- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 17, 2010

LAS VEGAS | Wayne Newton’s Las Vegas estate is a lavish wonderland complete with South African penguins, sweeping crystal staircases and a memorabilia collection to make a celebrity junkie salivate: a Frank Sinatra champagne glass, Nat King Cole’s watch, Steve McQueen’s Rolls-Royce and a Johnny Cash guitar.

Mr. Newton said the estate is so resplendent that he wants to open his home to the public and turn it into a tourist attraction, in a project some have dubbed Graceland West.

But Mr. Newton’s neighbors are fighting the effort. They are disturbed by the idea of noisy tour buses, unyielding traffic and inane gift shops flooding their affluent neighborhood of ranches and mansions just six miles from the Las Vegas Strip.

Critics circulated a petition and have begged the Clark County Commission to veto Mr. Newton’s proposed construction when it is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Las Vegas.

“This should be fought at all costs and I think this is appalling,” said Bart Donovan, who has grown accustomed to riding his horses down nearby thoroughfares in the 18 years he has lived near Mr. Newton. “This is our community, too.”

In Mr. Newton’s vision, visitors to Casa de Shenandoah would tour select parts of his 10,000-square-foot home amid the plush white carpets, gold-trimmed doors, impressionist paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and 17th-century antiques collected from European castles.

They might glance at the singer’s favorite space, a cramped office just to the right of his lavish living room, where the ominous red paint splashed on the walls is barely visible behind the shelves and stacks of mementos collected during his 50-plus years in show business.

The keepsakes are a reflection of some of the mentors and friends who helped make Mr. Newton famous, including Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin and Jack Benny.

“This is ‘the Dove,’ ” Mr. Newton, 68, informed visitors on a recent morning, plucking a beat-up guitar case from a row of instruments near his desk. “Elvis gave it to me at Graceland four months before he died.”

An adjacent theater would show a documentary about Mr. Newton’s public life, and, on some nights, the veteran entertainer himself would take the stage to belt out the songs that made his high-pitched voice famous - “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast,” which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard charts in 1972; his 1965 version of “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” and his signature hit, “Danke Schoen.”

Mr. Newton said he and his wife decided to share their home because they love the 40-acre estate so much.

The attraction would be both a tribute to Las Vegas performers and a peaceful haven in a city of neon lights and 24-hour casinos, he said.

“The last thing I have ever done is infringe on my neighbors,” he said. “I’ve heard people say that we are building a monument to myself. Get serious. I’m not that important.”

If the protesters get their way, Mr. Newton might have to scale down his aspirations or move on to a different business venture. If he wins, the attraction could employ 400 people while creating a new cash cow after years of financial troubles.

Mr. Newton filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1992 to reorganize an estimated $20 million in debts, including a $341,000 Internal Revenue Service lien for back taxes. In 2005, Mr. Newton disputed IRS claims that he and his wife owed $1.8 million in back taxes and penalties from 1997 through 2000.

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