Someone told me that soccer players and singers have a high incidence of emphysema in later life and if that's true, he's a victim. It was a strain for him to finish a spoken phrase, let alone sing one and his voice had a quavering "Mr. Ed" quality to it. There was a big loud orchestra and 5 backup singers on stage with him, and one young man sang every word Wayne did. Hold your nose, lower your voice and in a monotone say "dan-ke.shoen.ba-by.dan-ke.shoen" and that was pretty much it.
The audience was composed of sedate older people - many of whom were in Rascals and wheelchairs or connected to oxygen tanks - a few blonde and underdressed Wayniacs in front (possibly on the payroll) and the four people at my table.
The show was perfect in it's cheesiness - just what we wanted. Half way through the third number (Elvis's "Caught In A Trap") with the orchestra frantically playing in double-time, Wayne started to kiss his way around the audience. My professional mentor was sitting next to me wearing Mardi Gras beads as big as ping pong balls and a national account account exec from one of the major pharmaceutical vendors was across the table with panties in her purse.
The Big Moment: after kissing an 85 year old birthday girl and repeating kisses so that husbands could take a photo of Wayne kissing their wives and climbing over tables to kiss everyone in sight, he finally got to our section. As he approached, D. stood up, removed the beads from her neck and put them on Wayne and roped him in for a smooch - all in slow motion. He wore those beads for the rest of the show. While this was going on, S. couldn't wait any longer and apparently tried to fling her panties at him from three feet away but they fell short of the mark.
She was yelling "My Panties! My panties are on the floor! My panties are way down there!" The panties were retrieved and handed over to Wayne who displayed them to the audience and then put the into the breast pocket of his tuxedo. Then he climbed over the table and kissed her. While I was watching the wine glasses and beer bottles falling over and feeling pleased about the whole thing, I forgot that I was supposed to kiss him too.
I felt a giant hand clutch my shoulder and when I looked up, he was inches from my face. His eyes were bugged out and he didn't pucker so much as grimace as he zeroed in on my lips, looking for all the world like Asbury Park's own Tille.He never closed those eyes - too much plastic surgery took away his blink option, I guess. It was like getting up close and personal with Baby Elmo.
I was the last person he kissed before he went back to the stage and I can state with authority that he was closely shaved and he smelled good.
He kept those beads on for the whole show, and when he was bantering with the audience, he held them up and asked if we were from New Orleans. We were busy chattering and reliving the kiss and were temporarily at a loss as to why he would ask us that but then D. recovered and said "Yeah!" so he called us his friends from Louisiana for the rest of the show.
Whenever he did something that would instigate a smattering of applause from the audience, he made this weird movement with his hands : he would hold his hands up about chin level, point the first two fingers curving downwards and then make rapid digging motions. D. thought he might have been intending to make that Rat Pack back-and-forth pistol shooting movement, but to me it looked more like a What's New Pussycat -era I'm a tiger, baby! signal of naughty intentions. Whatever it was, it is now the symbol of our night of female bonding. for the rest of the conference, whenever we would spot each other in the crowd, it would go something like this:
2. bug out the eyeballs
3. shriek with laughter.
Don't tell me I don't know how to have a good time.
He played a bunch of musical instruments, including two different
banjos which sounded identical, the Wayniacs threw 6 pair of thong
panties onstage in a synchronized movement, and the girl singers went woo-woo-woo throughout the whole thing.
There was a patriotic tribute complete with unfurling of a giant American flag, a round of applause for a sailor just off the USS Abraham Lincoln and a tribute to all of the military veterans in the audience (lots of WWII going on there). Then he started recognizing individuals in the audience, like the 85 y/o birthday girl, anybody from his hometown in Virginia, and some guy from Colorado. There was a waiter standing in the middle of audience with a pad and pencil writing all of it down as Wayne kept saying "Send them a bottle of champagne!"
D. tried to get in on the action by making alternate claims of being from Virginia and having a birthday, but for all of our noise-making he must not have heard her because he finally said "And send a bottle of champagne to my friends from Louisiana!", the eventual result of which was increased hooting, table-pounding and a few knocked over glasses.
Then Wayne loosened his tie, took off his jacket and started the big finale - a very long version of "MacAthur Park" in which no theatrical device was spared. There was smoke machine vapor roiling across the floor, lasar lights crazily shooting in all directions, elevators that lowered the orchestra and brought them back again, flashes of fire spouting up on both side of Wayne and even rain. There was a veil of water running around the edge of the semi-circular stage that rained right into a trough on the floor. He kept sticking one hand into the falling water and tilting it back so that it splashed onto his shirt. A few sparklers in back of the orchestra, the appearance of a staircase, stage lighting to suggest a setting sun and Wayne made his exit as the staircase slowly sunk below the stage.
It was all so very satisfying. The entertainment magazine in our hotel room which offered summaries of the performances around town said this: "His performance of MacArthur Park has been known to bring an audience to stunned silence." and I'm here to tell you that is true - the applause was not quite what one would have expected, except from Wayne's friends from Louisiana.
As we filed out, we made sure to tell the ladies in the wheelchairs that Wayne Newton bought us champagne. They were politely clapping and looking at us in our champagne-soaked outfits and our lop-sided Mardi Gras beads and quietly said "Yes, dear - we know." Even in the ladies room, I could hear the sound of D.'s voice bouncing over the top of the stalls as she continued to inform the captive audience that Wayne Newton bought us champagne.
Later, we amused ourselves by putting our noses close together and imitating the wide-open eyeball expression and then shreiking. We laughed until we snorted and then started all over again. The midnight supper crowd in Tony Roma's loved that.
originally published May 2003