Justin M. Bowen
Published Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | 6:44 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | noon
It’s an only-in-Vegas legal action, featuring Strip icon Wayne Newton, a miffed and grounded pilot, and some slightly confused reps from the world’s second-largest hotel.
As reported by The Hollywood Reporter a couple of weeks ago and picked up here, Newton has been successfully sued by one Monty Ward for back wages, legal expenses and interest for the sum of $455,250. Newton’s chief (unintentional reference to Newton’s Cherokee and Powhatan heritage) source of income in Vegas is the MGM Grand. He has performed one set of dates at the Hollywood Theatre this year, from Feb. 28-March 4 (missing the March 1 show because of illness), and a company representing Newton identified as Newton’s Erin Miel Inc. would be paid $33,004.89, according to court documents, for those appearances.
However, again according to court documents (light reading, these), the MGM Grand is unsure if any or all monies earned by Newton will be payable directly to him, confusion stemming from the wage garnishment ruling Ward was a-Warded in February. Ward is a private pilot who once flew Newton to his various gigs across the country; I expect he made a few landings on dirt runways as Newton will visit just about any land mass (even those in danger of attack) to put on a show. Newton has long ceased using Ward’s services, but Ward filed suit in 2006 claiming he was owed payment for time served, even if it was on the ground (a la Ted Striker). On Jan. 27, a District Court judge issued a ruling that Ward was to be paid the more-than $450,000; more than $38,000 in legal fees. The next chance to collect was Newton’s performances at the MGM Grand, which of course was thrilled to sort out this compendium of legal and financial issues.
The hotel since has hired Martin Kravitz of the Las Vegas law firm Kravitz, Schnitzer, Sloane, Johnson & Eberhardy for legal representation and has filed suit against Ward and Newton in U.S. District Court, asking for an interpleader to make a ruling on payment.
“We’ll ask a federal judge to determine how payment is to be issued,” Martin Kravitz said today during a phone conversation. “We’re scratching our heads. Is all of the money going to (Ward)? Fifty percent?” Kravitz described the motion as procedural, and that ideally that money would be given as a deposit to the court, which would then determine who gets how much. There is no court date set, as both sides would need to agree on a date to appear in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, though if Newton is involved, fire up the smoke machines. Maybe we can sign Tom Dreesen as the opening act to add some real Old Vegas flair.
Further complicating matters in this production is that MGM Grand and Erin Miel Inc. are in what is termed an “unsigned contract,” which might work if you’re a member of the Four Seasons, but not always.
Also today, before he provided acting tips for members of the Boys & Girls Club of Las Vegas at the CineVegas Clubhouse, Newton said that a percentage of his wages he earned at the MGM Grand – not the full amount – would go to Ward. As Newton described it, the two sides did settle on an amount, but in question is when those payments are due. When I asked if the money he is to earn at the MGM Grand through the end of this year – which would be nearly $150,000, based on his first set of dates – Newton said, “A percentage. Not all of it.” The court documents show future dates at the MGM Grand as April 23-29, Sept. 24-30 and Oct. 22-28. I’ll be in the house at some point, oh yes. Listen for the audience member requesting, “Come Fly With Me.” That’ll be me.
On that Airplane reference
According to IMDb, David Letterman screen-tested for the role of Ted Striker, which of course went to Robert Hays.
And from The Venetian …
I understand that Venetian/Palazzo President Rob Goldstein was at work today. That qualifies as some sort of sign of stability, given the seismic shift in the hierarchy at Las Vegas Sands – top executives Brad Stone and William Weidner have resigned over the past week – but I am hearing there is another announcement, a biggie, coming soon from the company.
Signs of a recession
Barber and Las Vegas Mayor Pro-Tem Gary Reese, who has had the same chair at Gary and Derrill’s Plaza Barber Shop for 35 years, says his business is down 30 to 40 percent from a year ago. I know this because I visited the shop at Bonanza and Eastern last week for a shave and a haircut, which will be part of a multimedia installment of The Kats Report that will shake the world of Web journalism to its very core! Core, I tell you!
So, fewer people (in this case, fewer males) are visiting the groomer. Also, in a totally unrelated development and without warning, Las Vegas Athletic Clubs have doubled the cost of renting a towel, from $2 to $4. Also-also, in yet another unrelated development, Chocolate Swan - the haven of sweets at Mandalay Place – has closed.
And yet …
Saturday I took Bonnie in for a good grooming. Bonnie’s my cat, incidentally. I took her to Dog’s Best Friend up on West Charleston, behind Flex and next to some occult-themed knickknack shop. As it happened, it had been exactly one year to the day that Bonnie had been most recently shaved down. I asked how business is going, and it’s going wonderfully at the place where you have your animals clipped for $50, but not so well where you can get a haircut for $12. I don’t know what that says about our culture, but my haircut is a lot more stylish than Bonnie’s.