I couldn't sing one of his songs. I'd never seen him perform live. No one in my life was (or is) a "Wayniac" for Wayne Newton.
But considering the fact that he is "Mr. Las Vegas," I thought there couldn't be a more "Vegas" thing to do while in Las Vegas.
Now, usually you don't get this kind of access to a celebrity's home until after they've passed—but Wayne Newton is still very much alive.
And that means one thing: He needs the money.
True, Wayne has had his fair share of financial struggles. He filed for bankruptcy in 1992, rebounded for a few years, and then found himself bankrupt again in 2012.
How does someone that famous end up with that little money? For Wayne, it started all the way back in the early 1980s when he was part-owner of the Aladdin Hotel—and when the lawsuits began. He bled out a lot of money in legal fees and settlements, and he owed back taxes and had some unpaid bills for extravagant expenses.
Wayne managed to "downgrade" to a $5 million home down the road and open up his Casa de Shenandoah estate for tours instead of selling it off.
That means he can come visit his mansion anytime he wants (and, apparently, he does).
That also means he gets to keep all his stuff and that visitors can see all the rooms (like the sunken living room) as Wayne and his wife left them—from the furniture...
...to the lighting fixtures...
...to the billiards table (adjacent to the entrances to the wine cave and the panic room).
Upstairs, there are the bedrooms...
...and the bathtubs...
...and lots of little reminders of whose house this is...
...even if he doesn't technically own it anymore.
But Casa de Shenandoah is so much more than Wayne's former mansion. All in all, there's 52 acres with its own artesian lakes and wells.
On the first five acres he bought is his first house, built between 1966 and 1968.
Wayne was just a kid when he moved to Vegas and started performing—only 15 years old—so he lived here with his parents and older brother (and former bandmate) until construction on the mansion was completed in 1976.
He also started collecting horses during childhood, and eventually became a breeder of a champion stallion named Aramus.
He's cultivated several generations of Arabians as a result, though he only keeps 60 of them at any given time.
The purebreds get trained in an outdoor arena...
...and get taken for a swim as part of their training.
Not all horses actually know how to swim—but for those who do, it's an efficient workout.
Horses aren't the only creatures at Casa de Shenandoah: There's also a capuchin monkey named Boo, two wallabies...
...South African penguins, doves, parakeets, and parrots.
And then, of course, there are the collections of memorabilia, costumes, and cars...
...and Wayne's own $2 million private jet, a Fokker 28 that's now permanently grounded in his backyard.
You can blame the jet for a lot of Wayne's debt—over $700,000 in repairs, plus sky-high storage fees and the cost of disassembling it, transporting it from Detroit to Vegas, and reassembling it.
Wayne still performs in Vegas several times a week at Bally's, but long gone are the days mingling with Elvis and Bob Hope and so on. Nobody calls him "Hot Indian" anymore (at least, not in public). He no longer wears white jumpsuits lavishly adorned with Native American iconography.
But he's got his Wayniacs and his $5 million home, and he's lived to see an entire Vegas museum devoted to him and his life.
And in all of his 70+ years, no one has come close to taking the title of "Mr. Las Vegas" away from him.
Photo Essay: The Other Elvis of Palm Springs, The Elvis of My Childhood