Newton's/Laws (of) Emotion

Why not, indeed? After all, who's to know?

Well, the people at the table, for one thing. They might find it a little odd that Wayne is pretending to drink one of their beers. But they don't -- I'm seated at the Table of the Gift Beer one night, and nobody blinks when Wayne thanks them, they just smile and nod as if to say ''You're welcome.'' Indeed, throughout the show, Wayne conscripts members of the audience as unwitting supporting cast members for his act. There is, for instance, the Designated Recipient of Abuse: Early in the show, Wayne picks out a man who, he says, he can tell came because his wife dragged him, and isn't having a good time; throughout the rest of the show, he'll return to this man to lightly tease him. Always, the Designated Recipients react the same way to the teasing: They laugh extra loud, as if to show that they're good sports. There is also the Horny Schoolmarm: When Wayne ''finds'' a pair of thong panties in his bandleader's pocket, he picks out a dowdy older woman and asks, ''Are these yours?'' and she nods yes. And there is the Man Who Loves Willie Nelson: When Wayne's backup singer Jeff Brandt comes out to do impressions, Wayne says that one audience member requested Willie Nelson and will perform a small dance -- a fist-pumping, hip-thrusting routine -- if Brandt impersonates Nelson. Every night, Brandt impersonates Nelson. Every night, the Man Who Loves Willie Nelson stands, pumps his fists, and thrusts his hips, just like Wayne said he would.

In two weeks of going to the shows, I wait for at least one audience member to refuse to be cast -- to stand up and say, for instance, ''I hate Willie Nelson!'' But nobody ever does. Perhaps they don't want to ruin his act. Perhaps they know that to refuse would be to fail at show business. Wayne says that only twice in his career have the Designated Recipients taken the Abuse poorly: Once, it was a man with, he says, ''no sense of humor at all.'' The other time, it was an ardent fan who retorted that he'd flown to Vegas just to see Wayne and was enjoying the show immensely, thank you very much. (The latter man may have been the most flattering heckler any entertainer has ever enjoyed.) But mostly, people are happy to be complicit in his act -- Wayne may have told a little white lie about them, but it's no big deal.

This is but one of a host of little white lies that Wayne relies on to manufacture spontaneity. The third song in Wayne's first medley is always ''At This Moment,'' and each and every time, he turns to his bandleader and says, ''Hey, remember that song I told you guys not to rehearse because we weren't going to do it? We're going to do it!'' And later in the show, he invariably announces, ''We're going to do a song we had not planned on, but that hasn't stopped us so far tonight,'' before launching into the same quick Spanish instrumental he always plays at that point in the show. Both ''extra'' songs are charming -- they send the message that this isn't just another show, that Wayne likes us enough to give us some bonus songs. It makes us feel like we're getting more for our $65.40 (including service charge) than the suckers who came to the show last night, or who'll come tomorrow. As for his nightly claim that he's had ''17 number one or top 10 songs, and over 50 top 20 songs,'' when according to Billboard he's had 17 top 100 songs -- only one of them top 10, and one top 20 -- well, where's the harm in making the crowd think that they're witnessing a bigger recording star than they are?

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