Part of Audrey Martin's world collapsed yesterday when she NTC learned that singer Wayne Newton has filed for bankruptcy.
But the 73-year-old Reisterstown woman rebounded quickly, penning a note of encouragement to the Las Vegas star.
"I think it's quite tragic," she said. "I feel he needs encouragement at this time; I know how hard he works to please the people."
If this were Vegas, the betting odds would be excellent that the 50-year-old entertainer will not only read Mrs. Martin's letter, but also will reply. After all, he sent her flowers for Valentine's Day.
According to people who know her, it was a typical reaction from Mrs. Martin, who is housebound with severe arthritis but spends much of her time writing and telephoning people who otherwise have little companionship -- and a lot of time chatting with them about her favorite singer.
"Sometimes my phone bill is pretty high," she said.
When the local priest who visits her mentioned a blind woman who needed cheering up, Mrs. Martin began making regular telephone calls to Ann Lawson, also of Reisterstown.
"At first I didn't know what to talk about but then I mentioned Wayne Newton and she knew all about him, so we had a common denominator that broke the ice," said Mrs. Martin. "I'm going to read 'Once Before I Go' [the singer's biography] to her."
"I like her very much, even though we've never met," said Ms. Lawson, 54, who is blind from diabetes. "We just talk about things. She tells me all about Wayne Newton and his concerts. I love to have people to talk to."
"She's so caring," said Marion Freedman, 66, a neighbor who volunteers at the Reisterstown Senior Center. "I've had times when my house is dark and she calls to see if everything is all right. Her sphere is limited but she tries to help any way she can."
"I'm having so much fun with her and Wayne Newton. We all enjoy it and we've discussed it over and over again," Mrs. Freedman said. "When she got the flowers on Valentine's Day, I couldn't believe it."
Ty Sigler, who lives opposite Mrs. Martin, became a close friend after his mother died in 1985.
"She took me under her wing," he said. "She became my friend and my confidant. She talked to me in her own special way. She made it easier for me to exist."
The relationship between the singing star and Mrs. Martin developed about a year ago, after she heard about Mr. Newton from friends and relatives, heard some cassettes and read his book.
"Once I read it, I was caught," said Mrs. Martin, whose conversation is interrupted by Meh Too, Mr. Chips and Shadow -- the three frisky dogs she rescued and who now share her days.
"He's down to earth, a human being just like the man down the street. I was very impressed after that."
She became a devoted fan and began a campaign to attend a Wayne Newton concert. The high point came in January, when WMAR-TV arranged for her to travel to Atlantic City, N.J., to hear the crooner. He dedicated a song to her then, and again during his Pier Six concert in Baltimore last month.
After the Atlantic City show, Mr. Newton spent a half-hour with her -- bestowing several resounding kisses that sealed her devotion. Mrs. Martin has the videotape to prove it. She even told the singer: "You looked better with your mustache."
Mrs. Martin, a native New Yorker, said: "I'm not some ga-ga kid, but there are people who have followed him for 30 years and never had a chance to meet him, and I did."
Despite having had more contact than the average fan, Mrs. Martin has a remaining ambition concerning Mr. Newton: "The dream of my life is to have a serious talk with this man."