Our family has been to Las Vegas a number of times and we wanted to do something different. We were there mainly for the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek Convention – What Can We Learn About Peace from 50 Years of Star Trek. A great find was discovering Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah, which is about to celebrate its first anniversary of being open to the public September 18, 2016. Ever see a horse smile? Check out this video that I took as one of the horses got his swimming treat for the day. Given the 100+ weather, I was ready to climb in with him : )
Wayne Newton is so much a part of the landscape of Las Vegas – Merv Griffin said it best, “Las Vegas without Wayne Newton would be like Disneyland without Mickey Mouse.” Besides entertaining, he also loves his Arabian horses – it was a real treat to see them up close. China Star, the horse in the video thoroughly enjoyed a respite from the hot weather, and we also got to see Ariel display her natural yet unique, Arabian prancing gait – with her proud tail held high.
Wayne Newton started from humble beginnings born in rural Norfolk, Virginia. He grew to be the singing sensation of Las Vegas, for decades known as Mr. Las Vegas. In his career he has performed live for more than 40 million people in 25,000 shows and he has been blessed with devoted fans.1
It amazed me that Wayne Newton had his own radio show at 6 years old and television show at 9.2 At 15, he
started singing in lounge shows at the Fremont Hotel and casino – working 6 nights a week.3 Although he was doing what he loved to do, as a mom I can’t help but think how exhausting and pressure-filled it would have been for anyone – especially a child. Having a 15 year old myself, I can only imagine what an exciting, yet strange world opened up for him – both good and bad.
It sounds a bit like the Wild West which is fitting since coincidentally, both his mother and father were half Indian – Cherokee on his mother’s side, and Patawomeck on his father’s side. In researching Mr. Newton, I noted that in 2010, he was advocating on Capitol Hill for Virginia to recognize the Patawomeck Indian tribe. As I read on, “When Capt. John Smith and other English colonists sailed into Chesapeake Bay and its inlets, expecting to find wilderness, they discovered that another civilization had already beaten them to it.”4
Bells went off in my head. For those of you familiar with my blog, I’m sure you have a hint of where this is going : ) A connection to other people in another time, close to my heart – the Palestinians and Israelis, and the establishment of the state of Israel. Sound familiar? These types of thorny situations have happened throughout history – even the United States. For the Patawomeck Indians, it had a happy ending. They were recognized as one of Virginia’s 11 Indian tribes in February 2010.5 I understand that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict derives from a different set of circumstances, but I can only pray that someday this dispute will have a workable solution where both parties will one day respect one anothers’ beliefs as to the right to coexist. Amen, now back to Wayne Newton : )
Mr. Newton is a man of many talents. Not only is he a singer, but he also plays 13 instruments without being able to read music!6 He has had so many hits throughout the years, some of my childhood favorites are Red Roses for a Blue Lady, L-O-V-E and the always heart wrenching, Daddy, Don’t You Walk So Fast. Before writing this blog, I had considered his music, more my parents’ then mine. But as I looked at the list of his hit songs and couldn’t resist listening to recordings of them, it struck me how his music was intertwined in the fabric of my childhood. I knew the lyrics to so many of his songs, and listening brought a smile to my face. I was a little girl when he was on shows like the Ed Sullivan show and Bonanza, and I have happy memories of those Sunday nights when the whole family gathered around the television to watch. My brother and I would race to sit on the bright orange pleather-like lounge chairs – OMG. I suppose the good news is that I doubt that any animals had to give their lives to make them : )
As a child, Mr. Newton suffered from severe asthma. Consequently, he could not later join the military.7 But this did not stop him from serving his country. He has performed in every major United States conflict since Vietnam including touring with the USO on 16 tours and performing in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He also has supported the United States Airforce Thunderbirds and the space program. You can see his memorabilia from these times on display at his home : )
You can feel the heart that Mr. Newton puts into all aspects of his life from designing and building his home, the love of his horses, his shows with the USO, and his charity activities with Opportunity Village – an organization that he has helped raise millions of dollars to help people with intellectual disabilities. Our tour guide spoke about how kind and approachable he is. She said that on the occasions when he might coincidentally cross paths with the tour, he always greeted everyone warmly : )
Mr. Newton’s karma from all of those years of gratitude, singing “Danka Shaen” (which means Thank You), really paid off. Casa de Shenandoah translated is, “Home of Beauty”.8 It is a sprawling 52 acre estate. It has 8 houses, 2 barns, Mr. Newton’s plane (which you can walk through), and an impressive car collection (including Rolls Royces and Bentleys, some previously owned by Liberace, Johnny Cash and Steve McQueen). There is memorabilia from his decades of entertaining – including costumes and gifts from famous friends, collectible antiques, artesian lakes, magnificent purebred horses and even some exotic animals. I smiled when we were advised on the tour that they were building the mansion and digging to make the garage in the basement when much to their surprise, they found WATER – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT! Lady Luck surely was on his side : )
Two of the exotic animals on the premises includes a Magellan arctic penguin named Charlie, and Boo, a Capuchin monkey who can shake hands and who we were told has a propensity for stealing peoples cell phones and snapping selfies : )
The estate has its own celebrity having appeared in numerous movies such as The Rockford Files and Vegas and has “welcomed presidents, kings and countless celebrities.”9 It is laden with 24 Karat gold throughout the mansion, on stair case banisters, inlaid in doors and gates and even in the plates that Mr. Newton designed himself. There is a fireplace and floors decorated with blue lapis, Baccarat crystal lamps and chandeliers, and museum quality paintings. Casa de Shenandoah was ranked with the White House as one of the Top Five Homes in the country by CBS News in 2008 and MTV ranked it as one of the Top Three “Priciest Pads.”10 Wayne Newton even has had a day and street named after him : )
So that was how we spent a fun family-friendly few hours in Las Vegas. If you get the chance and feel like pushing yourself away from another buffet or black jack table, check out Casa de Shenandoah. It’s a unique opportunity to be a voyeur into the life of a rich, famous and caring spirit.
As always, I invite you to Join Me On My Journey…