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Two new films, Casa de Shenandoah completion in Wayne Newton’s plans

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Kathleen McCrone Newton whispers in her husband Wayne Newton’s ear during the Clark County zoning meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. Clark County Commissioners approved an application that would open a new museum on Newton’s Las Vegas ranch.
Photo: Paul Takahashi

As part of his appearance on Kats With the Dish, the new KUNV 91.5-FM radio show co-hosted by Tricia McCrone and myself, Wayne Newton revealed two new movies he’s finished due for release this year and also talked of the unique challenges of portraying himself on film.

The hourlong show, which to me seems as big as all of the great outdoors, kicked off at 6 p.m. Friday and airs each week at that time on KUNV. You also can find it archived on my blog’s index page and at KUNV.org. The films are 40 West, due tentatively in the spring, and Getting Back to Zero, due in the fall.

The former was filmed in Maine by an independent company, Honey Tree Films. The latter is a dark comedy centered on brothers who reconcile a fractured relationship after their father dies. They share inheritance — in the form of a craps table and a huge gambling debt. Getting Back to Zero reflects their attempt to do just that.

More from the Wayner, always a fascinating interview:

On his role in 40 West: I really play a kind of dirty guy. ... It’s about a guy’s wife who runs off with somebody else, and he doesn’t take it lightly. He kind of stalks them until he finds them.

On portraying himself: The hardest thing in the world for any performer to do is be themselves when somebody else is writing the script. For example, here I am in Vegas Vacation as Wayne Newton, hitting on Mrs. Griswold, you know, while her kids and husband are running around Las Vegas. One of the scenes that they had written was that I was to say to Ellen, “Listen, I want you to be a Newton broad.” And she said, “Well, what’s that?” And I said, “That’s a nose job, a butt job and a boob job.” And I go over to this wall and pull a string, and a curtain opens and there are 300 women who had that process done.

I went to the director and said, “Look, I can’t do that as Wayne Newton.” I could do it as a character. I don’t have a problem with it. But when they write a role for you, you almost become the protector of the person who people think you are. ... In Roseanne, when I did her show, we were at the lounge at the Hilton, and she had had too much to drink, she was inebriated, and my character turned to the security guard and said, “Security guard, throw this drunk broad outta here.” Again, I had to go to the director and say, “Wayne Newton would not do that.” Hey, the drunker they get, the better I sound (laughs).

On his favorite Vegas showrooms: Most of the places I played no longer exist. My favorite was the Sands (Copa Room). It seated about 600, the stage came out in a thrust, and you were actually in the middle of the audience as you were performing. This is not to be critical of today’s times and places, but I think some of the showrooms have gotten too big to be intimate, and I think that of the three best showrooms, only one still exists, and that’s Tiffany Theatre at the Tropicana. … You miss the interplay among audience members, when you’re seated in a booth and another couple comes in, you kind of build camaraderie with those people, too, and I think that’s missing.

On plans for public tours of Casa de Shenandoah: The home is staying the same, and in fact we’re building another home on the back of the property, so that when the Casa de Shenandoah proper — meaning the house — for certain tours, me and (Newton’s wife) Kat and dogs and birds and the rest of our family can be there. … But a lot of people have written and want to see what the property looks like, and my wife said that if you have something so special, it should be shared. So why don’t we consider trying to do something like this?

I have collected a lot of items over the years, and there is no entertainers hall of fame — none — so what this will be is a showroom reminiscent of the old Sands, and an entertainers hall of fame and induct people each year, and maybe build a television special around it ... It should be open by the end of this year.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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