Friday, Nov. 22, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
RECURRING PHENOM. ... Wayne Newton was a musical child prodigy at age 5 in Norfolk, Va., a star on television in Phoenix at 12, and a teenage phenomenon with his brother Jerry in Las Vegas' Fremont Lounge in the early 1950s. ... Ed Torres, now retired, was Wayne's first LV employer -- and mentor -- in those early Fremont days.
The late Bobby Darin, riding a mega-hit record with "Mack, the Knife" was so impressed with Newton at the Copa in New York City that he not only gave Wayne the song "Danke Schoen," Newton's first million-record seller, but produced the record as well. ... "Danke Schoen" was to be Darin's follow-up release.
When Wayne decided he was ready for the main showroom, it was Jack Benny who gave him his first opportunity. ... Benny and Lucille Ball used him on television. ... Jackie Gleason did so first.
It was the Jackie Gleason TV variety show that brought Wayne to New York City and the Copa engagement where Bobby Darin "discovered" him. ... When Newton was ready to headline in a LV main showroom, Ed Torres, now at the Riviera, had the first option but let Wayne go to the Flamingo. ... Torres admitted this was a mistake.
Torres at the Riviera during the 1960s and 1970s was one of LV's best operators. ... Restaurants were all first-class, the Riviera Versailles Room always had outstanding entertainment. ... Torres was tough, fair and successful.
Newton's run with the Hughes hotels -- Desert Inn, Frontier and Sands, under the aegis of the late Walter Kane, entertainment director and Wayne's next mentor -- set all kinds of attendance and performance records through the 1970s and 1980s, most of which will never be equalled.
During a nearly two-decades run, Wayne did two shows a night, seven nights a week, averaging two hours in the first show and three hours and more at midnight, 40 weeks a year. ... Indefatigable, Newton was a latter-day version of the Al Jolson style -- nonstop output, each performance the equivalent of an Olympic decathlon competition.
From a Las Vegas phenomenon, he became a national phenomenon. Today, his time is divided between Las Vegas and Branson, Mo., with occasional tours in between. ... Present performances run a disciplined hour and 40 minutes, with Wayne sharing the spotlight, introducing new performers, helping them as he was helped by so many stars in the past.
Newton's present LV home is the MGM Grand Hollywood Theatre. ... He's there through Nov. 27. ... If you've never had a Wayne Newton experience, have it now. ... Those who have are regulars today.
In Thursday's column, thanking people on behalf of our UNLV Hotel Entertainment Class, special thanks goes to publicist Wayne Bernath, once of the LV SUN and later ShowBiz magazine, now representing Lance Burton, Norbert Aleman's "Crazy Girls" and "La Cage" and Bonnie Saxe's "Showgirls of Magic." ... Bernath is also a major supporter of Variety Club Tent 39 and its radiothon this weekend. ... See you next Friday.