Newton's/Laws (of) Emotion

It's hard to fault Wayne for any of this -- the white lies he tells his paying audience are certainly no worse than the ones we tell one another, or ourselves in order to sleep at night. Wayne argues that these touches aren't meant to deceive the audience, who aren't really looking for literal truth from him. ''They don't care,'' he says. ''I think it's called poetic license, to a certain extent, out there. The whole world of show business is exactly that. It's show and it is business. And the business is to give them the best show you can give them, without offending them, without trying to change their religious or political beliefs, and have as much fun doing it as you can.... And it's amazing how many people want to go to a show or want to go to a movie that they don't have to take apart every word or take apart every scene, that they can walk out of it feeling good. And that's what it's about.''

Newton's outlook, and his performance, are the product of a career spent, by and large, in the peculiar entertainment environment of the Nevada desert. In 1959, at a time when many teenagers were embracing rock & roll, a 16-year-old Newton made his Vegas debut, with his brother Jerry, in the lounge of the Fremont Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas, crooning ''Danny Boy'' and ''He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.'' By November 1964, at the height of Beatlemania, Newton had moved up to the Strip, opening as a headliner at the Flamingo casino and serenading audiences with the song that had become his signature tune, ''Danke Schoen.'' Save for a sojourn in the mid-1990s in Branson, Mo. -- Las Vegas' straight-edge cousin -- Newton has spent his professional career perfecting the particular aesthetic of the big Vegas show.

As a general rule, the big Vegas show -- not to be confused with the Vegas lounge act -- must be broad and bright and fast-moving. It must feature spectacle. It must send you out on a high note, directly onto the gaming floor. It should be neither squeaky-clean nor dirty, a little sentimental but not emotionally taxing. It must be easy to follow if you are drunk. It must not trouble your sleep.

Not every entertainer can pull this off. There is a certain personality, a temperamental eagerness to please, that is required. Newton, luckily, has the perfect temperament for a Vegas entertainer. Perhaps it's because he has spent almost his entire career in the city, or perhaps it's the reason he's been able to build an entire career here, but he has an amalgam of qualities that are difficult, if not impossible, to fake, and that are essential to his success on the Vegas stage. First and foremost, he does not have the aloofness that some entertainers have, the requirement that the public accept them on their own terms. Quite the opposite; as he puts it, ''If you can do a show and have touched one person to the point where they feel a closeness to you, where they feel a friendship with you, then that's what it's all about.... It's about entertaining.'' Told that some performers would rather be considered artists than entertainers, he says amiably, ''Really, get a life. I mean, we are not rocket scientists, we are not brain surgeons.'' And, he says, when he gets a crowd that's not responding, he likes to give a little speech that goes like this: ''A lot of performers will get a group like you are tonight and will just cut their show short and leave. Not me. I'll stay until you like me.''

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