Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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A lifetime of laughs from lounge legend Greene

Shecky Greene was fed, feted and finally, four hours later, presented a Lifetime Achievement Award during the 13th annual Governor's Conference on Travel and Tourism.

The comedian is only the second person to win the award. Blackie Hunt, a longtime local entertainer, is the other.

Gov. Bob Miller made the presentation in a Caesars Palace convention room Tuesday night before a black-tie gathering that included local dignitaries and a panel of celebrities.

"I thought it would be good, but it was great," Greene said of the evening. "I've never been touched before like I was touched tonight."

Miller also presented the Tourism Development Award to 61 companies determined to have made an economic impact in Nevada in the past year.

In addition to Miller and and master of ceremonies Pete Barbutti, each of whom spoke warmly of the entertainer and of his contribution to Las Vegas history, celebrities Sid Caesar, Gene Barry, Mike Connors, Joe Williams, Rich Little, Norm Crosby, Keely Smith, Sonny King, Tony Sandler, Bob Goen of "Entertainment Tonight" and Jay Leno (in a video segment) took turns praising -- and occasionally zinging -- the man who was synonymous with that former Las Vegas staple, the lounge.

"I'd like to compliment my fellow performers for being courageous enough to come here and show everybody they're not working," said Crosby, the malaprop king.

Among the highlights were Williams' version of "Our Love Is Here To Stay," sung a capella to Greene before a hushed audience, Caesar performing his famous fractured dialects and Little impersonating Richard Nixon discussing his relationship with Greene.

"I remember the first time I met Shecky Green. Shecky came to the White House at a time of crisis. My spirits were very low. Shecky walked into the Oval Office telling stories, and I was hysterical. It was one of the most memorable afternoons of my life. Pat and I used to play that tape over and over and over."

King and Smith praised Greene for giving them work after their respective jobs with Jimmy Durante and Louie Prima ended.

"He took me with him when nobody would hire me, and I love you," said a tearful Smith.

"He asked me, 'When do you finish with Jimmy?' I said Thursday. He said, 'I open Friday, you come with me.' We stayed together five years -- and it was the most miserable five years of my life," King said.

For Barbutti, who came to Las Vegas in 1960, Greene was an icon.

"He's quite possibly the most gifted natural talent ever born," Barbutti said. "His reign out here was 25 years. He was untouchable for 25 years. Comics came and comics went. He was the standard."

Quipped Greene: "I never knew there were so many good things about me. I'd like to live my life over."

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