Shecky Greene

Shecky Greene

Infobox Person

image_size = 150px
name = Shecky Greene
caption =
birth_date = April 28, 1926
birth_place = Chicago, IL
death_date =
death_place =
occupation = Comedian
spouse = Nalani Kele (married 1972, divorced 1982), Marie Musso (married 1985)
parents =
children =

Shecky Greene (born Sheldon Greenfield, April 8, 1926), is a comedian known for his nightclub performances in Las Vegas, where he has been a headliner for more than 30 years. [] He has appeared in several films, including "History of the World, Part I" and "Splash", and has guest starred on such television shows as "Mad About You", "Laverne & Shirley", "Love, American Style" and "Combat!".

His first gig in Las Vegas was in 1953. Fred Sheldon Greenfield (he finally made the legal name change to Shecky Greene in 2004) grew up on the north side of Chicago, served in the Navy during World War II and enrolled at a junior college to become a gym teacher, but he also picked up spare money by playing resorts and small clubs around the upper Midwest. He quit school after he got a call to fill in for two weeks at the Prevue Lounge in New Orleans and stayed six years, until it burned down. From there he went on to showrooms in Miami, Chicago and Reno/Lake Tahoe before an agent persuaded him to move to Las Vegas and open for Dorothy Shay, "the Park Avenue Hillbillie," at the Last Frontier. His act was held over for 18 weeks, a first for the Strip.

For the next three decades Shecky Greene was the king of comedy on the Strip, the prototypal lure for high rollers, a real "meshugener" (Yiddish for "crazy one") both on and off the stage. He was physical, quick-witted, and talented, as a singer and mimic and impressionist in any dialect. He was known for improvising entire shows.

Off-stage, his main passion was horse-racing. A thoroughbred horse named Shecky Greene was the frontrunner for nearly seven furlongs in the 1973 Kentucky Derby until the legendary Secretariat ran off with the race. Arlington Park in Illinois still runs a Shecky Greene Handicap.

When the MGM Grand Hotel opened in 1975, starring Dean Martin, the second headline act was Shecky Greene, whose salary at one point climbed to $150,000 a week ($125,000 went to "my bookmaker," Greene cracks). He was in rarefied company. The only other stand-up comics pulling down six figures at the time were Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, Bill Cosby and Johnny Carson.

Greene played Carnegie Hall and appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (which he hated—"they'd rush you on and off"). He played Pvt. Braddock for a year on "Combat!" and guested on "The Joey Bishop Show," "The Love Boat" and "The A-Team." He was a guest host on "The Tonight Show" and "The Merv Griffin Show" and brags that he gave Arnold Schwarzenegger and
Luciano Pavarotti their first national television exposure. He was recruited for Broadway shows but turned them down. "They wanted me to play Tevye at Caesars Palace," he says. "I did a big portion of 'Fiddler on the Roof' in my act, but people didn't realize I was making up everything. They'd go see it on Broadway and come back and tell me, 'That wasn't in the show. They must have left it out.' " He did a couple of movies, but Greene was a freewheeler, uncomfortable when limited to a script. He was at his best in a Las Vegas lounge, where he wasn't limited to anything.

His capers have become legends, including the one about his driving his car into the fountain at Caesars Palace. When the cops arrived, the windshield wipers were going. Greene rolled down the window and said, "No spray wax."

Greene says that Jay Leno once told him that his all-time favorite joke is one Greene recounted about Frank Sinatra saving his life. Five guys were beating up Greene, and then he heard Sinatra say, "OK. He's had enough."

He is married to his third wife, Marie Musso.She isn't in the business, but her father was. Vito Musso, a prominent Las Vegas musician, had played
saxophone with Benny Goodman and had roomed with Frank Sinatra on tour with the Tommy Dorsey band. Marie grew up seeing the crooner around.

External links

*imdb name|0338922
* [ Official Shecky Greene website]

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