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Comedian David Brenner, ‘Tonight’ favorite, dies


Legendary comedian David Brenner died Saturday in New York City with his children at his bedside.

Friends said he lost a battle with cancer.

Brenner, who turned 78 on Feb. 4, was considered the father of observational humor.

He was a headlining regular in Las Vegas when his career exploded in 1971 after he became a Johnny Carson favorite.

Brenner reportedly held the record for most appearances (158) on Carson’s “Tonight Show,” which he hosted 75 times.

His health began declining about a year ago, according to Brenner’s longtime friend, Las Vegas entertainer Tony Sacca.

In one of his last Las Vegas appearances, he performed at the Suncoast in October 2012.

Brenner had a three-night engagement at the Metropolitan Room in August 2012, his first major engagement in New York in nearly 20 years.

He moved to Las Vegas more than a decade ago and was in the news when he became engaged to Olympic figure skater Tai Babilonia in Central Park in May 2005.

Brenner grew up in South Philadelphia. He made his New York comedy debut on June 9, 1969, at The Improv. He reportedly was the last comedian to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and the first to perform on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theatre as a guest of “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Sacca, a Las Vegas TV host and singer who grew up with Brenner in South Philly, called him “one of the greatest.”

Sacca said Brenner sacrificed his career in his later years to raise his three sons, Slade, Wyatt and Cole.

During a custody battle, a judge raised the issue of Brenner being on the road so much, Sacca said.

So Brenner settled in Las Vegas to “keep his kids,” Sacca said.

Brenner was instrumental in giving career boosts to Jimmy Walker and Richard Lewis. Walker shot to fame as J.J. Walker in “Good Times” and Lewis became a top stand-up comedian and actor.

Brenner’s longtime friend, Bobby Slayton, reported on Facebook that Brenner had died, but quickly corrected the post, saying he had inaccurate information.

In an email, Slayton said, “David gave me my first few shots on national television when I was a young comic and would always take me out for dinner and give me good advice. He also let me know there were great restaurants in Vegas OFF the strip. Wish I knew that my first year of living there! Woulda saved a fortune!”

AGASSI INSIGHTS ON KIDS

Tennis legend Andre Agassi shared some rare insights on why his two children aren’t showing interest in following in the footsteps of their famous parents.

During an interview with TennisNow.com last month, Agassi was asked, “It’s interesting that you don’t see a ton of successful tennis players with kids who end up also playing professional tennis. When you look at golf or baseball, for instance, you often see athletes following in their parents or grandparents footsteps. You don’t see that much at all in tennis. Why do you think that is?”

Agassi: “I think it speaks to the tennis life, if you go the distance. It’s not easy, it’s lonely, it’s aggressive, it’s eat- what-you-kill kind of stuff.

He added, “And it’s not an easy way to spend time with your children. Golf is different, right? You go out and play 18 holes.

“I can’t think of anything better than spending five hours with your kids. Same with baseball. You go out and throw the ball around and spend time on the field. It’s a different deal, but tennis is solo and it’s individual and it’s hard and you kind of don’t want to watch your kids go through it.”

Asked how he and his wife, Steffi Graf, motivate their kids, Jaden, 12, and Jaz, 10, Agassi said his son Jaden “just wants to be with the baseball team all day. What most people don’t realize, being the children of parents who succeeded in sport, they realize it’s not so glamorous.

“They see us as people. They see our lives,” he said. “They see the difficulties in it. It’s not quite as glamorized. … They are very competitive and pretty gifted, but their mental approach seems to be very healthy.”

BABY NEWS

Babies are making news for two famous Las Vegas residents. Actor Nicolas Cage will be a grandfather for the first time this year. His son,Weston Cage, and his wife, Danielle, recently announced they are expecting a baby boy. … “Saturday Night Live” star Kenan Thompson, who has had a home at Lake Las Vegas for almost a decade, announced the news a week ago during an appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Thompson, 35, and his wife, Christine Evangeline, got married in 2011. Thompson hinted he may not be in the delivery room when the stork arrives. “I plan to be, like, at the casino when she’s giving birth — just kind of like old-school it a bit,” he said. Speaking to the women in the audience, he said, “You guys go through a lot. I applaud you.”

THE SCENE AND HEARD

UNLV supporter Jimmy Kimmel is coming home to support Rebels basketball coach Dave Rice’s autism fundraiser at the MGM Grand on May 17. Kimmel, who has hosted ABC’s late night show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” for more than a decade, will host the third annual “An Evening with Dave Rice,” which benefits the Dave Rice Foundation. The foundation was formed to raise support and awareness for autism-related organizations in Southern Nevada.

Kimmel grew up in Las Vegas and became an ardent Rebels fan.

SIGHTINGS

Oscar-nominated Amy Adams, taking in Friday’s opening of Wet Republic (MGM Grand) before stops at Crush and Hakkasan restaurant and nightclub. … Joey Fatone of ’N Sync fame, climbing onstage at Beacher’s Madhouse (MGM Grand) on Friday to join childhood a cappella mateJoel Herman, who was celebrating his bachelor party. Also there: Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs and Omar Miller of “CSI: Miami.” … A group of Cubs, including Rizzo, at N9ne Steakhouse (Palms) on Friday. Others in the party: Ryan Sweeney, Nate Schierholtz, Eric Hinske andGeorge Kottaras. … At Crush: ESPN anchor Steve Levy, celebrating his birthday with a group of friends. … Pia Zadora, chatting with former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian before singing the national anthem at the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball championship game on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center. … Drummer Vinnie Paul, hosting his 50th birthday party at Vinyl (Hard Rock Hotel) on Wednesday. Attendees included: Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist DJ Ashba, L.A. Guns vocalist Phil Lewis, Papa Roach drummer Tony Palermo, drummer Scot Coogan, Zowie Bowie performer Chris Phillips, Armored Saint and DC4 guitarist Jeff Duncan, Stratosphere headliner Frankie Moreno, Lacey Schwimmer of “Dancing with the Stars,” Asia frontman John Payne, Quiet Riot vocalist Paul Shortino, Whitesnake guitaristDoug Aldrich, Lynch Mob vocalist Andrew Freeman and “American Idol” finalist Jasmine Trias.

THE PUNCH LINE

“I haven’t seen this many hipsters in one place (Austin, Texas) since I took a home pickling class at an artisan cheese shop.” — Jimmy Kimmel

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.