Shecky Greene

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Shecky Greene
Shecky Greene in The Love Machine 1971.jpg
Shecky Greene in The Love Machine (1971)
Born
Fred Sheldon Greenfield

(1926-04-08) April 8, 1926 (age 94)
OccupationComedian
Years active1954–present
Spouse(s)Nalani Kele (1972–1982; divorced)
Marie Musso (1985–present)

Shecky Greene (born Fred Sheldon Greenfield; April 8, 1926)[1] is an American comedian. He is known for his nightclub performances in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he became a headliner in the 1950s and '60s.[2][3] He has appeared in several films, including Tony Rome, History of the World, Part I, and Splash. In television, he has guest-starred on such television shows as Love, American Style and Combat!, and later Laverne & Shirley and Mad About You.

Early life, family and education[edit]

Greene was born and raised on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois. He enjoyed performing as a youth as a singer and drama club he formed during high school.[4] He emulated his older brother who liked to speak in accents.[5]

He served in the United States Navy[4] during World War II[6] for three years and was discharged in 1944.[7][8] He was briefly—but more than once—enrolled at Wright Junior College.[7][4]

Career[edit]

Greene had planned to become a gym teacher,[7] but he had been performing comedy in Chicago at mob-run nightclubs[4][3] and at various venues in the upper Midwest, and started his comedy career at the Prevue Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked for six years.[9] 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 in 1954 for Dorothy Shay, "the Park Avenue Hillbillie", at the Last Frontier. His act was held over for 18 weeks, a first for that venue.[3]

He invented a hysterical, free-form approach to comedy that the confines of a five minute television spot could not handle.[10][11]

When the MGM Grand Hotel opened in 1975 with Dean Martin as headliner, the second headline act was Shecky Greene whose salary at one point climbed to $150,000 a week and quipped that $125,000 went to "my bookmaker".[6]

Greene played Carnegie Hall and appeared on TV variety show The Ed Sullivan Show, which he says he hated because "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 played Lou Carnesco in two episodes of The Fall Guy. He appeared in "Members Only", a fourth-season, 1985 episode of the action TV show The A-Team. Greene was widely respected by his peers, including Johnny Carson who was a longtime fan. Greene made 40 appearances on The Tonight Show[12][13] on which he also served as a guest host. He appeared on The Merv Griffin Show serving as a guest host on that show as well. He notes that he gave Arnold Schwarzenegger and Luciano Pavarotti their first national television exposure. He also appeared on Match Game and Tattletales (with his first wife Nalani Kele) in the 1970s.[14]

Often sought for Broadway shows, he turned them down. One of his standard jokes in Las Vegas and on television went like this:

Johnny was a good boy, never smoked, never drank, never dated. On his graduation day from college, his parents asked what he wanted. Johnny replied, "A drunken broad that smokes."[citation needed]

Greene claims Jay Leno once told him that his all-time favorite joke is one Greene recounted about Frank Sinatra (with whom Greene had a contentious relationship) "saving his life". Offended by a remark made by Greene, Sinatra sent five men to assault him; after some time, he heard Sinatra say, "OK. He's had enough."[15][2][16]

Beginning in 2003, and lasting for six years, Greene suffered from panic attacks and stage fright rendering him unable to perform.[17][18][19] In 2009, in Las Vegas, Greene returned to performing.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27]

Greene owned several nightclubs over the years and in different cities, including New Orleans.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Offstage, Greene's main passion was Thoroughbred racing. A horse named Shecky Greene (1970–1984) was the 1973 American Champion Sprint Horse and the front-runner for nearly seven furlongs in the 1973 Kentucky Derby until Secretariat ran off with the race.[28][29] As of 2016, Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois, outside Chicago still holds a Shecky Greene Handicap race.[6]

Greene has been married three times.[3] From 1972–82, Greene was married to Nalani Kele, who had a hugely successful nightclub act, Nalani Kele Polynesian Revue, from the 1960s to the early 1970s. Since 1985, he has been married to Marie Musso,[6] daughter of Vido Musso, a Las Vegas musician who played saxophone with Benny Goodman. He has resided in Beverly Hills, California; Palm Springs, California; Las Vegas, Nevada.

Greene's career had obstacles due to depression and bipolar disorder,[30] stage fright, gambling, panic attacks and drug abuse and alcoholism.[6][4]

Greene led "humanitarian efforts" to create St. Judes Ranch, a shelter for indigent and neglected children in Boulder City, Nevada.[3]

Awards[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1967 Tony Rome Catleg
1971 The Love Machine Christie Lane
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood Tourist
1981 History of the World, Part I Marcus Vindictus
1984 Splash Mr. Buyrite
1984 Lovelines Master of Ceremonies
2000 The Last Producer Poker Player

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wills, Adam (2008). "Shecky Greene". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Legend Shecky Greene Returns to Las Vegas". lasvegasnow.com. KLAS News. Archived from the original on 2017-03-28. Retrieved 2017-03-27.
  3. ^ a b c d e Renzi, David (December 26, 1996). "Shecky Greene has become the man he wants to be". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 2017-03-27.
  4. ^ a b c d e Greene, Shecky (2013). "Shecky Greene Interview 2013 Part 1". Interviewed by Gary Licker and Scott Sobel. Gary Licker. Retrieved January 6, 2021 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ a b Greene, Shecky (2013). "Shecky Greene Interview 2013 Part 2". Interviewed by Gary Licker and Scott Sobel. Gary Licker. Retrieved January 6, 2021 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ a b c d e Neworth, Jack (March 25, 2016). "Ladies and gentlemen, Shecky Greene!". Santa Monica Daily Press. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Shecky Greene". Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Program. December 31, 1995. Retrieved December 10, 2019 – via jodavidsmeyer.com.
  8. ^ Schweikart, Larry (May 18, 2006). America's Victories. Penguin. ISBN 978-1101217818 – via Google Books. Comedian Shecky Greene sailed aboard the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard.
  9. ^ Olderman, Murray (January 9, 2005). "Leaving Las Vegas". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  10. ^ Nesteroff, Kliph (2020-11-12). "Outrageous and Courageous: The Myth and Legend of Shecky Greene". blog.wfmu.org. WFMU.
  11. ^ Nesteroff, Kliph (3 November 2015). The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy. Grove/Atlantic, Inc. ISBN 978-0802190864.
  12. ^ "Tonight Show Samplers". Retrieved May 6, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Shecky Greene". JohnnyCarson.com.
  14. ^ "Instagram post". Things That Made Me LOL. March 5, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-05 – via Instagram.
  15. ^ Boland, John (November 14, 2015). "He did it his way: The nice and nasty of Sinatra". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  16. ^ Roura, Phil (April 30, 1995). "Shecky Greene Doesn't Pull Any Punch Lines". New York Daily News.
  17. ^ Schwartz, Ben (December 21, 2015). "The Hilarity of Influence: An Interview with Kliph Nesteroff". Los Angeles Review of Books.
  18. ^ Christon, Lawrence (16 October 1994). "COMEDY: It's Not Easy Being Greene: Did you hear the one about the comic whose life became a nightmare of gambling, alcohol, panic attacks and prescription drugs? Shecky Greene can tell it". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ "Robert Klein, and Shecky Greene Moments Before Quitting Friars Club". April 25, 2014. Retrieved April 7, 2016 – via YouTube.
  20. ^ Smith, John L. (May 15, 2009). "Shecky Greene's Return to Las Vegas Stirs Up Memories of Sinatra, Caesars". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  21. ^ Katsilometes, John (March 23, 2017). "Shecky Greene knows slapstick, but fall at Italian club is the real thing". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  22. ^ Nesteroff, Kliph (20 June 2011). "An Interview with Shecky Greene - Part One". Classic Television Showbiz.
  23. ^ Nesteroff, Kliph (23 June 2011). "An Interview with Shecky Greene - Part Two". Classic Television Showbiz.
  24. ^ Katsilometes, John (24 July 2015). "Fountains incident recalls night at Caesars Palace starring Shecky Greene". Las Vegas Sun.
  25. ^ Seabaugh, Julie (May 7, 2014). "Gilbert Gottfried Is Offended You're Offended". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  26. ^ Gopnik, Adam (November 24, 2015). "Frank Sinatra and the Scandalous but Scholarly Biography". The New Yorker.
  27. ^ "Elvis Presley's at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas 1956". Elvis History Blog. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  28. ^ Michelson, Miles. "Shecky Greene Thoroughbred". Pedigree Online.
  29. ^ "No one remembers Shecky Greene". poundfeinstein.com. Pound, Feinstein & Associates. Archived from the original on 2014-08-28.
  30. ^ "300 Famous Individuals with Mental Health issues, illnesses, and disorders". namikenosha.org. National Alliance on Mental Illness, Kenosha. Retrieved January 6, 2021.

External links[edit]