because you have one more question to go. If you get this right, you win it all. The last Newton, of course, Olivia Newton John.

POUNDSTONE: Whoa.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I'm guessing you might like...

FELBER: Wow, I really thought we were going for Juice Newton on this one.

SAGAL: No, no - well, we thought of her. Do you know Olivia Newton John?

NEWTON: Very well, yes I do.

SAGAL: I thought you might. Well then, you might know the answer.

POUNDSTONE: Was she related to you before she married Mr. John?

NEWTON: No, she wasn't. No.

POUNDSTONE: No.

SAGAL: She's done a number of great duets in her career, including which of these, just recently: A, she sang "Summer Nights" with one of the rescued Chilean miners?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, with Michelle Obama, she did "Let's Get Physical," in a PSA about exercise? Or C, she sang with Olivia Newton-San, the Japanese cross-dressing Olivia Newton John impersonator?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: Mrs. Obama.

SAGAL: You're going to go for Mrs. Obama?

NEWTON: I'm going to go for Mrs. Obama.

SAGAL: You think so?

NEWTON: I think so.

SAGAL: You sure about that?

NEWTON: I believe it's Mrs. Obama.

SAGAL: Really, you're going to go Mrs. Obama?

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)

SAGAL: I don't know how to tell you this; it was A. It was A. It was with the Chilean miner. She just sang "Summer Nights."

FELBER: She didn't.

SAGAL: This is the Chilean miner...

FAITH SALIE: That's fantastic.

SAGAL: Mr. Pena. He's the guy who sang on Letterman.

NEWTON: Was this before or after?

SAGAL: No, this was just after.

NEWTON: Oh, I see.

SAGAL: She didn't go down in the mine. That would have been amazing if like, they're down there, and the rescue capsule appears and opens up, and it's like, it's Olivia Newton John.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: They sent her down here. That would have been great. But no, he's a big singer and she was there doing a concert, and he came up and they did "Summer Nights" together. It was, apparently, great.

FELBER: That's odd, because all he met all summer were other miners.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That's true. That's a good point.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So Carl, how did Wayne Newton end up doing on our quiz?

KASELL: He needed at least two correct answers to win for Rebecca Bendel, but he had just one correct answer.

SAGAL: That's the first time you have not succeeded on a Las Vegas stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: Well, it's probably the first time it's been broadcast nationally.

SAGAL: That's true.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Fair enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Ladies and gentlemen, Wayne Newton is Mr. Las Vegas.

NEWTON: Thank you.

SAGAL: Wayne Newton, thank you so much for being here.

NEWTON: Thank you.

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