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Many years ago, I was strolling down The Strip in Las Vegas around 3:45 in the afternoon and I was passing a grungy little casino called the Westward Ho, which was next door to the Stardust. As a point of reference, neither the 'Ho nor the Stardust are there anymore.
Outside the Westward Ho, there was a man imploring passers-by to come in and see the 4:00 show they had there. As another point of reference, there are no good shows that perform at four in the afternoon. I don't mean just in Las Vegas. I mean anywhere.
The one in question was "A Tribute to Wayne Newton," which meant that they had a guy who kinda looked like Wayne Newton and kinda sounded like Wayne Newton. That, by the way, is pretty much the popular description of Wayne Newton these days.
Anyway, the barker (I guess you'd call him) outside stopped me and told me what a wonderful time I'd have if only I'd plunk down the bucks to come in and hear this guy performing all of The Midnight Idol's hits: "He sings, 'Red Roses for a Blue Lady' and 'Daddy, Don't You Walk So Fast' and 'Summer Wind' and yes, even 'Danke Schoen.'"
I asked with as much seriousness as I could muster, "You're not shittin' me, are you? Does he really sing 'Danke Schoen?'"
The barker said, "Absolutely." And then as if letting me in on a state secret, he leaned in and told me, "What he does is he closes with another song and people get worried and they think, Oh no, he didn't sing 'Danke Schoen.' But then he comes back out and does 'Danke Schoen' as an encore."
I said, "Whew! You had me worried there for a moment."
He said, "So, how about it, sport? Show starts in ten minutes. There are some good seats available." I had the feeling all seats were available including some in the band but I didn't have the time or the interest, plus there was this. Standing there in front of the Westward Ho, I could turn my eyes about 20 degrees and see the Stardust next door. And on the huge Stardust sign, it proclaimed the name of the superstar then appearing in the showroom there: Wayne Newton. Presumably, the real one.
In this world, there are some questions you just have to ask. I knew I was not the first person to ask this question or the second or the five hundredth…but I had to ask it because I knew the man had to have an answer for it and I wanted to hear what it would be. I asked the barker, "Why should I pay to see your Wayne Newton when I can walk across that parking lot and buy a ticket to see the real Wayne Newton?"
He said, "Our Wayne Newton is $14.95 and includes a buffet."
And I thought: You know, that's a pretty good answer.
I mean, the buffet was usually $5.95. The real Wayne was getting $49.95 per ticket. With tip, that's fifty bucks. Now, let's say the imitation Wayne was only 20% as good as the genuine article. I don't think it would be that hard to be 20% as good as Wayne Newton. I can't sing at all and I'm at around 14%. If he's one-fifth as good as Wayne, you're getting $10.00 worth of Wayne Newton for nine dollars. That's a better return on your money than Keno.
But I still said no. Didn't go see the real one that trip, either.
I was telling this story to someone the other day and I wasn't sure if I'd told it here or not…but if I have, it's been a while. And it prompted me to try and figure out who that Wayne Newton impersonator was. I did a little Internet sleuthing and I think it was Rusty Davis, who still performs in casinos and other venues around the country. Here's a sample of Mr. Davis. I think he's more than 20% as good was Wayne Newton was then…and probably better than him these days…