Unfinished Business - Fall/Winter - 2017/8 travel blog












When I was a kid my family and I regularly watched the Ed Sullivan show. One evening a featured performer was a young, round-faced boy with a really high singing voice. He looked like a native American or maybe Hispanic, and when he started singing "Danke Schön," my Germanic family was perplexed. Why was this boy singing this song when he couldn't even pronounce danke schön properly? Little did we know that this song would become a hit and gave this young man a lengthy performing career. Wayne Newton is still performing three nights a week in Las Vegas today.

While we were never Wayne Newton fans, we got a good a deal for a tour of his home and spent the morning learning more about Wayne and admiring his digs. Both of Wayne's parents were half Native American. He was born in Virginia, but had terrible asthma so the family moved to Arizona. Before he even began school he loved to sing and quickly learned how to play instruments like the piano and guitar by ear along with his brother. The duo was discovered by Jack Benny who brought them to Las Vegas as a lounge act when Wayne was only 15. When Bobby Darin heard them, he decided to give "Danke Schön" to Wayne to record as a solo, even though it had been written for Darin following his hit "Mack the Knife." The song earned Newton so much money, he bought land here and began building a house which he designed. He wanted to put the garage beneath the house, but when they started digging, they discovered that his property was full of springs bubbling up from an aquifer that is still keeping things green today. Casa de Shenandoah is very close to the airport which was not a big deal when the house was built. The airport averaged three flights a day, rather than the three flights a minute that take off and and land today. But the water kept the Newtons here until recently, when they finally bought a new home farther out of town.

From our perspective the house itself was a mixed bag. It looked like the design of someone who was striving for opulence without really having much experience with the over indulgent approach to life. Wayne is a bit of a hoarder and built a museum next to his home to house all the souvenirs, chatchkees, and awards he has accumulated over the last sixty years. Like Bob Hope he made numerous tours to entertain our troops overseas who gave him all manner of bomber jackets and medals in return. He was good buddies with Ronald Regan and also displayed memorabilia from Nixon and the Bushes. No motion was made of the current president. A garage housed a large car collection that Wayne still drives.

When you are rich you can buy yourself whatever you want and Wayne has. He is mad about Arabian hoses and has a large stable where he breeds the animals and shows some of his best. He has a mini zoo with animals he likes. The first two peacocks must have been prolific breeders. You can hardly take a step without encountering bird droppings and they are perched literally everywhere. Ever so often they sneak in the house and make a big mess there as well. Not the way I would spend my money, but it's a moot point; I barely have any compared to Wayne! Still singing Danke Schön.

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