Friday, Dec. 7, 2007 | 2 a.m.
The car sits stationary, gleaming in the sun, but the wheels in Wayne’s Newton’s brain are spinning, burning rubber. His Rolls-Royce is dented. It’s the slightest imperfection, no larger than a dime, appearing as if someone has pressed a thumb hard into the car’s fender. The disfigurement is so indecipherable that it has long escaped notice by dozens of discriminating eyes that tend to the structures, vast menagerie and exotic vehicles at his home, Casa de Shenandoah.
But it is there, that dent. As proof, Mr. Las Vegas tilts his head forward and peers over his Maui Jim sunglasses, nodding slightly toward the luxury car.
“The front fender has a dent in it. See that?” he asks. You want to say, nah, it looks fine, the car’s in perfect repair. But the setting Vegas sun is catching that fender perfectly and shining into the small crease in the car’s buffed-out paint job, which is as richly black as the Wayner’s famed pompadour. And this is no ordinary vehicle. This 1978 Rolls-Royce convertible has logged just 25,000 original miles. Before Newton purchased it at an auction in New York, it was owned by Steve McQueen.
Newton considers what could have possibly happened to that fender, protected as it was, in a garage, under a tarp, at his cement wall-enclosed 52-acre ranch. It wasn’t nailed by a runaway shopping cart, likely.
“Someone must’ve opened a door and hit it,” he reasons. “That’s the only thing that could’ve happened.” For a few moments Mr. Las Vegas continues idle chitchat, about the uncommonly warm weather, about movies – maybe he’ll catch 3:10 To Yuma, as he’s a big fan of Westerns. But he’s staring at that dent, as if his piercing gaze could undo the damage and make that fender smooth. Soon, his estate manager, an agreeable sort named Andy Durant, happens by and is intercepted by the boss.
Not all of the conversation from several feet away is audible, but you can clearly make out, “Front fender has been dented … a door must’ve swung open … find out what’s going on …” Newton seems to grow as he speaks, towering over his hired hand, expecting a detailed explanation about what happened to that car. It’s a short and none-too-sweet exchange, and Andy – seeming to shrink in the face of this cross-examination – moseys away.
It is a microcosmic moment. In the same way you don’t scuff Carl Perkins’ blue suede shoes, you don’t nick Wayne Newton’s Rolls-Royce. Never-ever. Set it to music.
His full name is Carson Wayne Newton, but the name “Carson Newton” seems incomplete and “Carson Wayne” for years would have led to questions about a possible relationship with Hondo himself. So it’s Wayne Newton, aka the Midnight Idol and, always, Mr. Las Vegas. He is 65 years old, an age that, in show business, can make him seem either quite old or relatively young. He’s the same age as Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, just four years older than Strip cohabitant Clint Holmes. Because he started so young, debuting in May 1959 with his brother Jerry at the lounge at the Fremont Hotel when he was just 17, Newton is a generation younger than those who dominated Vegas when he arrived with his sky-high voice and trusty steel guitar. Joey Bishop’s death in October spelled the end, officially, of the Rat Pack, and with the passing of Robert Goulet weeks later, another fellow Vegas crooner is gone. Jerry Lewis and Don Rickles, two throwbacks who share Newton’s iconic pop-culture status, are still active, but in their 80s. The King of Las Vegas owes that title largely to longevity – his career has spanned the Rat Pack, Elvis, Liberace, Siegfried & Roy, Cirque du Soleil, Celine Dion and a host of since-imploded hotels. Currently, he is back at Harrah’s, in the showroom opened by Sammy Davis Jr., performing his annual holiday shows. In January he’s off for another adventure, on the Dancing With the Stars U.S. tour.
The latest activity is further evidence that Newton, whose stage show today is mostly a happy voyage to a bygone era, has managed to remain relevant. It would be tempting to say that has happened through a painstaking reinvention process, similar to how his mentor, Bobby Darin, remade his identity to appeal to hep-cats and hippies alike, but that isn’t the case. Wayne Newton has succeeded simply by being Wayne Newton, by filling a void – whether it’s as a competitor on Dancing With the Stars, serving as the front man for the USO or appearing in Ellen DeGeneres’s special at The Comedy Festival last November – that requires a “Wayne Newton type.”
And, in a characteristic that belies his uber-charming stage demeanor, Newton has persevered by taking on those who criticize or threaten him in any way. He has at times made unscheduled appearances, showing up at the Review-Journal to challenge a reporter who had criticized him in print, and embarking on a road trip to Burbank to get in the face of another famous Carson – Johnny – who found guffaws when telling “Wayne-is-gay” jokes in his monologue. Whether it’s his own brother, the Internal Revenue Service, a major television network, Tony Orlando, the musicians’ union, Bill Maher or a critic who has fallen out of favor, Mr. Las Vegas is only too happy to climb into the ring.
“You know, if you’re a friend of mine, you can say almost anything you want to say, because I know that it’s not mean-spirited,” he says. “But if you’re not a friend, you’d better make goddamn sure that what you’re saying is true.”
Today, Wayne Newton’s fight is against illness, which is no news flash. Battling chronic asthma and recurring pneumonia, he’s had to back out of several performances and at least one scheduled interview and photo session. He hates having to do that, and it is usually left to his wife, manager and confidant, Kathleen McCrone, to distribute the bad news. (Shortly after this interview, Newton had to cancel six weeks of Harrah’s holiday shows due to illness.)
On this day he’ll be entertaining in the Red Room of his Casa de Shenandoah residence, the swank-ified den containing all of Newton’s awards, trophies, medals and commemorative stuff. It’s the room where he prefers to conduct lengthy interviews, and his guests usually wait a few minutes for him to make his grand entrance. It’s a way to bask in the magnitude of Mr. Las Vegas – and a none-too-discreet way for Newton to remind journalists of just who they are about to interview. Nonetheless, it is a rare opportunity to check out the Newton Collection, the signed photographs of assorted historical figures – including JFK, Anwar Sadat and Ronald Reagan. Several bronze statues, a Thunderbirds fighter helmet and several folded American flags are displayed around the room. So many medals, trophies and plaques – too many to count or record, but most of them awarding Wayne Newton in some way for a life of accomplishment in the international entertainment industry and a life of service to the United States military (asthmatic, Newton was prevented from actually soldiering, but has taken dozens of USO tours to war zones). Displayed prominently on and end table is a bronze bust of Dutch Reagan. Stare at it long enough and it seems to speak – “We are here today to, eh, honor Wayne Newton, one of our, eh, true American patriots …”
An assistant has poured bottled water into a glass filled with lemon and ice and placed it next to the red velvet love seat where Wayne will sit, and the wait continues. For 15, 20 minutes. As time passes, I was reminded of the story that, coincidentally, was published a year ago to the day my visit: A writer from the Los Angeles Times showed up for a scheduled tour of Vegas with Mr. Las Vegas and, after Newton begged out because of a knee injury, wrote a very funny story with the headline, “Mr. Las Vegas Has a Bad Knee.”
Finally, wearing a baby-blue dress shirt and a camouflage pants, Newton walks in, beaming and vice-gripping my hand, a reminder that when you get to Wayne, or he gets to you, he’s always on. He looks better than he feels, having lost 30 pounds as a result of his training for Dancing With the Stars. But he is slow to shake this latest case of bronchial infection, and his sentences are frequently busted up by loud, hoarse coughing. “This is the eighth time I have had pneumonia, in some form ... COUGH!, since I was a kid. … It starts with asthma COUGH!, and doubles back.”
Newton sacrificed quite a lot – specifically, his short-term health and some walking-around cash -- to be featured on Dancing With the Stars. ABC’s big dance-off pushed Newton to his physical limit (including some 20-hour days) and cost him a half-dozen one-nighters through Canada, Virginia and New York state in late October. But even as he was the third contestant to two-step off the program, the professional payoff was akin to lining up a trio of MegaBucks logos.
“It benefited me in ways I didn’t even realize when I started. The demographics of that show are so wide,” he says. He recalls a recent incognito visit to the movies, when he, Kathleen and 5-year-old daughter Lauren took in Bee Movie. “I walk in with my baseball cap on and my sunglasses on and we sit down. All of a sudden there is a line of, like, 12 kids, and these are kids, probably 7 or 8 years old.”
Then the Wayner puts it into perspective that he and he alone enjoys. “When I did the Jackie Gleason show in my early 20s, I reached 30 to 40 million people in that slot. You could do that in those days if you had the No. 1 show, because there were only three networks. It’s harder to do that today, it’s almost impossible.” But with a few performances on a quirky dance show where you share the stage with a champion boxer, an Osmond and a Spice Girl, it can be done. So even as Newton was, predictably, an early casualty, he says, “I wasn’t going to give up my night job to be a ballroom dancer. I just wanted to be able to compete.” To reach all those viewers, particularly while beating back pneumonia, was worth every hack.
When Newton was 21, he released his signature song, “Danke Schoen,” and one line in particular was prophetic: “Thank you for all the joy and pain.” He has both enjoyed the fame and overcome the pain since he was a kid fighting asthma whose family, consequently, moved from Norfolk, Virginia, when Newton was just 10.
The legend sitting on the red sofa has lived a life, no question. Some of the episodes are legendary, others laughable. It was 35 years ago that Newton walked into Johnny Carson’s office to confront him about all those gay jokes. According to Newton’s 1989 biography, Once Before I Go, the one that finally sent him over the edge was, “I saw Wayne Newton and Liberace together in a pink bathtub. What do you think that meant?” Newton drove from Las Vegas to Burbank, strode past Carson’s secretary and into Carson’s office. Newton told the talk-show host, “I’m telling you right now that it had better stop or I’ll knock you on your ass.” The jokes did stop, but the two clashed years later when Carson’s attempt to purchase the Aladdin was trumped by the offer made by Newton and Valley Bank. (Newton was part-owner of the hotel from 1980-1982.) And in yet another dustup that, at least peripherally, involved Carson, Newton sued NBC for defamation after the network aired a series of news reports in 1980 and 1981 that alleged Newton was linked to organized crime. Newton won a multimillion-dollar verdict in federal court, but the judgment was reduced and finally overturned in an appeals court in 1990. Soon after, Newton filed for bankruptcy in federal court, but kept his lavish lifestyle intact with film and TV appearances and a dogged performance schedule in Las Vegas. He also kept busy nationally as tribal casinos, fortuitously positioned near millions of Wayniacs, popped up across the country (he is famously proud of his American Indian heritage.)
In the late ’90s Newton butted heads with an old friend, Tony Orlando, over a lease dispute in a theater they shared in Branson. The two sides filed messy lawsuits against each other – at one point Orlando’s camp accused Newton of bugging Tony’s dressing room, and both sides claimed the other for lagging ticket sales -- before finally settling out of court. But that friendship seems forever fractured, a dead issue in Newton’s inner circle. The same is true for Newton’s relationship with his brother, faded from the stage after Newton recorded “Danke Schoen.” A couple of years ago, Newton squared off with the IRS, going after money he was owed for expenses incurred while living on the road; reports were that the IRS was actually suing Newton (for $2 million) when, says Kathleen, the reverse was true, and the IRS had merely responded to the Newtons’ filing.
“I don’t think, at all, that people think of Wayne’s finances when they think of him,” Kathleen says of Newton’s sometimes troubled financial history. “The coverage of what happened with the IRS was just crazy.”
Taken as a whole, the Newton story would make a great movie, or even franchise -- and he’s still fit enough to play the lead. The chief reason for all the cinematic color is that Newton is as rigid in his convictions as he was performing the Tango on Dancing. He simply refuses compromise the core sensibilities that have made him a star. He has been particularly protective of his own word, as it pertains to his career, and his aptitude onstage. Coming from a place where your word and a handshake is as binding as any contract, he once fired on comic and talk-show host Bill Maher for questioning Newton’s estimation for how many shows he has performed, total, during his career in Las Vegas. Newton estimates that number to be between 30,000-35,000. “Bill Maher, this guy …. He pops off on some show about me and the number of shows I had done here in Las Vegas, and that it was ridiculous and there was no way to prove it disprove it,” says Newton, now leaning forward, nearly face-to-face so you feel the need to edge back a bit. “He went on and on, in his own inimitable way, so I called him.”
Eh? You called Bill Maher?
“Absolutely,” Newton continues, eager to pass along the details. “He had shown up here at the Hilton, like, three to four months after that. And I got him on the phone and said, ‘Bill, Wayne Newton. I want you to remember something: You don’t know me well enough to ascertain whether I am lying or not lying about anything, most of all a career that has been pretty well-documented. So if you’re going to decide it’s me who you’re going to take on, pal, I can be there in about 10 minutes. And I’m not the guy you want to take on, so I suggest you never say those things again.’ ”
Sounds like Carson Revisited.
“I just refuse to let anyone do that to me,” Newton says, settling back and grabbing his water. “There is a certain amount you have to shrug off anyway, but then there’s a point where you say, okay, you know, I’m being used by this clown in order to puff himself up. If you’re going to puff yourself up by using me, you’d better be sure of two things.” Then Newton, who is apt to make points with short lists, does just that. “No. 1, you better make sure that I’m not close by. And No. 2, you never have to run into me, anywhere.”
Newton says he doesn’t read reviews of his shows, and has not for years. Sold-out showrooms – that’s the only review he needs. For an explanation, he recalls a tale that so few entertainers today can rival: a life lesson delivered by Jack Benny, circa 1965. “We had this reviewer cream us. Actually, he loved me, but he creamed Mr. Benny, I mean creamed him,” Newton says with a chuckle-cough. “I went to the dressing room and said, ‘Mr. Benny, I had nothing to do with that review, obviously.’ And he started to laugh and said, ‘If you’re in this business long enough, you’ll learn that a reviewer needs someone to hate in a review. If you look back at the reviews, if they love me they kill you, and if they love you, they kill me.’”
Newton continues, speaking to recently published reports that his voice is shot. “There’s a guy in town, who shall remain nameless (but who has a name, and we both know it -- R-J entertainment writer Mike Weatherford), that started out as a really credible writer. I mean, I was impressed with him in every way. I didn’t always agree with what he said, but at least I felt he was coming from the right place. … But I think that when a writer gets into things like, this guy in town who says, ‘Wayne Newton has lost his voice. Wayne Newton can sing no longer.’ What does that mean? Does that mean you caught Wayne Newton on a bad night? When he had a choice to go onstage sick or cancel? But the minute you plant that thought about any performer – they’ve done this, they’ve lost that, it’s such a lack of objectivity, because it would be so easy to check. Pick up the phone and call. (Ask) did I catch a bad night? Are you having vocal problems, and if so, why?”
Newton would entertain a phone conversation with a reviewer, after a show, to discuss his voice? “Absolutely,” Newton says. “Not only would I have entertained the conversation, but I would have welcomed it, because once a guy goes out and says that, he is intimating that he knows something that nobody else knows. So, the truth of it is not an object anymore.”
In response to Newton’s offer to be interviewed after a show about his physical condition, Weatherford says, “Generally, that is not something you would do. There’s no written book of rules for reviewing a show, but if you don’t cancel and you’re taking people’s money, it’s expected that you are in good enough shape to do the show.” For the purpose of clarifying his history of covering Newton, Weatherford has also e-mailed accounts of his own coverage of Newton dating to 1995, stories and reviews that consistently refer to the singer’s vocal difficulties. That, Weatherford says, indicates he did not catch Newton on a single bad night.
“The only thing I resent is he’s singling me out as the only one who has this opinion, which is fairly widespread,” Weatherford says.
Probably, the best way to approach Newton’s show in 2007-‘08 is not to expect the same voice that delivered “Danke Schoen,” “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” or even “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast.” But if you’re interested in catching a master performer whose act (and entire persona) is inextricably linked with vintage Vegas, Newton is your man. Nobody does that better – some production shows (especially those featuring impressionists) spend millions to capture the showmanship Newton carries with him instinctively. He connects with the audience in a sort of kitschy/cosmic way that, likely, no performer alive can match. You get the requisite cornball jokes about his American Indian heritage, you are told how special (and how hot! Hot, I tell you!) you are. You are beamed back in time by a man who is, as he has been marketed lately, as Vegas as Vegas gets.
And, it is worth mentioning, Newton sings all of his songs, something not everyone headlining on the Strip today can claim. “You could (lip-synch), in this day and time, but you couldn’t do it when I came up,” Newton says. “You did that for Dick Clark (on American Bandstand) and he was about the only one.”
And receiving harsh reviews? This is hardly Newton’s first horse show. He recalls making a call decades ago to a reviewer who, to again use his parlance, creamed him.
“I’d gotten a review, it was in the late-’60s, probably, and a this guy said – I’ll never forget it – he said, ‘I went to see Wayne Newton last night, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s not a good singer, I didn’t enjoy his show, I was shocked at the amount of people who were there, I found nothing about him to make me want to come back and see him again, much less review him … However, I want you to know that I was the only one in the audience who felt that way.’ Now that’s a reviewer, and called him and I said, ‘I’ve been reviewed a lot of times, and I hope to be reviewed a lot more times in the future, and I’ve never been reviewed more fairly than in your review.’ … but when these guys figure out they’re not doing reviews anymore, it’s called being a lion killer.”
Newton doesn’t always use the phone to level complaints about reviews. A decade ago he showed up at the R-J newsroom, unexpectedly, to complain about a review that then-entertainment writer Michael Paskevich had penned following a show at the Luxor (sadly, the venue in which Newton performed that night, in the basement of the casino, no longer exists). Two years later, Newton ripped into Paskevich during a show at the MGM Grand Hollywood Theatre, introducing the writer from the stage, directing the spotlight onto him -- then wiping him out for two breathtaking minutes.
“You ask, ‘Is it still in me?’ ” Newton says, his voice now in fine clarity. “Absolutely.”
If Newton sounds acutely protective, it’s because he has a lot to protect. A famous estate and ranch that is home to 75 Arabian horses and all variety of animal life. A fully-staffed entertainment conglomerate. A legacy that’s taken nearly six decades to forge. And, naturally, his family. He and Kathleen have been married since 1994, and Lauren was born in an arrangement with a surrogate mother in 2002. His adult, adopted daughter, Erin, is from his previous marriage to Elaine Okamura, which ended in divorce in 1985.
A trial attorney from Cleveland, Kathleen met Newton in 1990 after a show in Vegas. The McCrones were visiting during Thanksgiving 1990, soon after Kathleens father, William J. McCrone, died of cancer. The elder McCrone was a judge in Cleveland who knew Judge Seymour Brown, who also happened to be fairly chummy with Newton. Kathleen organized a getaway to Vegas during the holiday to help the family cope with the passing, and Brown arranged for the family to take in a Newton show in Vegas. During the show, Newton spotted McCrone in the audience and – eyes popping, to hear him tell it -- invited her backstage. The two met and were friends for about a year before Kathleen was actually dating Mr. Las Vegas.
“My mom used to come out to Reno and Vegas to gamble – she likes to partake – and met Wayne many times before I knew him,” says Kathleen, who has now taken to the Red Room to talk about Wayne. “I remember the first time she met him. I was in Cleveland and she called me and said, ‘Guess who we met last night! Wayne Newton! He’s so handsome and charming. He’s so wonderful!’ I said, ‘Put Dad on the phone,’ because Dad was extremely down to earth, he was not impressed by celebrities and had no problem putting one in jail. I asked him, ‘Dad, what was he like?’ And he said, ‘He was one of the nicest gentlemen I’ve ever met.”
The tabloids soon sorted out who was the stunning blonde on Newton’s arm and one finally caught a photo of Kathleen leaving court, wearing sunglasses with her hair up. There was a story about the McCrone family spending Christmas with Wayne Newton. “This was not the best thing for my career,” she says. “When you’re a litigator, it’s about your client. It’s not about the attorney. I get to court the next morning and the judge called me back into the chambers. He’s got the tabloid open and says, ‘Is this true?’ I said it was. The jury’s looking at me a little funny. I went to this criminal sentencing and after my spiel that my client was informed of all of his rights, all of his possible defenses, the charges against him and is withdrawing his formally entered plea of not guilty and has entered a lesser plea to the reduced charges of x-y-z, the judge, instead of saying, ‘Thank you, Miss McCrone, says, ‘Danke schoen, Miss McCrone.’ So, right then, it turned for me. Everyone started laughing.”
For Kathleen, being married to Wayne Newton can seem like a full-time job in which is in full control of everything except her spouse. She is actively involved in all facets of his career, but surrenders privacy outside the home.
“When we leave these walls, these 52 acres, he belongs to the public,” she says. “I have never known him, in 17 years, to not give an autograph, to not pose for a photo, to not talk to somebody. He loves people. It’s part of his makeup. So, a romantic dinner? I know if we go somewhere that if somebody comes up and asks for an autograph, he’s going to give it.” Unless the Newtons are unavailable. Like, at sea. “The only time – the only time we have been able to get away was in San Antonio,” Kathleen says. “We were actually on a barge, we had a romantic dinner and nobody could get to us because we were floating on the water.” Otherwise, the Newtons are homebodies. “We go to movies in disguise and we have game nights. We like to spend the evenings with our daughters. Neither of us are party people.”
Newton expects to return to Harrah’s, or a Harrah’s Entertainment hotel, in 2008. It’s just a matter of working out the dates at this point, but the Strip will bear a Mr. Las Vegas marquee next year.
Newton says the entertainment scene on the Strip has always been “cyclical,” meaning that, “we went through this thing with Siegfried & Roy and the white tigers. There must have been six shows up and down the Strip that had white tigers. Then, when Danny (Gans) made it to the main rooms (at The Mirage), the town was full of impressionists. Of course, now it’s the Cirque shows. To me, if there’s any downside to the Cirque shows, or any of the production shows – not just zeroing in on Cirque – it’s that we’re not building any performers.”
Not the next Wayne Newton, at least. Harrah’s President Don Marrandino, who signed Newton to his most recent contract with the company, appreciates Mr. Las Vegas’s unique allure. Last year, when Toby Keith was in town to check on the relentless hoedown that is Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, Marandino put together a summit for the ages. “I was telling Toby, ‘Ya gotta meet Wayne, ya gotta meet Wayne.’ So me and Wayne go down to the bar and meet Toby, and everyone’s very excited, and we walked outside to the Strip. This was on a Friday or Saturday night, the Strip was just mobbed, and Wayne says, ‘I think this is the first time I have ever walked the Strip.’ And the whole Strip stopped when he walked out there. The only other person who could do that was Elvis.”
Who was a friend of Wayne’s …
Also during that visit, Keith assembled a band to play a brief set at the bar. A bunch of friends of his were in town – including Jack Blades from Night Ranger and keyboardist Michael Lardie of Great White, also touring with Night Ranger. So we have a band, maybe. “Jack Blades plays base, Lardie is on drums. Toby is singing and playing guitar, and he says, ‘Who else can play guitar?’ And Wayne gets up there and just starts ripping on the guitar. He goes, ‘This is as much fun as I can remember having.’”
Wayne Newton is asked who, among the many entertainment legends he has known, influenced him the most. There is a pause. He finally says, “It would be a cross between Bobby Darin and Frank.”
“You know what they were? They were tough, fair guys,” Newton says. “But Bobby, for me, went a little over what I perceived to be the line. Let me say that. It was wrong for him to do some of the things he did.”
“I watched him onstage one night, take on a whole audience,” Newton recalls, laughing at the memory. “That was not a bright thing to do, you know? It was at the Flamingo. He got pissed off at something a guy yelled in the audience and he said, I’m paraphrasing here, I’m sick of all you bastards, if anybody doesn’t like what I’m saying right now, I’ll meet you back stage! And he meant it.”
Newton might take you on, but not 250 of your friends.
“He challenged a whole audience, yes,” Newton says, still chuckling. “You wouldn’t be able to get away with that today – the coverage would last for weeks. It’s a whole different world today, but that’s how Bobby was and that’s what made him who he was. He’s more appreciated today than when he was with us. People have started to tune into this genius.”
Newton, who can play 13 instruments, can be considered as such, too. He plays those instruments by ear and doesn’t quite understand why that’s considered such a big deal. He has been famous in Vegas since 1959 and nationally famous since he debuted on the Gleason show in 1962. He’s been famous for so long, he’s asked if he even remembers what it’s like not to be famous.
“I had a period, after my first two hit records, where I felt that I wished people wouldn’t ask me for autographs and all that. Then I got an invitation to do the Royal Command Performance in London in 1968,” Newton remembers. “I was walking up and down the streets of London, and for the first few days I was like a kid in a candy store. Nobody knew me. Nobody said hello. Nobody bothered me while I was having dinner. About the third day I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone just came up and said hello?’ I had that moment in time …”
That moment when he was not Wayne Newton. And what he learned then, nearly 40 years ago, is he’ll never cede the spotlight. Not until he’s powered through one last “Danke Schoen.”
… thank you for all the joy and pain …