May 23, 2012 -- Wayne Newton, long famed as "Mr. Las Vegas," is being sued by a developer who claims he is obstructing efforts to turn his 40-acre Case de Shenandoah estate into a Las Vegas tourist attraction along the lines of Elvis' Graceland.
Not only that, the suit claims he's been sexually aggressive toward the firm's workers and careless by allowing his vicious dogs to bite people on the property.
Steven Kennedy, head of CSD Management, says his company already has invested $50 million in the project, which, as originally planned, was to have included a dinner-theater and car-wash. He says CSD bought Newton's property in 2001 and paid the singer $19.5 million, with the understanding that Newton and his family would vacate their mansion so it could be turned into a museum.
Newton so far has said danke schoen for the cash, but he hasn't budged from the property.
Kennedy's lawsuit claims Newton has deliberately frustrated CSD's efforts, that Newton "never intended to cooperate" in the venture, and that the singer's obstructionism goes way beyond just staying home.
Newton, it alleges, has refused to hand over a trove of keepsakes and collectibles intended for exhibit. They include, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jack Benny's violin. Newton also has failed, says Kennedy, to reduce the property's herd of horses, which includes Arabians, from 55 to a more manageable 20. The property, as described in the lawsuit and in the local press, comes with an extensive collection of exotic animals.
The filing levels a variety of charges, accusing Newton of engaging variously in animal mistreatment, "obnoxious sexual behavior" and allowing his dogs to terrorize CSD workers.
Quoting Kennedy's complaint: "The sight of grown men scrambling onto the roofs of cars and scaling tall trees in fear of their lives did nothing to dissuade Mr. Newton from continuing his walks with his unrestrained dogs, though he was well aware that his dog s were exceptionally vicious and had tasted blood many times." CSD workers, says the complaint, were bitten numerous times, "leaving scars both physical and emotional."
Further, "Mr. Newton's conduct toward one of the plaintiffs' younger female professional employees was so sexually reprehensible…that she…has threatened litigation." It quotes a letter from the woman's legal counsel in which she describes Newton's unwanted kisses as "wet, sloppy and disgusting."
In a statement, Newton's attorney, Stephen Peek, dismisses CSD's claims as "nothing more than a preemptive effort on the part of the plaintiffs to intimidate the Newtons for their own benefit." Its salacious and meritless accusations, he says, are meant only to deflect the Newton's forthcoming counter-suit, in which, Peek says, they will charge CSD with having mismanaged the project, spending "exorbitant amounts of money," and failling to secure building permits in advance of construction, "which caused the Fired Department to shut down construction on the Visitor Welcome Center."
Newton once reigned supreme as the highest-paid performer on the Vegas strip, but audiences and critics in recent years have not always been kind to the 70-year old performer. In 2009, a reviewer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal uncharitably referred to Newton's singing voice as having been "trashed, perhaps irreversibly."
The Associated Press says Newton has sustained financial embarrassments, including, in February 2010, an attempted seizure of Casa de Shenandoah over an unpaid $3.35 million loan, and an effort by Newton's former pilot to collect a court judgment for $500,000 in back pay.
Kennedy's claim says that before CSD undertook renovations, "Casa de Shenandoah was, to put it mildly, in sad state of repair."
Hundreds of tons of horse manure, it says, had accumulated on the property, towering in piles so high they rose half way up the 12-foot walls surrounding the property. Indoors, horses' stalls "were saturated in a sea of standing urine emitting a stench so potent hat it made breathing unbearable."
Penguin ponds "were disgustingly dirty, full of algae." with birds sick or dying. The wallabies weren't too happy either, forced to inhabit "a small, dung-filled dog kennel-like structure."
In a statement, Newton and his wife counter by asking how Casa de Shenandoah could possibly have been in such deplorable repair if it was used in 2009 as the setting for the season finale of the TV show "The Amazing Race." In 2008, they say, it was named one of the top five homes in the U.S.
As for the accusation that Newton abused animals, their statement says: "Wayne Newton has been named the top breeder of Arabian Horses in the world and has received accolade after accolade for his Arabian Horse Herd." Rulers of foreign countries, they say, have purchased horses from the Casa de Shenandoah herd.
Finally, say the Newtons, the charge of sexual harassment is "completely fabricated," and has no basis in fact. They say to date no complaint has been filed by the former employee.