Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2014

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Columnist Joe Delaney: Shecky Greene — the beginnings

JOE DELANEY has been active in the entertainment industry for more than 50 years. His column appears Thursdays and Fridays in the SUN.

NEW ORLEANS, 1952: It was my second semester at Tulane Law School. ... In addition, I was doing a one-hour radio show on WJMR-AM, located in the Jung Hotel on Canal Street. ... The Crescent City was a hotbed of incipient talent at that time, as well as a home for great jazz players. ... Bourbon Street was the happening place.

Louis Prima and Keely Smith were working at Frank Ferrara's Sho-Bar. ... The Sahara Casbar success was several years away. ... Papa Celestin, George Lewis and Jim Robinson fronted the band at Paddock Bar and Lizzie Miles was singing with Freddie Kohlman's band at clarinetist Sid Davilla's 333 Bourbon Street, next to Hyp Guinle's Famous Door.

The original Dukes of Dixieland had just replaced Sharkey Bonano and Santo Pecora & their Kings of Dixieland. ... Sam Butera and the Witnesses, just starting out, alternated.

Then came Shecky

Comedian Sammy Shore was booked into a small celler joint called the Preview Lounge, across University Place from the Roosevelt Hotel, now the Fairmont Roosevelt. ... Shore had gotten a better job in his home town, Chicago, and was suggesting they book another Chicagoan, who had worked with Sammy as team, in Shore's place.

Shecky Greene was that other Chicagoan. ... He came in for a fortnight and stayed for two years. ... In addition to his job at the Preview, Shecky joined with another local comic, Frankie Ray, and opened an after-hours club, the Wit's End.

Greene would work 45 minutes on, 15 off, midnight to 6 a.m. at the Preview, sometimes straight through, never repeating himself. ... Once, two big old New Orleans shad roaches started across the floor and Shecky, as Clem McCarthy, called the race and took bets at ringside.

No one funnier

Whatever the criteria and in whichever entertainment media, Shecky Greene is the funniest performer in person I've ever witnessed, and I've seen them all, in person and otherwise, during my more than six decades in show business, this last 30 years spent as columnist-critic at the LV SUN.

Greene will perform one show only, 9 p.m. Saturday, in the Tropicana's Tiffany Theatre. ... We know of no better way to laugh the old year out -- three days early. ... Shecky was more important than the main showroom in at least two hotels, the Tropicana and Riviera. ... Greene was one of the best reasons to visit Las Vegas.

Treat yourself to one of the all-time comedy greats of in-person comedy this Saturday. ... If you've never seen him, be sure to do so. ... If you have seen him, this reminder is unnecessary, you'll be there.

Friday addenda

Added starters: Mickey Rooney and George Carl Jr. are in the Gold Coast showroom through Dec. 31; the price is right and so is the show. ... Brendan Boyer & the Royal Irish Show Band are at Vacation Village through Jan. 5 then at the Santa Fe, starting Jan. 6. ... The Treniers start a three-week run, New Year's Eve (Orleans Hotel). ... Have a safe and sane New Year's Eve and a great 1997. ... See you here Jan. 30.

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