Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2014

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New Strip venture takes a walk with Newton

A couple of hundred "Wayniacs," members of the Wayne Newton Friends fan club, cheered for their hero Tuesday at the New Frontier as he became the first entertainer whose name will appear on the fledgling Walk of Stars.

The Walk, patterned after the Hollywood Walk of Fame (which has more than 2,200 names embedded in its sidewalk) eventually will stretch from Sahara Avenue, down the west side of the Strip to Russell Road and back again down the east side -- a total of eight miles.

"It's almost impossible to articulate my feelings," Newton said. "On the way over here, driving from the (Casa de Shenandoah) ranch, I was thinking, 'How do I adequately thank these people -- what do you say that doesn't sound corny or trite?'

"I finally decided I was just going to come here and say what I felt from the heart and hoped that it meant something."

The idea first surfaced more than three months ago, when it was presented to the Clark County Commissioners for approval. At the time Newton didn't know he would be the first to be honored.

"When I heard the county commissioners were considering it I thought, 'What a wonderful idea.' I could think of so many who deserved the honor. It is long overdue. I'm sorry it didn't happen sooner."

He was appreciative of receiving the first star.

"This is the kind of award that one never contemplates in their life," he said.

Newton, 62, and his brother, Jerry, arrived in Las Vegas in 1959 and performed at the Fremont for two years. After performing at other venues, he began an association with the Frontier that began in 1967 and lasted until 1980.

"It was owned by Howard Hughes," Newton said. "Then he bought the Desert Inn and the Sands, and I would perform in all three places, but this was my home base.

"One time I performed 36 weeks without a break, two shows a night."

Robert Alexander, chief of the Palm Springs, Calif.-based Motion Picture Hall of Fame Foundation, heads the Vegas nonprofit venture, which will donate $750 from each $15,000 star to a trust fund for the homeless.

"This is the entertainment capital of the world," Alexander said. "It eventually will rival Hollywood Boulevard. In the past 50 years as many stars have played and lived in Las Vegas as in Hollywood."

Newton was an obvious first choice to begin the Walk.

"He is Mr. Las Vegas," Alexander said. "He has been performing in Las Vegas longer than any performer we can find.

"We decided to put his star at the New Frontier because he played here longer than at any other hotel in Las Vegas."

Alexander says individuals of the 25-member nominating committee propose candidates for stars. The committee meets monthly.

"The committee is made up of entertainers, historians, humanitarians, civic leaders and pioneers," Alexander said. "Any member can nominate someone and then the members vote."

The $15,000 price of the granite in which the star is embedded is paid for by friends, fans, family and sponsors.

Newton currently is performing at the Stardust. When the engagement ends in November he will begin a Christmas tour and then, in January, launch a realty TV series on E! Entertainment Television, "The Entertainer."

The 10-part series will follow 10 performers -- including vocalists, magicians, comedians and speciality acts -- as they try to develop into a star.

Each week, Newton, a team of judges and a celebrity guest judge, narrow the 10 down to the last star standing, who will perform with Newton during the final episode of the series and also have a chance to become a featured performer in Newton's show at the Stardust.

"I'm really excited about the series," Newton said. "The lounges are a part of Las Vegas history -- they were kind of a training ground for guys like myself, Shecky Greene and Don Rickles. We all came out of the lounges."

Newton said when he was offered the series he had only two demands.

"They would do nothing that would malign or denigrate our city in any way," he said. "And also, I am not a dream killer. To stand young people up in front of America and malign them to tears is wrong."

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