I once asked Wayne Newton, Mr. Las Vegas, to give me a tour of the most historic parts of his adopted hometown. Who better than a guy who arrived in Vegas in 1959 as a fresh-faced 17-year-old singing sensation who looked like the result of a science experiment involving Brylcreem and estrogen?
When we connected in November 2006, he was still wowing the Wayniacs who flocked to see him six nights a week. He worked most often at the Flamingo, and played the role of benevolent elder statesman for a city I’ve always regarded as America’s naked id.
Turns out, that tour never happened. We talked about it a lot by phone and mapped out various possibilities. But on the day I arrived, he canceled with a vague excuse about hurting his knee. When I called him later, he confessed that, in truth, the tour would have been very short, because Vegas has a habit of imploding its history: “I realized that the only places I could have shown you that truly represented old Las Vegas were the Frontier and the Stardust.”
Within a year, both the Frontier and the Stardust, too, were reduced to rubble.
The city’s past doesn’t much matter. “In Las Vegas,” Newton said, “it’s what’s important now.”
Its constant renewal is what makes the neon-lit desert oasis such an attraction to those of us in Orange County, even if we’ve been there dozens of times. And it’s why we’re excited to feature it this month in “A New Look at Las Vegas,” our cover package. There’s always something new, always something greater, grander, glitzier than before. So we hope you’ll use our story as a guide to the best of what, as Mr. Las Vegas says, is important there now.