Newton's 'Shenandoah' built on generous foundation


The money man behind Wayne Newton's renovated Casa de Shenandoah estate estimates he's put well over $100 million into the project and plans to give his share to Opportunity Village.

"Be sure to emphasize that Wayne and Kathleen did all the work. All I did was furnish a few dollars. There's not a nickel of debt," said Lacy Harber, a 79-year-old Texas businessman and philanthropist.

He met the Newtons about six years ago and bought out the singing legend's other investors after a legal dispute erupted.

"A couple people came in and Wayne didn't get along with them," Harber said Thursday at the opening of Casa de Shenandoah.

"About 2½ years ago Wayne and we (Harber's wife Dorothy) decided I would just go it alone," said Harber, who said he owns 32 banks in Texas. "About six months ago I turned down $450 million for them."

He found Newton to be "a very nice man. A humble man. If we get a problem we just talk about it on the phone and do it," he said.

The Newtons are not the only beneficiaries of the Harbers' generosity.

The Harbers have been told they are the biggest donors for Opportunity Village. He said they are planning to give several hundred million to Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas.

"When Dorothy and I got married in 1958, we didn't have $200 between us. We just worked hard and made a few dollars and I always felt we were put on this earth for a purpose and our purpose is to make a lot of money and give it away before we die," he said.

"We can't take it with us, and (President Barack) Obama will get it through estate taxes," he said.

The Harbers also fund an orphanage for 150 to 200 children in Africa. Avid archery hunters, they have made 55 trips to Africa.

The Texas couple have homes in Texas and Las Vegas. "It's just a fun city," he said. They are the only couple among the Ellis Island Medal of Honor club.

Turning Newton's estate into Graceland West has been an adventure filled with red tape.

"I'd bet we had about 50 permits to get this done. Mayor (Carolyn Goodman) has been out here several times and she helped us get permits.

"We had to get several commissioners — this was residential and turning it into commercial was no easy deal," he said.

"The neighbors at one time wasn't all for this, but once hey got used to it they said they'd rather have this than houses in here," he said. "So the neightbors have been very kind. Wayne's good friends with everybody out here so he just went and talked to them."

Harber grew up on a farm near Abilene, Texas. His school had a graduating class of 28.

About 20 years ago, he brought his former classmates, their families and teachers to Las Vegas.

Asked to estimate his net worth, Harber said, ""I don't have that big of a net worth because I give it away so fast," he said.

The scene and heard

Former KSNE-FM (Sunny 106.5) morning personality Melanie is back on the air after a 20-month hiatus. She's hosting "Sunday Brunch with Melanie" on KJUL-FM 104.7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. She will be on air weekdays beginning Oct. 5. She was a morning show fixture for more than two decades before KSNE dropped the Melanie and Zach team in January 2014.

On this day

Sept. 20, 2010: Paris Hilton pleads guilty to drug possession a month after she was arrested for having cocaine in her purse. She said it wasn't hers, but the plea bargain keeps her out of jail. Steve Wynn bans her from his hotels after the arrest, but the decree is lifted a year later.

Sightings

NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, dining at N9ne Steakhouse with friends on Friday. ... At Lavo Italian Restaurant and Casino Club on Friday: NBA star Carmelo Anthony, recording artist Redfoo, designer and celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe and Cheryl Burke of "Dancing With the Stars." ... Barry Wild, the father of British actor Jason Statham, got his wish to play Vegas on Friday. Billed as "The Voice of England," the singing legend from Yarmouth, Wild performed a one-night stand at Le Cabaret at Paris Las Vegas. Wearing a black cowboy hat and western clothes, he sang mostly '60s favorites during his two sets. The crowd included Statham, his girlfriend, British model/actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Wild's wife, Eileen, longtime Caesars Entertainment executive Tom Jenkin and Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl, who helped Wild's dream come true. ... Ceremonial mayor Roy Horn, entering the Hofbrauhaus on a scooter at Friday's opening night due to a recent leg problem. He and Siegfried Fischbacher kicked off Oktoberfest as honorary keg tappers. ... Attending the opening of the new Casa de Shenandoah on Thursday: Tyson Beckford, Criss Angel, Pia Zadora, Carrot Top and cast members of "Absinthe," "Chippendales," "Fantasy," "Jersey Boys," "Rock of Ages" and "Thunder From Down Under."

The punch line

"We learned some shocking news (from Wednesday's GOP debates) about one candidate. Jeb Bush admitted to smoking pot in high school. That explains a lot. He isn't low energy, he's baked." — James Corden

Norm Clarke's column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. On Twitter: @Norm_Clarke