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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Wayne Newton

Aired January 18, 2005 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's been the main man in Vegas for 41 years. And now he's looking for the next Wayne Newton on reality TV. A rare one-on-one with a living legend in entertainment, my man, Wayne Newton.
What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas. He's here with me in New York tonight. And taking your calls, too. You could be the next Wayne Newton. Mr. Las Vegas himself is next on LARRY KING LIVE in frigid New York.

Another fellow westerner is here. A Las Vegan, along with this Californian. Wayne Newton, the acclaimed entertainer, nicknamed "Mr. Las Vegas," chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle, a post formerly held by someone named Bob Hope. Host and star of a new reality series called "The Entertainer." It debuts on "E!" this Sunday night.

What is this all about?

WAYNE NEWTON, ENTERTAINER: This is about a chance to do for other performers what a lot of incredible people did for me. I think we're living in a time and place when professional talent doesn't have a showcase anymore when you think about it. A lot of major night clubs of closed down, lounges are not what they used to be. And so we decided to give that professional talent the showcase that's needed.

KING: How is it different like from "American Idol?"

NEWTON: It's very different because they can win a recording contract. These people win a year's contract with the Las Vegas Hilton to headline, worth over a million dollars. They win a stint with me and my show first, and...

KING: At the Stardust?

NEWTON: At the stardust. And...

KING: How are they selected? How does it work?

NEWTON: We auditioned in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago and Las Vegas and ended up with 30,000, 40,000 people auditioning.

KING: How many weeks does it run?

NEWTON: It will run a total of 12 weeks with the preemptions of a few of the award shows.

KING: Are the shows in Las Vegas?

NEWTON: They are all taped at the Las Vegas Hilton. And it's -- it's some phenomenal talent.

KING: Who is -- is the winner chosen by the audience, by a judge, by what?

NEWTON: They're chosen by me.

KING: Ah.

NEWTON: Actually, I have two people who are part of my organization that -- that I consult with. And -- but ultimately, the end result is I choose the winner.

KING: How did it come about?

NEWTON: A man by the name of Lee Brownstein called me, and he said, "I'd like a meeting because I have an idea for a show." And so he came up to Las Vegas and we talked.

And I said, "There are two conditions before we go any further. Number one, I won't do anything that maligns Las Vegas or makes it look bad. It's my town, I love it, it's been good to me. And I always will love it."

Secondly, I'm not a dream killer. I can't stand somebody up and malign them to the point of tears on national television. That's not what I am -- that's not what I'm about.

"Now, if we get by that, we'll go on and talk." And he said, "I don't have a problem with either one."

KING: So everyone on the show has talent?

NEWTON: They're all professional talent. And these people actually -- we run the gamut from 22 years old up to 38.

KING: In fact, a friend -- Nathan Burton the magician is on.

NEWTON: The magician is on.

KING: I've worked with Nathan Burton at my cardiac gala. He's a terrific...

NEWTON: Incredible talent.

KING: What a talent he is.

NEWTON: And the truth of the matter is that there's not one person on the show that -- I believe probably nine out of 10 will become major stars regardless who wins it.

KING: Let's see a clip from -- it starts this Sunday night on "E," Wayne Newton's new show, "The Entertainer." Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Welcome to Las Vegas, gang. And congratulations for being chosen the 10 finalists. Out of the thousands that auditioned, you are the most talented.

One of you will be crowned "The Entertainer." In addition to the title of "The Entertainer," you'll have an extended play in my own show, and then you will receive a headlining contract right here at the Las Vegas Hilton for one year, which is worth well over a million dollars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If this show hits, you could do it every year, right?

NEWTON: Yes. In fact, "E" is already talking about a second season. And I said, "Let me get over this birth before we talk about another year."

KING: What was it like for you? Was the selection tough?

NEWTON: The selection was tough because, as you must know, I know what they're going through with an audition. And that in itself is a very heart-wrenching thing. Then to have to cut somebody that you know is very talented, that is just maybe having a bad night that particular night, but that's the rules of the game.

KING: You ever have a bad night?

NEWTON: Oh, sure.

KING: You do?

NEWTON: Absolutely.

KING: Does the audience know it?

NEWTON: No. No. I hope not.

The truth of the matter is that -- that I don't think that there's any honest to god professional that, number one, whether or not they know it, I know it. So when I come offstage, if I've done a bad show or had a bad night, the fact that everybody was standing at the end or three or four times during the show means nothing to me. I know I could have done a better show.

KING: There's something shocking. We're going to Washington tomorrow, we're east for the inaugural. You have produced inaugurals. You are one of the -- you are such a fan of President Bush.

NEWTON: I am.

KING: Open about it.

NEWTON: Right.

KING: Very -- you wear your flag proudly, but you're not going.

NEWTON: This particular show some months ago dictated that I do a certain amount of press and all of that, and it just happens to turn out that it's this week. So as much as I was looking forward to going to the inaugural and being a part of it, I have to go back to the West Coast.

KING: What's it like to produce one? You've got to call all these stars yourself, right?

NEWTON: You have to call all the stars. And it really brought back wonderful memories with the loss of the great Ray Charles recently, because I remember calling him for President Reagan, and putting together those inaugural balls.

And he said, "Wayne, I'll do anything in the world for you. But you've got to promise me I'll get to meet the man." I said, "I promise you, you'll get to meet the man."

And as fate would have it, Ray Charles was on stage in Washington, singing "America." And, of course, nobody does it better, right?

KING: Nobody does.

NEWTON: And that's the moment that President and Mrs. Reagan walked into the theater, and he walked out on stage in the middle of Ray Charles' "America." And it's a moment that I will never forgot the rest of my life.

KING: Did you see the movie?

NEWTON: I did.

KING: Unbelievable, right?

NEWTON: Phenomenal.

KING: Anyone who knew Ray Charles knows what a job Jamie Foxx did.

NEWTON: It was absolutely phenomenal. And I think that the biographical content of it was also phenomenal.

KING: Yes, truthful.

NEWTON: Yes.

KING: Are people surprised to learn that you're a pro-Republican show business person? Because out in LA there aren't many.

NEWTON: I guess they are. Although I must admit that I was asked this question a couple of days ago at the Golden Globes. And they said, you know, "Have you felt maligned or denigrated or, you know" -- in any way -- and the truth of the matter is I haven't. There are people who are surprised at my politics and being a conservative and the rest of it. But the truth of the matter is, to my knowledge, I have never been overlooked or turned down for anything that I wanted to do that was being offered to me.

KING: You've never been snubbed by...

NEWTON: I never have, to my knowledge.

KING: Our guest is Wayne Newton. The premier of "The Entertainer" on "E" Sunday night. We'll be right back with Wayne. Later, we'll take your phone calls. Lots to talk about. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the king of Las Vegas, Wayne Newton!

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Appropriately enough, we're in New York tonight. Although...

NEWTON: Freezing our buns off.

KING: All New Yorkers are freezing. Let me tell you, this -- you look up "cold," and you get a picture of New York. And our guest is Wayne -- tell me about this USO thing, how you got into that and replaced Hope.

NEWTON: Well, I have been involved with the USO really my entire life. The first show I did for the USO, I was nine years old. And that was in Washington, D.C.

And then when the -- during the Vietnam era I realized I wasn't going to be drafted because I had bronchial asthma. And I thought, well, they can't stop me from entertaining. So I went to Nam twice for the USO in '66 and '68.

KING: Your own tour with Hope or...

NEWTON: No. In fact, I was -- I used to kid about it with Mr. Hope because I've done a lot of shows with Mr. Hope, god rest his soul. But never overseas. Always domestically. And so in -- in -- actually, his last tour was around 1990. It was Desert Storm. And about 10 months before 9/11, Mr. Hope and the USO called me and asked me if I would take his -- take over his role because I had done -- I had been in every major conflict that our country had been in since Vietnam. And as I said, I was there twice. And we entertained our troops off the shores of Lebanon after our embassy was bombed, then the Persian Gulf, and on and on and on.

KING: What's your role in this now?

NEWTON: Actually, I am the chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle. So I oversee all the shows that are sent anywhere.

KING: Are you going out all the time?

NEWTON: Going out all the time. I myself have done I think 12 international tours in the last 18 months.

KING: We're showing you now at the White House. I think you got an award, right?

NEWTON: Yes. In fact, that was when the president held a reception for when I was announced as chairman of the celebrity circle.

KING: What's the kick in that?

NEWTON: The kick is to be able to give back to a group of people that are making it possible for people like me to exist. When you think about those of us that live the life that we want to live, we can thank absolutely and completely our men and women in uniform. Because if it were not for them, we wouldn't enjoy the freedoms that we have.

And so I believe that my being able to do that, it absolutely gives back to them and also justice my own existence in many ways. And so we have -- it's one of the highlights of my life.

KING: Pretty good audience, too, right?

NEWTON: They're the best. They're the best. And I mean from 18 years old up.

And to -- if you're able to bring just a little touch of home and take them out of harm's way for a very short period of time, you can't imagine what that means to their life, and also to the families at home. Because given every soldier, male or female, there's a husband, wife, mother and father and children at home.

KING: There's no pay involved, right?

NEWTON: None at all.

KING: You were in Iraq?

NEWTON: Been in Iraq four times in the last 14 months. KING: What's that like?

NEWTON: It was phenomenal to watch the growth of Iraq and what our men and women are accomplishing for America over there.

KING: A tough, tough gig, though?

NEWTON: It's a tough gig. On the other hand, I said to a sergeant there, I said, "You guys watch a lot of news?" And he said, "No." He said, "That would be counterproductive." He said, "We're here to do a job."

And the morale is phenomenal. They're doing a phenomenal job for the schools and the hospitalities and the infrastructure. Unfortunately, all we hear about many, many times, you know, are the problems that are going on over there.

KING: In December, you did a send-off concert for the 155th Brigade Combat Team at Camp Shelby. Were they going there?

NEWTON: They were going to Iraq. In fact, this was their last day at home. They got to go spend Christmas and New Year's at home with their families and then report back, and they were shipped to Iraq the first week.

KING: Do you ever feel at risk yourself?

NEWTON: Oh, sure. Sure.

KING: Hope used to tell me he came close to buying it a lot.

NEWTON: As a matter of fact, we've been shot at. We've been -- at -- at Camp Anaconda, we came under mortar fire. In fact, they -- they affectionately called that Mortarritiville, Camp Anaconda. We came under mortar fire about probably within a 24-hour period probably 10 to 12 times.

KING: Are you concerned that the public is showing so much division over the war?

NEWTON: I don't -- I don't really get into that, Larry, because when I say I don't get into it, I don't believe that the support for our troops has anything at all to do with whether or not we should be there. Those decisions are made by somebody much smarter than me, and I think he's being inaugurated again on Thursday. I know he is.

And -- and my support is -- regardless of where our troops go -- is that we as Americans support them. And I don't believe that's -- I don't believe it's a political thing.

KING: Did you ever feel you wanted to be in the service yourself?

NEWTON: I did. In fact, in high school, I was in military school for four years and wanted to go to West Point.

KING: Really?

NEWTON: And the thing that deterred that from happening was when they found out I had asthma.

KING: Now, what's with Vegas?

NEWTON: Where do you want to start?

KING: No, I mean, Vegas was a town in the desert with a couple of hotels. And now, it's booming, vibrant major world city.

NEWTON: I think...

KING: Destination point.

NEWTON: I think it's finally growing into what it was always meant to be. And as strange as that sounds, what I mean by that is, when you think of Las Vegas, it's the only city that I know of in the world of its kind that was built to be what it is. It wasn't converted from slums into, you know, a thriving metropolis.

KING: Right.

NEWTON: And I believe that it offers for adults and young adults those same kind of fantasies that Disneyland and place likes that offer. And people love it.

KING: What about the Kirk Kerkorian thing now? They're going to build a city, like a downtown city in Vegas. You'll actually see a city.

NEWTON: As a matter of fact, I was talking to his dear friend...

KING: Jim...

NEWTON: Actually, Alex Yemenidjian.

KING: Oh, Alex.

NEWTON: And Alex is one of my best friends in the world, as is Mr. Kerkorian. And said, "Tell me what this thing is that you guys are building." And he explained it to me because I didn't know what it was.

KING: It's a city, right?

NEWTON: It's a city, yes, within a city. And it's going to be spectacular.

KING: Our guest is Wayne Newton. Speaking of spectacular, his show, "The Entertainer," debuts on "E" on Sunday night. We'll go to your calls at the bottom of the hour. We'll be right back with Mr. Las Vegas. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The multitalented Wayne Newton, who has lost about 30 pounds, right? You

NEWTON: Yes.

KING: You never looked better.

NEWTON: Thank you. Never felt better.

KING: Feel better, took, right?

NEWTON: Oh, boy. It's amazing.

KING: You dropped the moustache?

NEWTON: Well, actually, I shaved that off about 10, 12 years ago, when I realized that I had become a caricature of myself. Somebody handed me a T-shirt that they had made, and it just had two eyes and the eyebrows and the moustache. And you know who it was, and I thought it's time that this goes.

KING: You were very good in "Oceans 11." Did you have fun doing that?

NEWTON: Thank you. I loved it. I loved it. And...

KING: You should have done more acting.

NEWTON: Actually, I've done a lot. I would love to do more. And it's really nice to go out and be somebody else for a change. And, you know, I spent my whole life being Wayne Newton.

KING: Was it plus or minus being a child in the business?

NEWTON: I don't really know because the business is the only thing I've ever known since I was four years old.

KING: How were you able to start that early?

NEWTON: I was -- I had a local radio show at the age of six.

KING: Where?

NEWTON: In Virginia, WDBJ, before going to school. Then when we moved to Arizona because of my asthma, I had a local television show for four years in Phoenix. And then up until we went to Las Vegas. So...

KING: Were your parents musically inclined?

NEWTON: No, sir. Nobody in my family other than my brother and I were ever in music.

KING: And your brother was in the act for a while?

NEWTON: He was in the act up until around 1970.

KING: And what made it for you? What made -- was it "Danke Schoen?"

NEWTON: The truth of the matter is it was culmination of things. And I'm -- that I'm very grateful for in that I didn't -- I didn't go from obscurity to being a street word in -- in a one easy week with a hit record or anything.

"Danke Schoen" was a major hit. But it was then Mr. Benny came along and took me...

KING: Jack Benny.

NEWTON: Jack Benny, and took me into the main showrooms in Nevada. Jackie Gleason, of course, gave me my first television -- national television exposure. Then Lucille Ball and Danny Thomas, and on and on and on. People that were -- you know, that made sure I survived when I was kind of an anachronism. I was a throwback to a different generation, really.

KING: You know, when people first heard "Danke Schoen," they thought you were a girl?

NEWTON: So did I. The first time I heard it I was in LA, and I had turned on the car radio. And I heard Wink Martindale, who was on the big rock station in LA then. And he said, "This is a big hit record." And he said, "And it's being sung by supposedly a guy by the name of Wayne Newton." He said, "But we all know that it's really Margaret Whiting recording under a different name."

That's all. So that's the first time I heard "Danke Schoen" on the air.

KING: Did you always like that connection with an audience? Was it -- was performing something you just -- so -- age four. You're so -- you were always used to an audience?

NEWTON: Yes. It's the place that I'm probably the most comfortable in my life is on stage. And I think the reason that I so focused on being "an entertainer-performer," as opposed to playing an instrument totally or singing totally or dancing totally or telling jokes totally was because I didn't think I was ever going to have a hit record.

And so I put all my energies into learning how to perform. And it's the place I'm the most comfortable, interestingly enough. KING: So it's still -- when you get, "Here he is, Wayne Newton," that's still -- you get that jump, right?

NEWTON: There are times that we all don't feel well with the flu or a bug that knocks us out for a couple of days. I can tell you that the minute -- I feel like a racehorse in some ways.

The minute the show starts and the overture starts, and they say, "Ladies and gentlemen, Wayne Newton," any problem that I've had that day is gone. It's like a catharsis in some ways.

KING: Is the Stardust your room -- it's the Wayne Newton's room, and my wife's opened for Don Rickles there.

NEWTON: And, by the way, incredible talent she is.

KING: Thank you.

NEWTON: Yes. Yes.

KING: But is that your room?

NEWTON: Yes, it is.

KING: So you have a...

NEWTON: Actually, it's named after me. I don't really control it totally. I name some of the acts that go in there. And then others that are in there I don't have anything to do with.

KING: But they named the room after you?

NEWTON: Yes, they did.

KING: It's sort of like a tribute?

NEWTON: I think so. And also, it means they wish to have us come over there, I think, which is a terribly great compliment.

KING: He's the head man at the USO, a post Bob Hope used to have. Not bad. He's Las Vegas' "Mr. Entertainer," entertainer of the year in Las Vegas, nicknamed "Mr. Las Vegas." And he's the host and star of the new reality series "The Entertainer," which debuts on the "E" network on Sunday.

And when we come back, your chance to talk to an American legend, Wayne Newton. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: How old were you?

NEWTON: Oh, my goodness. Probably 21, 22.

KING: You look younger.

NEWTON: With that much baby fat on, I actually probably lied and said I was younger, too.

KING: Was that the George Burns show?

NEWTON: Yes, it was. It was, I think, Hollywood Palace.

KING: You were telling me -- you told me during the break you were once over 300 pounds?

NEWTON: Over 300 pounds, when I -- right at the end of the Gleason show. Right there, in fact. And Mr. Gleason sent me to his tailor, because he thought if anybody understood how to make somebody who was overweight look good, it would be his tailor. So it was a tremendous compliment.

KING: Are Vegas audiences the most demanding?

NEWTON: Yes, they are, because they don't have anything in common with each other, other than the show. For example, if you're appearing in New York, Atlantic City, anywhere, the people in the audience by and large are from a general geographical location, fairly close. So they're comfortable with each other, they understand the same kind of jokes and all that. Las Vegas, totally different. You could have people from Europe, Australia, you know, you name it, in addition to all across the United States.

KING: Is Don Rickles the last of that genre of comics that still do the big room?

NEWTON: To the best of my knowledge, yes. And I hope he goes on forever.

KING: Me, too.

Birmingham, Michigan, we'll take some calls from Wayne Newton. The show, "The Entertainer," debuts Sunday night. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. This is Pam Wayne (ph).

NEWTON: Hi.

CALLER: And I would like to know how many shows you've performed in your career.

KING: Have you ever totalled them up?

NEWTON: The only thing that was ever totalled up was around 10 years ago, or 12 years ago maybe. They totalled up the shows I had done in Las Vegas alone, and that numbered over 25,000 just in Las Vegas. So I have no idea. And I'm not being evasive, I just don't know.

KING: You've also unusually held, still held an appeal with young people, right?

NEWTON: Yes.

KING: How do you account for that? You don't do rock.

NEWTON: About 12, 15 years ago, I determined obviously as I was maturing, that so was my audience. And so the things that I would do on television and in motion pictures were geared totally to a demographic of a younger audience. And so, on our way here, I was standing in the airport, and a young man, probably 9 years old, tugged on his mother's coat sleeve and said, "mom, mom, there's that guy that played Wayne Newton in 'Vegas Vacation.' I thought that was one of the funniest lines I ever heard.

KING: And the jewelry, the whole stick, the whole -- there's a -- show them your hand, the Wayne Newton hand. That's a wedding ring that says...

NEWTON: This is a wedding ring that says...

KING: You're married.

NEWTON: Taken.

KING: Taken. And the pinky ring.

NEWTON: And that's from a dear friend of mine. I am the godfather to this gentleman's youngest daughter, and of course my wife gave me the watch. This is from Frank Sinatra. And this is a battle bracelet from Iraq.

KING: Let me close in on that.

NEWTON: The soldiers -- actually, weave these if they're in combat, they weave these themselves. And at the end of one of my shows, a young man walked up, took it off his wrist and said, we want you to have this. And so I have not taken it off since then.

KING: And this was from Sinatra?

NEWTON: Yes, sir.

KING: It ain't bad.

Aiken, South Carolina for Wayne Newton, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. This is Beverly Cune (ph) from Aiken, South Carolina.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Mr. Newton, I saw you about 17 years ago in Augusta, Georgia. And you were fantastic, and you look great now. NEWTON: Thank you.

CALLER: Do you do any more of these shows around the country?

NEWTON: Yes, ma'am. As a matter of fact, we tour somewhat extent -- not to the extent that we used to, where we'd do 90 or 100 shows on the road. Now, we'll do maybe a couple of weeks on the road with one nighters and then come back to Las Vegas.

KING: How do you balance your time? I mean, how much Vegas, how much out of Vegas?

NEWTON: Vegas, I do approximately between 30 and 35 weeks a year. And then I try and fit at least one or two engagements in Atlantic City. And then, as you know, the Native Americans casinos have become a big business in our country. And being half Native American, I kind of feel like I'm going home when I play those. So...

KING: Are you half Native American?

NEWTON: I'm half.

KING: What tribe?

NEWTON: Cherokee and Powahatan. And Powahatan tribe is Pocahontas' tribe from Virginia.

KING: On your dad's side or your mother's?

NEWTON: On my dad's side, Powahatan. On my mother's side, Cherokee.

KING: Why did they do so well?

NEWTON: I think probably it's so long overdue it's not even funny, when you consider what...

KING: We stole it fair and square.

NEWTON: ... what the government has done to the Native Americans historically. I am so proud to see them step up and step into the private sector, and contribute not only to their own people, our own people, but also to the states in which they have their casinos.

KING: Do you still have your array of horses?

NEWTON: Yes, sir. I have about 80 head.

KING: Arabians?

NEWTON: All Arabians, right.

KING: As just to collect? They don't all make money, do they?

NEWTON: Well, actually, we're hoping one day that they will. But my two loves in life are horses and music, or music and horses, and I couldn't decide which I love first, but I can tell you which afford the other.

KING: Do you show them?

NEWTON: We do show them, and we actually sell horses all over the world. We sold a filly (ph) to Brazil last year, and she won the Brazilian National Championship, and then she was sold to Saudi Arabia, and she just won the European Championship over there.

KING: Are the Arabians the best? Well, obviously, they're your favorite breed?

NEWTON: They're my favorite breed, because I'm not a spectator by nature. I have to be involved in it. And if you own thoroughbreds or in many instances quarter horses, you kind of hand them over to people and train them and you sit there and watch what they do.

That wasn't enough for me. And I also loved the look of the Arabian horse, it's a piece of art.

KING: They're the forerunner of the thoroughbred, though?

NEWTON: They're the forerunner of all hot-blooded horses as we know them. Quarter horses, everything you can ride.

KING: Longview, Washington, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Do you remember being a Lukian (ph) ranger at a Saturday matinee show in Phoenix in the early '50s?

NEWTON: I certainly do, sir.

KING: What ranger?

CALLER: I used to go there and watch it every Saturday.

NEWTON: It was -- when we left -- thank you for asking about that.

KING: Was that a kid's show?

NEWTON: It was a kid's show. When we left Virginia...

KING: The Lukian (ph) rangers?

NEWTON: Lukian (ph) rangers. And he was the gentleman who then, from his show, after being on that a couple of years, produced my own television show in Phoenix. And so, when people say Lukian (ph) ranger to me, of course it's...

KING: Now, what were you, dressed like a ranger?

NEWTON: I was dressed in a cowboy suit and did what I do, you know, played steel guitar and primarily country music then.

KING: Do you remember your first Vegas engagement?

NEWTON: Yes, sir, I do. In 1959, May 16th, at the Fremont Hotel.

KING: Were you the opening act?

NEWTON: I was in the lounge doing six shows a night, six nights a week.

KING: Six shows a night?

NEWTON: Six shows a night, 40 minutes on, 20 minutes off. And that...

KING: What were you paid?

NEWTON: My brother and I made a total of $400 a week. And we kept enough to pay our rent, sent half of it home to mom and dad, and enough to eat on.

KING: Your brother eventually quit, right?

NEWTON: He retired in 1970.

KING: He was funny.

NEWTON: He was very, very funny. And it was never really a calling for him, like it was me. You know, and I think that's part of -- in retrospect, that's part of what made him so funny, is he just didn't give a damn.

KING: You were close with Bobby Darin, right?

NEWTON: He was a brother to me. In fact, he picked "Danke Schoen," "Red Roses for a Blue Lady," "Summer Wind..."

KING: You were about the same age, I guess?

NEWTON: He was about 10 years older than I am.

KING: He was special.

NEWTON: We lost him way, way too young.

KING: There's you and him.

NEWTON: Right. And he actually produced all those records for me.

KING: Oh, really?

NEWTON: So all my early hits were produced by Bobby. "Danke Schoen" was meant for him to record...

KING: I've heard that.

NEWTON: Yes, and he gave it to me. So when you talk about fate.

KING: Wow. I'm going (ph) to tears. Wayne Newton, he's the host and star of the new reality series, "The Entertainer," on E!. He's also one of the business' good guys.

Speaking of Mr. Darin, here's Mr. Newton in kind of a tribute. We'll be right back.

(MUSIC)

KING: Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase. Was that fun doing that?

NEWTON: It was a ball. We shot most of it at my ranch in Vegas except that scene. That was done in L.A. I wasn't about to let them take those kind of liberties. She is a wonderful singer and Chevy is an incredible musician. He's a pianist. Classical pianist.

KING: Didn't know that.

NEWTON: Phenomenal talents, both of them. That was a ball.

KING: Michigan, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Hi, Larry and Wayne. I go back many years to the "Ed Sullivan Show." And I wonder if you still might sing "The Girl That I Married."

KING: Did you sing it on the "Ed Sullivan Show?"

NEWTON: I believe I did sing it.

KING: Irving Berlin song.

NEWTON: Yes. A wonderful song. I've had so much requests for it I bet I haven't sung it in 20 years.

KING: A pretty song. The "Sullivan Show," that was a big showcase?

NEWTON: It was a big showcase. Of course, as you know, he would let you do one song in the run through. If you do well, then of course, he might give you a second song, which lucky for me, he did. I must have done probably 10 or 12 Ed Sullivan shows.

KING: Appearances. Was television always as comfortable for you as just working the nightclub?

NEWTON: Never. Being on a nightclub floor, getting the instantaneous reaction from the crowd, even sometimes if it's negative, you know quickly whether you're doing something right or wrong. So, for me, I always, if you'll notice what I'm doing, even the "Ed Sullivan" shows or those that had an audience, I had a tough time remembering that there were cameras there, because I was so intent...

KING: On playing to the crowd.

NEWTON: On playing to the crowd.

KING: I remember once we had you on when financially things were on a rollercoaster with you. How are things now?

NEWTON: Couldn't be better. Thank God.

KING: You had some bad management?

NEWTON: The truth is I wasn't paying attention.

KING: Do you blame yourself?

NEWTON: I totally blame myself. This is called show business. There are two words. I just wanted to be concerned about the artistic end of what I did and not worry about the money. Well, there were people out there more than happy to have that happen. Thank God, things couldn't be better. I've never felt better, I've never been happier. My daughters are doing incredible. I am married to a beautiful lady who is an attorney. She said I could either hire a cook or I could hire an attorney. Well, I can tell you which is cheaper.

KING: You have a little girl right?

NEWTON: 2 1/2-year-old daughter. Right.

KING: Are Vegas crowds tougher because they're gambling? In other words they appreciate but they want to get out into the casino?

NEWTON: I think that there's some element of that but I think that Vegas shows were primarily for the non-gamblers. I think that wives for example were sent into the showrooms in order to keep them busy so the husbands could enjoy what they do, in terms of gaming. So I'm not sure that even though the casinos want the shows to end in an hour and a half to an hour and 45, I'm not sure it's totally because all the gamers are in there. I think it's probably a combination of both.

KING: And they sure come from the far east, don't they?

NEWTON: They sure do. We've seen such evolutions in terms of gaming, you know, when oil was at its peak, and before the terrorists and the Saudis were big gamers and then the British and the Orient and on and on, you can watch.

KING: What do you make of this boom in poker? Some of ESPN's most successful shows?

NEWTON: I have been asked to do some of those shows myself.

KING: Do you play?

NEWTON: No, sir. I spent my life in Las Vegas and I've never been to one of the tables. Never been to a slot machine.

KING: Never? NEWTON: Never. Owned two casinos so far in my life. Have never been to one of the tables.

KING: Got a fear that you'd be attracted or just not your schtick?

NEWTON: Doesn't interest me. I think the lounges kind of took care of that. By the time I was 21 and could gamble legally, I had seen so much of it and people trying to sell me their watches and their rings and their kids and, you know, anything else in order to raise enough money to get home, it just finally doesn't appeal to me.

KING: SO how do you explain poker's boom?

NEWTON: I think poker is a game that is played throughout the country that the guys get away, and...

KING: Now, women are interested?

NEWTON: Exactly. It's wonderful. Some of the best players...

KING: Show you the hands. The only way it will work, seeing how they play?

NEWTON: Exactly. I'm not sure I totally understand, which is why I have declined with courtesy the invitations.

KING: That's interesting. All your life living there and never gambled?

NEWTON: No. Never gambled in that way, no.

KING: What about horse races, sports book?

NEWTON: Never -- I've been to the Kentucky Derby and while there I did gamble on the horses. But that's maybe twice in my life.

KING: We'll be back. I feel sorry for you. Not over the tables, I'm not a table guy, but horses, come on!

NEWTON: Bring those carrots.

KING: "The Entertainer" airs on E! on Sunday night. He's a great guy. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: This is my humble sanctuary away from the cares of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your own private meditation chamber.

NEWTON: Built from the sacred rocks of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) temple. I did have it sound-proof, so nothing can disturb our meditation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I brought you another surprise.

NEWTON: I love surprises. Where is it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: "License to Kill." Fun?

NEWTON: It was a ball. And what's even more fun is to this day, I'll be going around the audience at night, and people, ladies will say to me, when does my dress arrive in the room from "Vegas Vacation." And other people will yell out, you know, bless your heart, because that was what that -- the catch phrase was in the James Bond movie.

KING: Ridgetown, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Oh, hello, Mr. Wayne Newton.

NEWTON: Hi there.

CALLER: How are you doing, Mr. King?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: You sang with so many entertainers. Did you also sing with Judy Garland as well?

NEWTON: No, ma'am. I never met Judy Garland. I am very close friends with her daughter, Liza. And...

KING: How's she doing, by the way? She's had her ups and downs?

NEWTON: She's had a rough bit of time, and -- but she's a survivor. You know, you can't count Liza out ever. But as far as her mother, I didn't know her.

KING: Back to "The Entertainer." When all these acts, these are all professional acts, and you say they're all good, how did they handle those who didn't win? They all get such exposure, they're going to get something, right?

NEWTON: It's interesting. I believe out of the field of 10 professionals that were part of this show, that without a doubt, eight of them will become stars, regardless of not particularly winning this particular competition.

KING: And the winner will be a big...

NEWTON: Without question.

KING: Boston, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Wayne.

NEWTON: Hi there.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: This is Annie from Massachusetts.

NEWTON: Hi, Annie.

CALLER: Hi. I'm wondering, Wayne, with your great notoriety and I've seen you a million times, and your connection with the USO, would you have any political aspirations? I'd vote for you.

NEWTON: I love you, Annie, but I got enough problems in my life. I don't need that one.

KING: Did you ever think about it?

NEWTON: Not seriously, no. I am too thin-skinned to be a politician. And I know that about me.

KING: Why do you like President Bush so much? I know you know him so well?

NEWTON: I knew his father very, very well, or know his father very well. And of course, that was during the whole Reagan administration. And then, when President Bush I became president. And then, of course, when President-elect Bush became president, I worked for him.

I like these people because what you see is what you get. There is no hidden agenda. You know, they don't do one thing for a camera, or you or me, and then go behind closed doors and do something else.

KING: He is the same?

NEWTON: He's absolutely the same, and he's very comfortable within his own skin. And I trust him tremendously.

KING: You were close to Reagan, too, were you not?

NEWTON: I loved -- I loved President Reagan. And of course, I was on his steering committee when he first ran for president. And I could tell you many, many stories. It would take up another hour, about him as a human being. And when I was going through some of my roughest times in the '80s, he was coming to Las Vegas. And the Republican Committee called and said, you know, he was going to come to your house, Mr. Newton, but we think that maybe it would probably be better for him to go somewhere else. Well, I understood that, but it hurt my feelings, as you can imagine. And about two days later, I get a call from the same guy. And he said, you know, we told the president what we had said to you, and I don't think I've ever been chewed out quite as nicely. And he said, "I'm going to Wayne Newton's house, and get used it to, because he's my friend." And so that's the kind of guy he was.

KING: Boy. That's a great story. NEWTON: And you know, what it's like to come home and find the red phone in your office, because wherever he goes, of course, that has to be set up? But he was that kind of man. And so was she. She is just such a wonderful human being.

KING: The best, and so are you.

NEWTON: Thank you.

KING: I want to tell you that before we began, I asked Wayne -- I'll tell you about it some night, to do me a favor, and he moved things around to do it because he is a special guy. They don't come like Wayne Newton.

"The Entertainer," on E!, Sunday night. Keep on keeping on.

NEWTON: Thank you, sir.

KING: I'll be back in a couple of minutes and tell you about tomorrow night, when we'll be in Washington. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We'll be in Washington tomorrow tonight, pre-inaugural night. Former Secretary of State James Baker. Liz Cheney will be with us. Other presidential children -- Chip Carter and Steve Ford.

He's there already, Aaron Brown, prepared to man things in Washington. Why don't Wayne Newton toss it to Aaron Brown. Wayne, Brown.

NEWTON: Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only, Mr. Aaron Brown.

KING: Wow. Ain't going to get that.

AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": I just got chills, but it could be that it's Washington. Travel safely, Mr. King, and bring your longjohns. It's cold down here.

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