By Matt Villano, on February 25, 2016

A day with Wayne Newton in Las Vegas

I’ve had some pretty ridiculous experiences in Las Vegas over the years, but shaking hands with a Capuchin monkey named Boo might just take the cake.

Somehow, however, the monkey was only one of a number of high points during my recent visit to Casa de Shenandoah, the private residence of Mr. Las Vegas: Wayne Newton. Newton recently opened the place to the public. Expedia soon will sell tickets to take a tour.

(In the meantime, here are some other Las Vegas activities to explore.)

I had signed up for a standard two-hour tour, an experience that started with a movie at the Visitor Center across the street. The movie painted a picture of Wayne as a child, informing my group of 15 guests about how Wayne got his start in show business, about how he’s been performing live shows in Sin City for nearly 60 years.

From the movie theater, our group boarded a bus and ventured inside the compound. That’s where I ran into Wayne. And we got to chatting. A lot.

Suddenly the two-hour tour became a four-hour extravaganza, a walk with Wayne around the estate. I shook hands with Boo. I pet a Magellanic penguin (named Charlie, for those of you scoring at home). I brushed Arabian horses. I ogled a crystal pool table. I saw an old station wagon that belonged to Lucille Ball. I even talked “Danke Schoen” with Wayne himself.

Many of these experiences made me laugh. Some of them also made me cry. Wayne, who serves as Celebrity Circle Chairman for the USO, took the time to tell me about some of his experiences visiting with U.S. troops stationed overseas. The guy is in his 70s, and he still goes at least once a year.

When it was all over, after Wayne hugged me goodbye, hopped on a golf cart, and puttered away, I was left with an overwhelming sense of disbelief. Did it all really happen? Was this really my life?

The answer, of course, was YES. And though Wayne sightings at the “Casa” are not guaranteed, anyone can have the same experience when they venture off the strip and head southeast toward the home of Mr. Las Vegas.

In a town that has been built on facades and buildings designed to look like other places, both Wayne Newton and the tour at Casa de Shenandoah represent a refreshing breath of authenticity. Yes, his shtick can get a little cheesy at times. But even when it’s over the top, the act is genuine, just like the man himself. It’s no wonder he has commanded the attention of so many “Wayniacs” over the years. After my recent visit, I’d say those Wayniacs can add another follower to the list.

Which Las Vegas attraction are you most excited to see on your next visit?