Re-tread: The Night I Kissed Wayne Newton

From the archives of  Vegas, Baby!

Wayne Newton can’t sing. In fact, he can barely talk.

Someone told me that soccer players and singers have a high
incidence of emphysema in later life and if that’s true, he’s a victim.
It was a strain for him to finish a spoken phrase, let alone sing one
and his voice had a quavering "Mr. Ed" quality to it. There was a big
loud orchestra and 5 backup singers on stage with him, and one young
man sang every word Wayne did. Hold your nose, lower your voice and in
a monotone say "" and that was pretty
much it.

The audience was composed of sedate older people – many of whom were
in Rascals and wheelchairs or connected to oxygen tanks – a few blonde
and underdressed Wayniacs in front (possibly on the payroll) and the
four people at my table.

The show was perfect in it’s cheesiness – just what we wanted. Half
way through the third number (Elvis’s "Caught In A Trap") with the
orchestra frantically playing in double-time, Wayne started to kiss his
way around the audience. My professional mentor was sitting next to me
wearing Mardi Gras beads as big as ping pong balls and a national
account account exec from one of the major pharmaceutical vendors was
across the table with panties in her purse.

The Big Moment: after kissing an 85 year old birthday girl and
repeating kisses so that husbands could take a photo of Wayne kissing
their wives and climbing over tables to kiss everyone in sight, he
finally got to our section. As he approached, D. stood up, removed the
beads from her neck and put them on Wayne and roped him in for a smooch
– all in slow motion. He wore those beads for the rest of the show.
While this was going on, S. couldn’t wait any longer and apparently
tried to fling her panties at him from three feet away but they fell
short of the mark.

She was yelling "My Panties! My panties are on the floor! My panties
are way down there!
" The panties were retrieved and handed over to
Wayne who displayed them to the audience and then put the into the
breast pocket of his tuxedo. Then he climbed over the table and kissed
her. While I was watching the wine glasses and beer bottles falling
over and feeling pleased about the whole thing, I forgot that I was
supposed to kiss him too.

I felt a giant hand clutch my shoulder and when I looked up, he was
inches from my face. His eyes were bugged out and he didn’t pucker so
much as grimace as he zeroed in on my lips, looking for all the world
like Asbury Park’s own Tille.He
never closed those eyes – too much plastic surgery took away his blink
option, I guess. It was like getting up close and personal with Baby

I was the last person he kissed before he went back to the stage and
I can state with authority that he was closely shaved and he smelled

He kept those beads on for the whole show, and when he was bantering
with the audience, he held them up and asked if we were from New
Orleans. We were busy chattering and reliving the kiss and were
temporarily at a loss as to why he would ask us that but then D.
recovered and said "Yeah!" so he called us his friends from Louisiana
for the rest of the show.

Whenever he did something that would instigate a smattering of
applause from the audience, he made this weird movement with his hands
: he would hold his hands up about chin level, point the first two
fingers curving downwards and then make rapid digging motions. D.
thought he might have been intending to make that Rat Pack
back-and-forth pistol shooting movement, but to me it looked more like
a What’s New Pussycat -era I’m a tiger, baby! signal of naughty
intentions. Whatever it was, it is now the symbol of our night of
female bonding. for the rest of the conference, whenever we would spot
each other in the crowd, it would go something like this:

1. dig-dig-dig

2. bug out the eyeballs

3. shriek with laughter.

Don’t tell me I don’t know how to have a good time.

He played a bunch of musical instruments, including two different
banjos which sounded identical, the Wayniacs threw 6 pair of thong
panties onstage in a synchronized movement, and the girl singers went woo-woo-woo throughout the whole thing.

There was a patriotic tribute complete with unfurling of a giant
American flag, a round of applause for a sailor just off the USS
Abraham Lincoln and a tribute to all of the military veterans in the
audience (lots of WWII going on there). Then he started recognizing
individuals in the audience, like the 85 y/o birthday girl, anybody
from his hometown in Virginia, and some guy from Colorado. There was a
waiter standing in the middle of audience with a pad and pencil writing
all of it down as Wayne kept saying "Send them a bottle of champagne!"

D. tried to get in on the action by making alternate claims of being
from Virginia and having a birthday, but for all of our noise-making he
must not have heard her because he finally said "And send a bottle of
champagne to my friends from Louisiana!", the eventual result of which
was increased hooting, table-pounding and a few knocked over glasses.

Then Wayne loosened his tie, took off his jacket and started the big
finale – a very long version of "MacAthur Park" in which no theatrical
device was spared. There was smoke machine vapor roiling across the
floor, lasar lights crazily shooting in all directions, elevators that
lowered the orchestra and brought them back again, flashes of fire
spouting up on both side of Wayne and even rain. There was a veil of
water running around the edge of the semi-circular stage that rained
right into a trough on the floor. He kept sticking one hand into the
falling water and tilting it back so that it splashed onto his shirt. A
few sparklers in back of the orchestra, the appearance of a staircase,
stage lighting to suggest a setting sun and Wayne made his exit as the
staircase slowly sunk below the stage.

It was all so very satisfying. The entertainment magazine in our
hotel room which offered summaries of the performances around town said
this: "His performance of MacArthur Park has been known to bring an audience to stunned silence."
and I’m here to tell you that is true – the applause was not quite what
one would have expected, except from Wayne’s friends from Louisiana.

As we filed out, we made sure to tell the ladies in the wheelchairs
that Wayne Newton bought us champagne. They were politely clapping and
looking at us in our champagne-soaked outfits and our lop-sided Mardi
Gras beads and quietly said "Yes, dear – we know." Even in the ladies
room, I could hear the sound of D.’s voice bouncing over the top of the
stalls as she continued to inform the captive audience that Wayne
Newton bought us champagne.

Later, we amused ourselves by putting our noses close together and
imitating the wide-open eyeball expression and then shreiking. We
laughed until we snorted and then started all over again. The midnight
supper crowd in Tony Roma’s loved that.

originally published May 2003

Didn’t YOU Ever Make A Mistake?

You couldn’t avoid yesterday’s viral video if your life depended on it. You know the one – the teenaged southern beauty queen and her rambling non-answer about finding the US on a map. I watched it once, smiled at the idiotic answer and marveled that someone who made it that far into the pageant system was flustered by an unexpected question. In the clear light of day, I have done some deeper thinking about it all and come up with the following reflections:

  • Who among us would want our gaffes to be YouTubed all over the globe? I’m only glad that most of my run-on commentaries are limited to one roomful of people. Of course, those recorded conference calls could prove to be problematic for me …
  • The kid was on the morning talk shows today and her mantra was "I made a mistake – everybody makes mistakes", just as if she was announcing that the sun comes up in the morning and that is where she lost me. I was sympathetic to her situation and agreed with her explanation that she was overwhelmed and anxious and that contributed to her confusion, but when she pulled the Deflected Responsibility Mistake Defense, well, that was it.  I cannot tolerate this line, perhaps because the first time I heard it was one Dec 24th in a crowded supermarket and the person behind me ran into my heels with her shopping cart. I turned to look at her  and she very sarcastically told me that she made a mistake and asked me if I ever made one. I stood there bleeding waiting for more in the way of an apology. It never came. People,  accept responsibility for your actions. That is the mark of a fine person.
  • What is it with the deflections of responsibility?I was in a taxi on Friday coming down the parkway and we reached an E-Z Pass lane in the  toll booth line. The car in front of us ( from New York – are you surprised?) was stopped dead still and the driver was holding up an E-Z pass transponder to the windshield and waiting. We sat behind her for a few seconds and then the taxi driver gave her a beep and she inched forward until she was past the structure. She still went pretty slow and as we passed her, she flipped the bird at the taxi driver and then sped (still well under the speed limit – *snort*) away. Now what was that for? She was clearly in the wrong (mostly for trying to drive in NJ) but yet felt it necessary to express herself as if the taxi driver was at fault. It’s the I’m Rubber/You’re Glue defense and does not fit.
  • I question the question. What kind of bullshit poll were they quoting when they said 1/5 of Americans can’t find the US on a map? What are your sources? It’s possible the writers – most likely of the same ilk and generation as the beauty contestant – were trying to signal their cool with the kind of national self-flagellation so popular now. If the statement was "1/5 of Americans can’t find Myanmar on a world map" or "1/5 of Americans can’t find Tonga on a world map", then we’d have something. It seems likely that the writer was trying to indicate his distance from the common mass of Americans but tripped over his own cool self and is the same kind of birdbrain as the contestant
  • This is an entirely appropriate occasion to dust off your best  dumb blonde jokes. They don’t bother me because, in the words of the fabulous Dolly Parton: " … I know I’m not really dumb. Also I’m not really blonde." Now that is the kind of self-confident, clear-thinking southern blonde that should be answering questions in public.

There Are Times When I Can’t Stop Talking In Person Either

From our Department of I Don’t Really Have Anything To Say:

This is what I like to eat:

Cut some fresh broccoli into florets and trimmed stem slices.
Toss with

  • a bit of oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • a few grinds of pepper
  • a lot of cumin 
  • some hot sauce

Put it onto a hot saute pan and cover with a lid.
Turn the pieces over when they are darkened but before they burn.
Put it onto a serving plate and squeeze a good amount of fresh lime over it.

Critical review: "It’s good."

My Mission Today is To Insert “E-vaporate!” Into As Many Conversations As I Possibly Can

I caught a few minutes of a PBS documentary on Lucille Ball yesterday. By the time I tuned in, they were already up to the I Love Lucy years and so I tuned right back out.If they mentioned it at all, I had already missed any reference to one of my all time favorite movies The Big Street.

Its a 1942 Damon Runyon tale that is billed as a comic tragedy, but I’ve never found a single thing to laugh at. The characters are either very very good or very very bad and as compelling as the main characters are, it’s the cast list of the smaller parts that get me:  Mug at Mindy’s (8 different actors), Contributing Mug, Mug and  Mug asked to Clear the Way. Its Damon Runyon allright but nothing where near Guys and Dolls. The characters are hard-boiled, sappy, street-wise and unforgettable.

Check it out and stick with it until 2:17 to get a good look at Lucille Ball’s character.

"Listen hippo, that’s hair, not spaghetti" is the stage-setting dialog here, but I think that the dismissive "E- vaporate!" says it all.

Google it for the story synopsis – LB is a gold-digging nightclub singer, the girlfriend of a mobster and tries to ditch him for a wealthier beau. The mobster hits her, she’s paralyzed and abandoned. HF is a busboy who adores her despite her selfish and mean character and obsessively devotes himself to her well overall care. As good as that is, that doesn’t even begin to describe it. My two favorite scenes are:

  • Henry Fonda pushing Lucille Ball’s wheelchair through the Lincoln Tunnel at the beginning of the walk from NYC to Miami.
  • Henry Fonda dancing with Lucille Ball’s corpse in the final scene.

Bonus: Agnes Moorehead as the skinny, lovable Vio-lette whose gargantuan capacity for food makes her attractive wife material for the rotund Nicely Nicely Johnson.

You want an escape from your own reality? Unless you’re  wearing rhinestone-studded oceans of chiffon or posing yourself on the beach so that wealthy cads don’t know you’re paralyzed, this is it.

UPDATE: This is not the first time I’ve written about this movie. Thanks to the magic of the Wayback Machine, here is the first time.

In The Event That I Am Ever Stumped For Cocktail Party Chatter, I Can Fall Back On My Knowledge Of Anthracite Coal Sizing

There are things that are so much a part of the fabric of my life that it never occurs to me to mention them. I forget that Sami’s background and upbringing is so different from my own and that there is a lot that we have never spoken about. Much of it is about the old house.

The old house is pretty standard for late ’20s construction in northeastern Pennsylvania – sturdy and practical for the needs of that day. When Sami was showing someone around last week, they used a term he had never hear before. He was trying to remember it for me, but it meant nothing of him so it went right out of his head. Only by the description of where they were in the house did I determine that the term was coal shed.

Don’t be misled into thinking that the "shed" part refers to a building. By Wilkes-Barre terms, it is a separate room in a basement into which a ton of coal from the back of a dump truck was delivered down a shoot through a small window. The coal stayed piled where it fell and various devices from stall doors to movable wooden planks kept the coal from spreading around the entire basement. A ton of coal makes a big pile.


Here are the coal shed windows on the old house. They might look like regular basement windows to the uninitiated, but their position at the front of the house is the giveaway. If you stop and think about it, they are positioned awkwardly high and not much light is going to be let in by those. Even though coal use stopped in that house in the 60s, the old habit of keeping the window free of shrubbery for easy access remained.

The coal came in different sizes and we always got the same kind: pea coal. I’m not sure why – was there a difference in the price by size? For your future reference, I will now list from smallest to largest the various sizes of anthracite coal that was* available for home use:

  • barley coal – less than 3/16" more than 3/32"
  • rice coal – less than 3/8" more than 3/16"
  • buckwheat coal – less than 9/16" more than 3/8"
  • pea coal – less than 7/8" more than 9/16"
  • chestnut coal – below 1-1/2" above 7/8"
  • stove coal – less than 2 7/16" more than 1 5/8"

FYI – that is a bullshit list because I can’t recall any reference ever to barley coal or buckwheat coal and if a chunk of stove coal ever showed itself, it sure wasn’t anywhere near me. Now that I think about it, it must have been priced by size. The smaller the piece, the faster it burned and a ton of rice coal weighs the same as a ton of pea coal. Nobody wanted to be waving that cast iron shovel around any more often than they had to, believe me.

* still is?


Today’s horrors are brought to you by the September edition of Vanity Fair magazine.

1. Bad. About half-way through the magazine, there’s an advertising insert that announces American Spirit All- Natural cigarettes. Organically grown! No additives! Just pure and natural tobacco, the way the Indians did it before those pesky Colonists found out about it.

The ad is printed on appealing green colored paper and has images of everything from sunflowers to electricity-generating windmills and makes sure to note that it is printed on recycled paper.They practice sustainable environmental practices (just not human health sustainability).Organically grown,ecology-friendly cancer inducement. Its tobacco revenue plus environmental concern. The hamfist of Al Gore is all over this one.

Is there anyone out there who is deluded enough and deep into denial to believe that cigarettes without additives are a healthy choice? If the answer is yes, then I have an election fraud theory that I’d like to sell you on.

2. Very bad. Remember the fuss when they tried to re-formulate Coca-cola? This is much worse. Channel Reinvents No. 5.

" … now the House of Chanel has recalibrated its classic fragrance in a new product called No. 5 Eau Première … We needed to re-interpret Chanel No. 5 for the modern era, … The result of their alchemy is a youthful fragrance whose effect is
brightened by the orange-flower-oil neroli and Damascene roses from
Turkey and Bulgaria, which have a fresher, greener aroma than the
honeyed May roses."

The reviews, as you might have guessed, are not flattering.

"It is devoid of any of the charming fustiness of No. 5, and it doesn’t
evolve dramatically over time. I don’t find Eau Première as “fresh” or
“modern” as the Chanel public relations engine says it is — after all,
it’s a friendly floral scent, and we’ve seen those before. But
sometimes a person wants basic yellow cake — a good one, made with real
butter and fresh eggs — and not some extravagant concoction from the
Viennese bakery." Now Smell This

"The moment I smelled those honeyed, solar notes, I wanted to own Eau Premiere. Luckily, the reason won and dragged me out of Saks, to wait and see how the composition would develop further. Luckily, because the subsequent development was not that great. Believe it or not, the base of Eau Premiere smells on me not unlike a "lighter, fresher, softer" version of…Obsession. That’s right, Obsession. There is something in the drydown of the new Chanel, something heavy and strangely sharp, something ambery-musky that is very out of place there and that makes me uncomfortable. Something that will prevent me from ever wanting to own a bottle of Eau Premiere." Perfume Smellin’ Things

There are a few perfume bloggers who like it but the things they describe do not appeal to me. Personally, I kind of enjoy it when my aldehydes hit you in the face, but that’s just me. The one thing in common all the articles have in common is that they describe the original No. 5 as  and "iconic" which should be a big red flag right there – don’t mess with it.