The answer is yes. Yes, it is. Which makes it all the more remarkable that by the end of the show, most of these same people don't seem to care -- they're clapping like mad, and when asked for their thoughts, they say, ''He put on a helluva show.'' There is something he does in the room that enables him to overcome what should be a massive liability. Part of it is that he has a crack team of musicians behind him, and they play well and loudly. Part of it is that he's smart enough to give over chunks of the show to other performers -- his banjo player and his backup singers take turns in the spotlight. But most of it, I think, has to do with Wayne himself, and his power to seduce a room.
Which brings us back to the kisses.
The second time I see the Walk of Approximately 45 Kisses, I realize the true genius of Wayne Newton. The first time through, it seems to be a fun little romp -- at one table, at the behest of the husband in a couple, he kisses the wife repeatedly, finally breaking away with the quip ''You'd better get her to the room!'' At another table, he gladly takes some people up on their offer of a Miller Lite, and downs half the bottle. And when he returns to the stage -- perspiring and buzzed from the Walk -- he gleefully announces, ''What a kissing group this is tonight!'' The whole Walk seems to be about Wayne genuinely engaging and bonding with the audience. It's on the second night -- after Wayne has kissed a woman multiple times and told her husband, ''You'd better get her to the room!'' after he has downed half a Miller Lite, after he has proclaimed, ''What a kissing group this is tonight!'' -- that I realize: This isn't a free-form romp at all. This is a carefully scripted and choreographed bit of spontaneity.
This is the essence of his appeal. Wayne bonds with the room by pretending to bond with the room, and it works like a charm. That's not to say that there aren't genuine moments of spontaneity -- on one night, there is a fan who's brought a copy of Wayne's first album for him to sign; on another night, a bachelorette party in the back of the room pulls him over for kisses. And Wayne does seem to be genuinely in the moment when he's kissing the women -- so much so that after one show, he broods over a woman who refused to so much as shake his hand. ''I started to go like this,'' he explains, extending his hand, ''and she went'' -- and here he folds his arms and shakes his head -- ''and I thought, 'Bitch.' You know? Because it's not like I was going to attack her or anything. But that is very, very rare. And,'' he adds magnanimously, ''whatever her problems are, obviously, are her problems.''
If the show consists of boilerplate spontaneity, Wayne says that many of the boilerplate moments have their roots in actual events: The beer drinking, for instance, came from a night when a patron once offered him a beer, he recalls, ''and I took a drink and the place came apart, because -- I'm not sure I have ever figured out why that's funny. Then the Miller Lite commercial came along [Newton shot an ad for the brew in 2000], and I thought, I'm always thirsty when I get to that part of the room, so why not just put a Miller Lite there and pretend that it belongs to them?''