THE STRANGE GUESTS OF JACK BENNY; WAYNE NEWTON???
Here's a 1962 Jack Benny Program with guest star Wayne Newton, then a newly popular heart throb boy singer who had just charted big with 'Danke Shoen'. Benny, apparently, was a mentor of Newton's and used him as his opening act in Las Vegas for several years. The Newton seen here is far from the mustachioed Vegas operator of the 70s/80s and is much more like the overly-humble, careful-to-be-respectful, God-loving, show-biz-has-been-good-to-me fellow he's turned back into in recent years (mega-lawsuits aside). Newton is in his early twenties here, tall and fat, with a much higher and stranger voice than the one we're used to--assuming you ever get used to Wayne Newton. According to Wikipedia, the young Newton found great support in the aging, Hillcrest Country Club show-biz klotch consisting of Benny, George Burns, Danny Thomas etc. What on earth did this gang of old vaudevillians see in the country-based, rosy-cheeked 'good boy'? Probably a little of the old vaudeville spirit--Newton's early gimmick was to play a half-dozen instruments during his act to take a break from his singing as a way of controlling his early asthmatic condition. These old bastards weren't so dumb, were they? They smelled the billion-dollar Vegas act of the future and had the good sense to back it--an insurance blanket, if you will, for their old-age in show-biz. Below is a surprisingly pleasant and articulate sit-down with Newton from about ten years ago. I tend to think that his sincere bit is less a bit then perhaps a genuine poor-boy-hit-it-big vibe. Then again, there's the Wayne Newton museum in Las Vegas and those aforementioned lawsuits--literally dozens of them. And the Johnny Carson jokes of course...
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 7:47 AM