Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When what to my wondering eyes should appear...

Mere minutes ago I was walking home after a short but successful session at Binion's (I have a big task at home that I've been procrastinating for too long, and simply must tackle it tonight, so I had to settle for a hit-and-run), when I noticed a video camera and spotlight trained on somebody, with a small crowd gathering around. I stopped to see what was going on.

It was none other than Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton.

As I overheard it, the crew was from "CBS Sunday Morning," doing a feature on Newton because there is some sort of museum or display--in New York City, I think--opening this week that has him in it. Sorry I can't give you more details; they weren't exactly handing out press releases, I had to just hear snippets of information here and there. It's entirely possible I got caught in the background in some shots, though I wasn't trying to--I was trying to get on the same side of him as the camera!

I lived in Las Vegas for two years back in 1980-1982, and even then I remember hearing rumors that Newton was starting every show with an apology for his raspy voice, blaming it on a "cold." Apparently his singing voice has completely fallen apart over the ensuing years. The critics are not being kind to his latest (and allegedly last) show, at the Tropicana. This one notes that he heard Newton make excuses for the rough voice back in 1995, while this one says that the voice is "ghastly," "like the Vegas Chainsaw Massacre," and notes that the man "can barely speak, let along sing."

It's sad. Every time I walk to or from one of the downtown poker rooms I pass this plaque in the street, at the southwest corner of Fremont and 7th:

Fifty years is a long time to be performing more or less continuously, at one venue or another, in Vegas. Gotta give the guy credit for longevity, and for knowing how to stretch his time well past the allotted 15 minutes of fame.

Then again, there's something to be said for a dignified retirement. One of the keys to successfully playing poker for a living is knowing how to quit while you're ahead. I'm guessing that Wayne Newton doesn't play a lot of poker.


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