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   Joe Delaney remembers 1964:
   Shecky Greene at the Riviera

  Comedian Shecky 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.

   Hal 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 stand-up work.

   Elder Funnymen
  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 best material."

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.

   "The 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 Ceremony.

   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 the opportunity to be present when Shecky Greene is given a star on the HWoF?!

   Shecky Greene is considered by many to be
   the ultimate, consummate nightclub performer.

  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 horses!"

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 appearances.)

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 Cabaret Artists.

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 "Tonight Show." 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!)