Shecky Greene dies at 97 | Legend of the Las Vegas nightclub scene

Shecky Greene dies at 97

Legend of the Las Vegas nightclub scene

Shecky Greene, one of the biggest stand-ups in Las Vegas in its 1950s and 1960s heyday, has died at the age of 97.

He began his career in the Nevada resort as an opening act in 1954, moving to headliner at the The Tropicana Hotel in 1957. The comic  remained a stalwart of the city’s entertainment scene, opening for Elvis when he performed there.

He also worked with Frank Sinatra, although the pair had a  difficult relationship. Greene once made a quip at the singer’s expense that cost him a beating at the hands of his goons.  In later years, the stand-up would joke that Sinatra saved his life – because ‘five guys were beating me up and I heard Frank say "That's enough".’

His act was based on anger, and his off-stage behaviour was just as erratic, including drinking binges and gambling sprees – and he once drove his car into the fountain in front of Caesars Palace.

‘I should have been fired maybe 150 times in Las Vegas,’ he told The Las Vegas Sun in 1996. ‘I was only fired 130 times.’

In 2003, Greene began suffered from debilitating stage fright which stopped him performing for several years. He made his final Vegas appearance in 2011.

‘I was a manic depressive,’ he told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2009. ‘Then I developed panic attacks… I’d get a standing ovation, then I’d burst out crying as soon as I left the stage.

‘I wanted to get out of show business so bad at that time. But when you’re making $100,000 a week and supporting 12 bookies and a wife — it’s difficult.’

Greene – real name Fred Sheldon Greenfield -– made 40 appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, also doing a stint as guest host.

Other screen appearances include the movie Splash, the Mel Brooks film History of the World, Part I, and guest slots on sitcoms including Roseanne and Laverne & Shirley.

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Published: 31 Dec 2023

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