Slapstick comedian Shecky Greene dies at 97


Legendary slapstick comedian Shecky Greene — identified for his rambling routines, a number of headlining runs in Las Vegas and fixed presence on the late-night speak present scene — died at his residence in Las Vegas on Sunday, his widow, Marie Musso Greene, confirmed to The Instances. He was 97.

In keeping with Musso Greene, the Vegas headliner died of pure causes.

“It was enjoyable,” Greene’s spouse of 41 years advised the Las Vegas Evaluate-Journal of what it was like being married to the comic for all these years. “He all the time made humor out of no matter he might. He made you chortle and really feel good. It was a contented time.”

Greene’s fast-talking narrative model of comedy was usually featured on “The Tonight Present Starring Johnny Carson” and “The Ed Sullivan Present” throughout their TV heyday within the ‘60s and ‘70s. Whereas he loved mainstream success and was very well-compensated for it, Greene was often known as a comic’s comic in sure sectors of the comedy world.

The free-form performer, a few of whose routines have aged higher than others, rose to fame as a comic within the ‘50s. Born Fred Sheldon Greenfield in Chicago in 1926, he served within the Navy throughout World Warfare II, enrolled in junior school however left when he was supplied a two-week gig on the Prevue Lounge in New Orleans. (He stayed for six years, till it burned down.) After showcasing his stand-up throughout the Midwest, New Orleans and Miami, Greene landed his first Las Vegas present in 1954, opening for comedic singer and actor Dorothy Shay on the now-closed Final Frontier lodge and on line casino on the Vegas Strip.

Greene was generally known as an all-purpose entertainer of the old-fashioned who advised jokes and tales, sang and appeared to have an infinite retailer of the sorts of observations that made the dreariness and confusion of life not solely bearable however humorous. He would additionally do most something for his or her delectation. As soon as, throughout a Florida gig early in his profession, he did a physique flip that landed him flush on his knee, which blew as much as the dimensions of a cantaloupe.

He parlayed that early success in Sin Metropolis right into a five-year headlining act at Vegas’ well-known Tropicana Resort beginning in 1957. Greene would go on to co-headline a present on the MGM Grand Resort alongside Dean Martin in 1975.

Whereas he thrived onstage, Greene privately struggled with drug, consuming and playing addictions.

Greene was a compulsive gambler who shrugged off the lack of pot a great deal of cash. He might afford it, he reasoned, given his stratospheric weekly earnings of $100,000 within the ‘70s. The one different stand-up comics knocking down six figures on the time have been Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, Invoice Cosby and Johnny Carson.

Earlier than lengthy, his escapades turned as legendary as his exhibits. There was the time Greene plowed his automobile into the fountain in entrance of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and whereas safety guards surrounded him underneath towering plumes of water, he rolled down his window and mentioned, “Maintain the spray wax, please.”

(Or that’s how he advised it onstage. As Greene advised The Instances for a profile in 2005, “The cops got here, and I went. I advised Buddy Hackett about it. He gave me the road in regards to the spray wax, and I put it in my act.”)

There was additionally the evening when Carson, in his consuming days, chased Greene out of Hackett’s home throughout a celebration. Greene finally plunged into Hackett’s swimming pool absolutely clothed, clambered out and squished his approach residence. The subsequent day, he remembered nothing however feeling remorseful — he knew from expertise that he was a imply, obstreperous drunk.

Later in his life, the brash orator discovered himself too anxious and depressed to return to the stage. He later shared publicly a prognosis of bipolar dysfunction.

“You are feeling you’re in a pit, a hellhole,” Greene advised The Instances in 1994. “There’s nowhere to go. You possibly can’t get out. You are feeling alone.”

“It was a giant effort simply to get him to stroll,” his spouse, Musso Greene, advised The Instances for a similar piece. “Socially, we couldn’t exit. He couldn’t drive. If a restaurant was too darkish, he’d go away. If a restaurant was too gentle, he’d go away too. I needed to warn our associates to count on something. You by no means knew when a panic assault was going to hit.”

Greene returned to the stage in Las Vegas in 2009 after an prolonged time away from performing.

Except for his stand-up profession, Greene additionally discovered success on tv and in movie. In 1981, he performed the position of Marcus Vindictus in Mel Brook’s comedy traditional “Historical past of the World, Half I.” He was additionally featured in Ron Howard’s 1984 Tom Hanks-led movie “Splash.”

Displaying his performing vary, Greene appeared within the World Warfare II drama sequence “Fight!” within the ‘60s. He additionally had visitor appearances in a variety of comedy sequence by way of the years, together with “The Love Boat,” “Laverne & Shirley,” The Fall Man,” “Roseanne” and “Mad About You.”

Greene is survived by Musso Greene, his third spouse, in addition to his daughters, Dorian and Alison.

Former Instances employees author Lawrence Christon contributed to this report.


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