Mr. Las Vegas
“Las Vegas and I both grew up together and all of a sudden I was doing things that no performer had ever done before.” Wayne Newton
Singer and actor Wayne Newton earned the nicknames “Mr. Las Vegas,” “The King of Las Vegas” and “The Midnight Idol” after performing in over 30,000 shows in Las Vegas since making his debut in 1962. His notable engagements include an exclusive 10 year contract with the Stardust Hotel, which ended in 2005 after six years. As a recording artist, Newton is best remembered for releasing the multi platinum single “Danke Schoen” (1963) with the Newton Brothers, as well as the gold record “Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast” (1972), his most successful single on the Billboard Hot 100 (#4). He also scored Top 10 hits on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart with the songs “Red Roses For a Blue Lady” (1965), “Summer Wind” (1965) and “Can't You Hear the Song” (1972). Newton made his film acting debut in “80 Steps to Jonah” (1969), but became widely known twenty years later with his portrayal of Professor Joe Butcher in “Licence to Kill” (1989). He has since acted in many films, including “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” (1990, received a Razzie nomination), “The Dark Backward” (1991, nabbed a Saturn nomination), “Vegas Vacation” (1997), “Ocean's Eleven” (2001) and “Smokin' Aces” (2006). He has also appeared in countless TV shows, including “Tales from the Crypt,” “Renegade,” “Ally McBeal” and “Full House.”
Newton had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his recording career. In 2000, he was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame. He was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in 2008.
Newton has been married twice. He has two daughters, Erin (adopted) and Lauren Ashley (with current wife Kathleen McCrone, born through a surrogate mother). A long time asthmatic, Newton suffered from cardiomyopathy in 2007 but has since recovered.
A graduate of North High School, Newton flew his senior class and their spouses and partners to Las Vegas for a night’s stay featuring his stage show and a barbecue at his ranch in 1979 for the 20th anniversary of his class reunion.
Newton was a close friend to Elvis Presley, whom he met while they worked at Paramount.
Childhood and Family:
Carson Wayne Newton was born to Patrick Newton, an auto mechanic, and Evelyn Marie Smith Newton on April 3, 1942, in Roanoke, Virginia. His father was of Irish and Powhatan Indian origin and his mother of German/Cherokee Indian descent. When he was a child, his parents took him to a show that passed through their town and he decided he wanted to become a performer. By age 6, he had learned to play the piano, guitar and steel guitar. During this period, young Wayne landed his own show at a local radio station and occasionally performed at assemblies and church functions for his school. He also founded a musical group with his older brother Jerry.
Wayne struggled with his health after he was diagnosed with allergies and asthma. In 1952, the family relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, in order to get to a warmer climate and they moved to Newark, Ohio, a few years later when Wayne was healthier. However, the family moved back to Arizona as soon as they discovered that the rough Ohio winter worsened the boy's asthma. Wayne graduated from North High School in Phoenix.
On June 1, 1968, Wayne married Elaine Okamura, but they divorced in 1985. Prior to the divorce, they adopted one daughter named Erin. He next married Kathleen McCrone, an attorney, on April 9, 1994. The couple welcomed their first child, daughter Lauren Ashley, via a surrogate mother on April 29, 2002.
Wayne Newton began his professional career at age 6 when he scored a morning radio show. He also performed locally before starting a musical group with his older brother Jerry. The Newton Brothers toured with the Grand Old Opry on weekends and played private parties. His career, however, was somewhat hindered by health problems and his family moved to Arizona. When they lived in Ohio, the boys performed each Sunday at Hill Billy Park.
Newton's career increased significantly while living in Arizona. He and his brother performed frequently on the television show “Lew King Show” and were later invited to audition for a lounge post at a Las Vegas hotel, the Fremont Hotel. The boys ended up signing a two week engagement, but their acts proved to be favorites among audiences and they would continue performing six shows a day for five years. The Newton Brothers made their debut performance on “The Jackie Gleason Show: The American Scene Magazine” in 1962. Newton would return to the show several more times over the next two years.
Newton's talent attracted big names in the industry and he gained support from entertainment icons like George Burns, Lucille Ball, Danny Thomas, Jack Benny and Bobby Darin. Benny hired him as an opening act for his show. After his work with Benny ended, Newton emerged as a headliner at the world renowned Flamingo Hotel. At the suggestion of Bobby Darin, the group changed their stage name from the Newton Brothers to Wayne Newton.
Newton and his brother appeared in an episode of “The Lucy Show,” called “Lucy Discovers Wayne Newton” (1965). They then made appearances in the popular series “Bonanza” (1966) episodes “The Unwritten Commandment” and “A Christmas Story,” in which the younger Newton was cast as Andy Walker. He also appeared in two episodes of Lucille Ball's show “Here's Lucy” during the late and early 1970s. By the late 1960s, Newton had made his big screen debut with the lead role of Mark Jonah Winters in “80 Steps to Jonah” (1969), a drama directed by Gerd Oswald. He also wrote the songs “My World,” “If I Could Be to You” and “Tender Loving Care” for the soundtrack.
Newton recorded a number of songs during the 1960s for Capitol and George Records. His first single, “Heart (I Hear You Beating)” (1963, with the Newton Brothers) hit the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 82. It was followed by “Shirl Girl” (1963), which peaked at No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 18 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. However, it was not until the boys released “Danke Schoen” that the then-21 year old Newton scored his first big hit. Produced by Bobby Darin, the song made the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 (#13) and rose to No. 3 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.
After the success, Wayne went on to record as a solo act for Capitol. Under the guidance of Darlin, he released various singles, including “The Little White Cloud That Cried” (1964), “Comin' On Too Strong” (1965), “I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time” (1965), “Summer Wind” (1965), “Remember When” (1965), “Some Sunday Morning” (1965), “Games That Lovers Play” (1966), “Sunny Day Girl” (1967), "Summer Colors” (1967), “Through the Eyes of Love” (1967), “Love of the Common People” (1967), “All the Time” (1968), “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” (1968), “Husbands and Wives” (1968) and “(I Guess) The Lord Must Be In New York City” (1969). His cover of the Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett popular song “Red Roses For a Blue Lady” (1965) peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also rose to No. 4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, becoming his first Top 10 hit on the chart after his signature song “Danke Schoen.”
Newton began recording with the new label Chelsea in the early 1970s. His next huge break arrived in 1972 when he released “Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast.” The song went to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. It sold over one million pieces and was certified gold by RIAA in July 1972. The song also charted at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs. Later that same year, Newton released “Can't You Hear the Song” and “Anthem.” From 1973 to 1979, Newton released the singles “Pour Me a Little More Wine” (#26 US AC), “While We're Young” (#107 US), “Lady Lay” (#47 US AC), “The Hungry Years” (#82 US; #11 US AC), “You Stepped Into My Life” (#90 US) and “I Apologize” (#45).
Newton was featured in many television shows during the 1970s, such as “The Pearl Bailey Show,” “The Mike Douglas Show,” “The Dean Martin Show,” “The Phil Donahue Show” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” He also appeared in several TV specials, including “Vegas! Vegas! Vegas!” (1977) and “Happy Birthday, Las Vegas” (1977) and sporadically landed acting roles in the television series “Switch” (3 episodes, 1976-1977), “Flying High” (1 episode, 1978) and “Vega$” (1 episode, 1979).
When his voice began to lower, Newton decided to concentrate more on his Las Vegas show and by the 1980s, had been established as the “King of Las Vegas.” He surpassed any other performer in his collection of Entertainer of the Year awards and created history for being the highest paid nightclub performer in the world. Newton branched as an entrepreneur in 1980 when he became part owner of the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. He attempted to purchase the entire property in 1983, but was unsuccessful.
Newton released the single “Years” in 1980. It went to No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 40 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Nine years later, he released the single “While the Feeling's Good” with Tammy Wynette, (1989) which charted at No. 63 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs. It marked Newton's last recording to date. On the acting front, Newton landed the notable supporting role of Captain Thomas Turner in the ABC TV miniseries “North and South, Book II” (1986), opposite Kirstie Alley and David Carradine, guest starred in “The Highwayman” (1989) and portrayed Professor Joe Butcher in the James Bond film “Licence to Kill” (1989), which starred Timothy Dalton. In 1982, he starred on the TV special “The Wayne Newton Special.”
After “Licence to Kill,” Newton focused more on his film career. He costarred with Andrew Dice Clay in the Renny Harlin “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” (1990), from which he was nominated for a 1991 Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Julian Grendel, worked with Judd Nelson and Bill Paxton on Adam Rifkin's “The Dark Backward” (1991), in which he was handed a Saturn for Best Supporting Actor, supported Eric Roberts and Chris Penn in the sequel “Best of the Best 2 (1993, directed by Robert Rodler), had a featured role on Mark L. Lester's “Night of the Running Man” (1995), portrayed himself in the Chevy Chase comedy “Vegas Vacation” (1997) and appeared in “Elvis Is Alive! I Swear I Saw Him Eating Ding Dongs Outside the Piggly Wigglys” (1998). Newton also made guest appearances in TV shows like “Full House” (1990), “L.A. Law” (1991), “Roseanne” (1991), “Perfect Strangers” (1992), “Tales from the Crypt” (1994), “Renegade” (2 episodes, 1994-1995), “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1995), “Ellen” (1997), “Ally McBeal” (1998) and “Hercules” (1998, as the voice of King Croesus).
Newton remained popular in Las Vegas in the 1990s and performed his 25,000th solo show in 1994. In 1999, he singed an exclusive 10 year contract with the Stardust Hotel, but would terminate the deal in 2005 in order to focus on his family. He went on to perform at the Hilton Hotel in the summer of 2005.
Newton was featured as a boxing spectator in the 2001 film “Ocean's Eleven.” He then played Peter Mark in the direct to video film “Who's Your Daddy” (2003) and had an unaccredited part in “Elvis Has Left the Building” (2004), which starred Kim Basinger. He then appeared in Joe Carnahan's “Smokin' Aces” (2006), starring Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta and in episodes of the TV shows “The Pretender” (2000), “According to Jim” (2003), “My Wife and Kids” (2004), “7th Heaven” (2004) and “Las Vegas” (3 episodes, 2003-2006). He also portrayed Jack Handelman in “Kingdom Hospital” (2004) and appeared in “Funny or Die Presents ...” (2010). In October 2009, Newton began performing his new show “Once Before I Go” at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, which is based on his 1989 memoir of the same name.
Newton will portray Bruce in “Getting Back to Zero,” a 2010 film directed by Roger Roth, and Sankey in director Dana Packard's dramatic “40 West” (2011), opposite Jennifer Nichole Porter, who also wrote the screenplay.
Woodrow Wilson Award: Public Service, 2008
Nevada: Entertainer of the Year Award, (numerous wins)