Wayne New­ton re­calls his friend­ship with Bush ▶

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN KATSILOMETES

GE­ORGE H.W. Bush was known to be im­pul­sive when reach­ing out to his friends. When the mood struck, he’d hop on the phone and chat it up.

Wayne New­ton learned of this char­ac­ter­is­tic. Once, Bush tracked down New­ton while New­ton was on tour in Palm Beach, Florida. The Bushes — Ge­orge and Bar­bara — had watched an air­ing of New­ton’s bi­og­ra­phy on A&E. Bush, who by then had known New­ton for nearly 20 years, so en­joyed the broad­cast he needed to tell Wayne him­self.

So he called Mr. Las Ve­gas in Las Ve­gas and reached a mem­ber of New­ton’s staff at Casa de Shenan­doah. “This is Ge­orge Bush and I’m try­ing to reach Wayne New­ton,” he said. The staffer, non­plussed, took Bush’s num­ber and called the New­tons in Florida, say­ing that some­one claim­ing to be Pres­i­dent Bush was try­ing to find out where he was stay­ing.

“Ab­so­lutely!” New­ton said Satur­day, laugh­ing at the mem­ory. “So Pres­i­dent Bush fi­nally gets to us, and all he wanted to tell me, ‘I’m so proud to call you a friend.’ I said, ‘Me, too, Mr. Pres­i­dent.’ What a kind, kind man.”

New­ton had met Bush, who died Fri­day at age 94, when Bush was cam­paign­ing in 1979 as Ron­ald Rea­gan’s vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. Dur­ing Rea­gan’s first term, Bush vis­ited Shenan­doah in his long, black limou­sine and asked if New­ton’s daugh­ter Erin (then age 9) wanted to check it out.

“He said, ‘How’d you like to play in my car? Check it out, see how it works,’” New­ton said. “Erin was over the moon. He was that kind of guy.”

He also called New­ton again, around 2008, af­ter New­ton appeared on a ca­ble news show to de­fend Ge­orge W. Bush’s pres­i­den­tial record.

“I had said that his­tory would show that Ge­orge W. Bush would be remembered as a great pres­i­dent and a great man,” New­ton said. “We were at the Penin­sula ho­tel in New York. Same thing, he called and said, ‘I can’t thank you enough for what you said about my boy.’ That’s how he was, so kind and gen­uine.”

Bush recorded a video clip to play dur­ing the pub­lic tours of Casa de Shenan­doah. “When you get older, and I’m older, you re­al­ize how im­por­tant friend­ships are,” he said. “I’ve great re­spect and friend­ship for Wayne New­ton. He’s a good man, he’s done so much for the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness, and he’s done so much for oth­ers.”

Clearly and uni­formly, the same is said of the departed 41st pres­i­dent.

A Santa sea

A few mo­ments caught from Satur­day’s Op­por­tu­nity Vil­lage Great Santa Run on Fre­mont Street in down­town Las Ve­gas:

— Mayor Carolyn Good­man sidling up to the (nat­u­rally) shirt­less “Chip­pen­dales” cast and the guys from Hu­man Na­ture as Os­car Good­man com­plained, “Look at my wife! Look at her! I can’t get her away from th­ese guys! When is this go­ing to stop? She drives me to drink! Where are my show­girls?”

Os­car was car­ry­ing a martini, and it was loaded.

Grand Mar­shal Lance Bur­ton was with Rocky, the doggy owned by him and his long­time sig­nif­i­cant other, Gabriella Ver­sace of “Sexxy.” Bur­ton took own­er­ship about eight years ago as he was clos­ing his run at the Monte Carlo. And I mean “took,” as one of Bur­ton’s fel­low per­form­ers had found the puppy and brought him back­stage. Lance said, “Are you fos­ter­ing this dog?” When he was told, “Yes,” Bur­ton took Rocky … for­ever.

Jin­gle some of the way

Travis Cloer was in char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally fine voice at Satur­day’s soar­ing mati­nee per­for­mance of the Las Ve­gas Phil­har­monic’s “Clas­sic Holi­days” per­for­mance at The Smith Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts. But Cloer’s sleigh went off-course dur­ing “Jin­gle Bells.” He sim­ply for­got the song’s sec­ond verse, which starts with, “A day or two ago, I thought I’d take a ride. And soon, Miss Fanny Bright, was seated by my side.”

As con­duc­tor Dick McGee led the orches­tra into that un­charted ter­ri­tory, Cloer’s eye­brows raised and his jaw dropped. His singing part­ner, Kris­ten Hertzen­berg, hit him with a hip bump as she con­tin­ued to sing.

Gath­er­ing his com­po­sure, Cloer sim­ply led the au­di­ence, laugh­ing at this point, into an im­promptu sin­ga­long. The guy’s a pro …

Cool hang alert

Putting a bow on all of this, Cloer is head­lin­ing his an­nual “Christ­mas at My Place” show at the Ital­ian Amer­i­can Club’s show­room at 7:30 p.m. Mon­day. The cost is $30 (a mere pit­tance). Cloer is great. See him. Hear him. And, if need be, sing with him … John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A sec­tion. His PodKats pod­cast is posted on the RJ web­site. Con­tact him at jk at si lo [email protected] re­view jour­nal. com. Fol­low @john­nykats on Twit­ter, @John­nyKats1 on In­sta­gram.

Wayne New­ton

Wayne New­ton and Ge­orge H.W. Bush, shown here in the late 1980s at Casa de Shenan­doah, were friends dat­ing to Bush’s days as vice pres­i­dent to Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan.

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