There he was, singer Wayne Newton, soon to be 70, on center stage for Arizona’s Centennial Day celebration today at the capitol. This is who Arizona wants to put in the spotlight for its 100th birthday?
Newton is far past his prime, his voice embarrassingly croaky and off-key, his face bloated to the point it looks like his dark skin has melted. His hair is darkened to a deep black and slicked down. He is trying to be 40 again, the King of Las Vegas, a flush time when he had so much money he came close to buying the Aladdin Hotel. And, a bystander said, Newton opened his Centennial performance today, not with even “Happy Birthday, Arizona,” but with “Vive Las Vegas” what else? Unless seriously mistaken, I believe Vegas is still in Nevada. Well, you might say, it’s in the West anyway.
One is tempted to buy into this youthful farce out of kindness and for old times sake, but the bad voice ruins it all. Like Glen Campbell only worse. “Aging can be cruel,” Newton said between songs, not referring specifically to the mutilation of his vocal chords. But that’s what he meant. And he’ll keep the paycheck, thank you.
Several hundred showed up for ther performance. I didn’t take count but it looked largely like the older set, those among us who want to turn back the clock and reminisce about way back when. When life was really good. You know, before Obama.
Newton does have his Arizona ties. His family moved to Phoenix when he was 10, He stayed a while and left us. The Newtons transplants just like a zillion others in this state. But, really, Newton is identified far more with Las Vegas than anything in the Grand Canyon State.
So what were they thinking of, you might ask of those Centennial officials who hired Wayne Newton for such a momentous occasion?
I have a theory. The Newton audience was exactly the same crowd the Republican-controlled state Legislature plays to everyday of the session. Old folks and others on the ultra right with dusty ideas, if any at all, who want to drag us back into the 1950s and beyond. Maybe even to the Dark Ages. This game is called “Keep Your Constituents Happy.” Forget a joyous and meaningful Centennial celebration.
“Vive Las Vegas!” What else can you say?