Joe Delaney remembers 1964:
Shecky Greene at the Riviera
Greene, the funniest natural comedian ever to play Las Vegas, had
just come from "saving" the Tropicana when the lounge was its only
entertainment activity. The reason he went to the Tropicana from the
Riviera Star Light Lounge, was because the Owners promised to give
him 5 Points of the Tropicana Hotel, plus a raise in salary. It's a
very interesting story., because JK Hossels who was putting up the
money to reopen the Hotel didn't want to break up the beautiful Bar
to put up a stage there. As Schecky walked out of the meeting, he
turned and said to Mr. Hossels, KJ - what if we put just a plain
board over the Bar???. Mr. Hossels put his hand over his mouth and
replied in a very soft voice, OK we'll try that. With this
arrangement, Shecky kept the Hotel open for 19 weeks, by himself
without a main Room Show. He actually saved the Hotel and stayed
there for 5 years. Then he went back to the Riviera Hotel which was
now in trouble. They asked Shecky to help them out, and gave him a
very large raise and 2 points in the Riviera Hotel. The wonderful
irony of this story is, saving two Hotels, and he never received the
5 points from the Tropicana or the 2 points from the Riviera, but he
did get a horse named after him by JK Hossels. The Horse ran like he
also didn't get any points. Because of Shecky doing Comedy in the
Lounges, Don Rickels, Totie Fields and many others Comics followed,
which helped make their Careers.
Greene's act varied from show to show, often
reflecting that day's happenings, personally and worldwide. He had
few peers for spontaneity, using both humor and wit, and as an
impressionist. When Greene finished his show, both he and the stage
were a shambles.
Erickson, All Movie Guide
Veteran nightclub comedian Shecky Greene is more of a storyteller than a
dispenser of one-liners, and this fact might be the secret behind
his durability. Greene started out in his home turf of Chicago in
1947; within six years, he was headlining in Las Vegas and making
the first of thousands of TV appearances. Not entirely comfortable
playing anyone other than "himself," he has nonetheless essayed
character parts in such films as Tony Rome (1968), The Love Machine
(1970), History of the World Part One (1981), and Splash (1984, as
Mr. Buyrite). He also played wisecracking Private Braddock on the
first (1962-63) season of the TV war drama Combat. Shecky Greene has
been the recipient of many honors and industry awards for his
Several folks have written me with suggestions of stars who might qualify
as Elder Statesmen of Comedy. They include Carl Reiner (age 80), Mel
Brooks (77), Dick Van Dyke (78), Howie Morris (84), Rodney
Dangerfield (81), Don Rickles (77), Bob Elliott (80), Art Carney
(84), Red Buttons (84), Jonathan Winters (77), Stan Freberg (76) and
Alan King (75). Buzz Dixon and Fred Hembeck both mentioned Professor
Irwin Corey who is, of course, 143. One could call all or some of
those guys our Elder Statesmen of Comedy, if only by default. But I
think it's significant that not one of the names mentioned was over
84. We used to have a lot of great comedians in their late eighties
or even their nineties. Henny Youngman was 92 when he died, Berle
was 94, Hope and Burns were 100, etc. Maybe I'm stretching things
but it seems like there's a gap here.
Speaking of great older comedians: I just got back from my doctor's
office where I was introduced to one. I was hustling past the
nurse's station on my way out when I recognized an extremely short
female patient there as my old pal, comedienne-voice actress Mitzi
McCall. She was chatting with an older male patient she just
happened to run into there in the office and she introduced me to
him. She said, "Mark, do you know Shecky Greene?"
Do I know Shecky Greene? Not personally, no. But I got to tell him
-- and this is absolutely true -- "Mr. Greene, I want you to know
that not only do I think you're terrific but my father did, too. My
father was a very frugal man and when he went to Las Vegas, he
wouldn't spend money on shows because shows cost too much. You were
the one exception. He wouldn't pay to see Frank. He wouldn't pay to
see Dino or Sammy. He wouldn't pay to see Frank, Dino and Sammy. But
he'd pay to see you, and he'd come back from Vegas raving about how
fabulous you were and doing absolutely terrible re-creations of your
Mr. Greene said, "I was getting $7.50 a seat then, probably."
I said, "Okay, so he wasn't frugal. He was cheap. But he would have
disowned me if I hadn't liked you."
So there's another Elder Statesman of Comedy, I guess. Shecky
Greene, by the way, is 77. I didn't see his charts but he sure
doesn't look it.
Tropicana Resort & Casino Celebrates the Grand
Opening of The Casino Legends Hall of Fame"
The grand opening festivities include the star-studded Inaugural
Induction Gala, set for Thursday, February 4, in the Tiffany
Theatre. Scheduled to perform during the Gala are crooner Bobby
Barrett and Las Vegas showroom legends Shecky Greene and Sam Butera,
among others. Famed comedic duo Mario & Daniel are the Masters of
Shecky Greene to be enshrined on Walk
According to an AP article,
Shecky Greene will be among
the folks to be honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce on Friday released a list that
also included Lou Adler, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Holly
Hunter, William Hurt, Judge Judy (Judith Sheindlin), Shecky Greene,
Isaac Hayes, Nathan Lane, Steve Martin, Wink Martindale, Ray Romano,
Charlize Theron and Motley Crue.
Congratulations and it's about time. Maybe we'll try to find out
when it's unveiled and obtain press credentials. What chamber of
commerce in its right mind would refuse SHECKYmagazine.com the
opportunity to be present when Shecky Greene is given a star on the
Shecky Greene is
considered by many to be
the ultimate, consummate nightclub
He is one of less than half a dozen comedians who has
headlined Las Vegas hotels and been paid in the six figures a week
to do so (the others being Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles, Bill Cosby
and Johnny Carson -- a rare fraternity indeed).
He began his show business
career nearly 50 years ago -- his second choice of career following
a Navy discharge in 1944 after three years of service aboard the
aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard based in the Pacific.
"I enrolled at Wright Junior College in Chicago and planned to
become a gym teacher, "Shecky recalls. I took a summer job at a
Resort near Milwaukee called Oakton Manor, where he met Sammy Shore,
a Social Director there. They teamed up and their Salary started and
stayed at $20.00 Dollars a Week.
In the late '40s a mutual friend recommended him to a club owner in
New Orleans who was in desperate need of a comedian. "I was booked
at the Prevue Lounge on the corner of Canal Street and University.
The contract was for two weeks and I stayed three years, the funny
thing was, the Comic he followed was Sammy Shore. My Band Leader was
the great Al Hirt, the greatest trumpet player I ever heard.
Greene eventually wound up owning a share of the Prevue and planned
to settle permanently in New Orleans. Then the club burned down, so
he went back to Chicago and Wright Jr. College. "I was in the dorm
one night when Martha Raye called from Miami and asked me to play
her club down there. I quit school again when they held me over for
six weeks. This time, I made up my mind, I would stick with show
business. I was only 25 years old and making $500 a week. Besides, I
had a silent partner to support ... I had discovered how to bet the
The turning point of Shecky's career came in 1953 after he was
signed to play the famed Chez Paree in Chicago as opening act for
Ann Sothern. Those were the days when headliners like Joe E. Lewis,
Sophie Tucker and Ted Lewis were mining gold in the fast-expanding
Nevada gambling casinos. When the Golden Hotel in Reno offered over
$1,000 a week, Shecky made a beeline for the Wild West. The owners
tore up his four-week contract on opening night and made him a deal
which insured him $20,000 a year.
Over the years Shecky played many Las Vegas casinos and lounges,
including the Starlight Lounge, the Tropicana and the Last Frontier,
becoming one of the biggest names in lounge entertainment in Nevada.
He was being offered film roles, TV shows, bookings in the best
cafes. Shecky turned them down in favor of his nightclub work.
(Actually, he did say "yes" over the years to many talk-variety show
Along the way Shecky has picked up numerous awards for nightclub
performances, including the Las Vegas Entertainment Award for "Best
Lounge Entertainer," the Jimmy Durante Award for "Best Comedian,"
and "Male Comedy Star" from the Las Vegas Academy of Variety and
He did eventually work in films, including Splash, Mel Brooks'
History of the World -- Part 1, and Tony Rome. He has appeared on
many game shows and was a guest host on Johnny Carson's
Shecky Greene always went back to Stand Up, which was his favorite.
In recent years Shecky has appeared on television series ranging
from "Laverne and Shirley" to "The A-Team" to "Northern Exposure."
He spends several hours a day helping fellow talents to improve
their acts. Delighted that comedy is strong again, Shecky likes the
new breed of comedians, but does not necessarily agree with the
language used. "Funny is funny," he says; "shock is not funny."
Racquetball is his favorite exercise, but he also enjoys riding and
walks on the beach.
Before the era of comedy clubs, but
after the age of burlesque, Vegas was pretty much the only place for
top comics to work, and Weatherford dispenses that history through
the lives of what he calls the big three: Buddy Hackett, Shecky
Greene and Don Rickles. What, no Joe E. Lewis? Weatherford actually
convinced me that Joe E. does not belong on the list, mainly because
he was popular with the Vegas founders but never that big a star to
the public. One very helpful aspect of this history is that
Weatherford has gone deep into the morgue, poring over old
microfiche and faded yellow clippings, to show the ups and downs of
familiar careers. (For example, he reproduces a rare ad for Elvis'
April 1956 debut at the New Frontier, where he's third- billed.
Second billing is Shecky Greene, and the headliner? Freddy Martin
and His Orchestra!)