weather icon Clear

Sammy Shore, Elvis’ opening act in Las Vegas, dies at 92

Updated May 18, 2019 - 6:30 pm

To Sammy Shore, one man’s medical device was another man’s comedy prop.

“I got a pacemaker put in, and the other day I had an itch, so I scratched my chest,” Shore joked a few years ago. “And down the street, a lady in a motorized wheelchair started spinning circles.”

Shore, the great comic who opened for Elvis Presley in Las Vegas, died Saturday morning in Las Vegas at 92. In 1972, Shore co-founded the Comedy Store in Hollywood, for years operated by his ex-wife, Mitzi Shore. The Comedy Store Facebook page confirmed Shore’s death from natural causes, reporting that Shore was surrounded by his family.

Shore is survived by his wife of 29 years, Suzanne Dennie Shore, his children: Scott, Peter, Pauly, as well as two grandchildren: Lola and Caleb. Shore’s daughter, Sandi, died in 2018.

Shore’s son Scott said there are plans for a funeral in Los Angeles. Additional plans for a service honoring Shore are pending.

An avid dog lover, Sammy Shore famously doted over his three dogs: JJ, Tallulah, and Matty. He headed up the annual “Funny Bones” dog-rescue charity shows in Las Vegas, performing at venues including The Orleans and the Palms.

“When I meet someone, I ask if they have a dog,” he once said. “If they have a dog, I have time for them.”

Shore’s career as as a stand-up began in the Catskills, when he and fellow comedy icon Shecky Greene were paired as a comedy team.

“He was my first partner, and I loved him,” Greene said Saturday upon hearing the news that Shore had died. “I’ve been calling him and singing to him. I called him every morning to sing to him. He was a wonderful man and so, so funny.”

Shore was a popular featured comic, opening for such headliners as Tony Orlando, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Tom Jones, Ann-Margret, Connie Stevens, Bobby Darin and Glen Campbell.

Shore’s son Pauly also posted a statement on Facebook: “My dad sacrificed a lot of his career for his family even though all he wanted to do was be on the road and tell jokes and be free.”

Sammy Shore drove Pauly to the younger Shore’s first stand-up show, at a restaurant called The Alley Cat Bistro in Marina Del Rey on Sept 25, 1985. The two toured together for more than 20 years on a series dubbed, “A Family Affair Tour.”

“Most of the audience would be like, ‘Pauly Shore’s dad’s opening for him?’” Pauly Shore wrote. “They thought it was some sort of a joke, (but) they soon realized the joke was on them.”

Sammy Shore advanced to club management. According to The Comedy Store bio of Shore, he and his writing partner, Rudy De Luca, founded the world-famous club in Los Angeles on April 7, 1972. Two years later, Sammy Shore relinquished the club to Mitzi Shore as the couple divorced.

Shore was especially proud of his days with Elvis, dressing in the same beige suit with dark-brown trim he wore during opening night at the International Hotel in Las Vegas in 1969. Shore’s mic actually went dead as he performed on opening night.

“I tapped the microphone with my finger, really hit it, and nothing,” Shore recalled in a 2010 interview. “I thought, ‘Noooo!’ So I looked up into the balcony and started reciting Shakespeare, just ad-libbing whatever lines I could think of. I was finally given a new mic, and I knew this one worked, but I just kept doing pantomime like it was dead.

“It worked out, but man, I was nervous, you bet. It was the biggest show ever in Las Vegas.”

Shore was also a writer throughout his career, releasing, “The Warm-Up,” “70 Sucks!” (for which he won five Drama-Logue Theatre Awards and Critics Choice Award) and “The Man Who Made Elvis Laugh.” Before his death, Shore was finishing a book under the title, “Last Comic Sitting (Confessions of a Pissed-Off Comic).”

Shore recorded several albums, including, “Brother Sam, Come Heal With Me,” and “70 Sucks, But 80 is Worse.”

Shore also appeared numerous films, among them “The Bellboy” with Jerry Lewis and “Life Stinks” with Mel Brooks. He also was a guest on Redd Foxx’s “Sanford and Son.” Shore was especially proud of his appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” a hallmark moment early in his career.

Late in his career, Shore performed a comic rap act onstage, flipping his cap backward and ordering up strobe lights. He routinely referred to himself as “Brother Sam,” calling out his jokes as if performing a sermon in church.

“Sammy was one of those hip cats; he had his whole lingo,” said comic and Laugh Factory at the Tropicana manager Harry Basil, who booked Shore at his last headlining gig four years ago, marking Shore’s 88th birthday. “He had a lot of jokes later on about getting old. I love that he toured with Pauly, and made fun of him onstage: ‘My son says, “Hey buuuudy.” What the (expletive) is that?’”

Basil continued, “To see Pauly with his dad, and how much he loved and respected him, was just terrific.”

Pauly Shore, who joined his father onstage at his final show in Vegas, ended his message with, “Dad, you lived an amazing life and I’m so proud to say that you are my father. When you’re in heaven, I’ll be killing the crowds night after night and carrying on your legacy.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Bellagio Conservatory unveils Italian summer exhibit
The Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens have opened the gates to its summer display. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
A.D. Hopkins on his debut novel
Veteran journalist introduces readers to “The Boys Who Woke Up Early.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seven Magic Mountains restoration complete
Artist Ugo Rondinone’s iconic Seven Magic Mountains receives a complete painting restoration in June 2019.
Making off-the-menu bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow in Las Vegas
Senior chef tournant Cesar Laran has created secret bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. To make them, he rolls bean curd sheets around a filling of carrots, celery and shiitake mushrooms, then smokes them with oolong tea and sugar. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Bread Pudding French Toast at Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas
James Trees, chef/owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, slices house-made blueberry bread pudding, coats it in egg yolks and mascarpone, fries it and tops it with spiced walnuts, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and creme fraiche. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Celine Dion closes 1,141-show residency on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Hear from Celine Dion about her 16 years on the Las Vegas Strip and what the future has in store for her. (Caesars Entertainment)
Lobster grilled cheese at Big Sur Oyster Bar
The hugely popular lobster grilled cheese at Big Sur Oyster Bar at the South Point in Las Vegas is made with white cheddar and served on sourdough. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
You can dine out with your dog in Las Vegas
Lazy Dog, among Las Vegas restaurants that allow dogs, is probably the most accommodating, with free bowls of water and a doggy menu. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sparrow + Wolf at Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas
Marc Vetri will launch a new collaborative chef series June 18, with a little help from Sparrow + Wolf’s Brian Howard. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 best things to do at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
10 best things to do at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disneyland - VIDEO
What it's like to ride the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ada’s opens at Tivoli Village in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Ada’s, from James Trees, owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas’ Arts District, brings Tivoli Village a similar menu of seasonal, artisanal pastas, pizzas — and ice cream. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Nutella French Toast at Cafe Americano in Las Vegas
Harold Norris, executive chef at Cafe Americano at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, coats brioche in cinnamon and chocolate and layers it with Nutella and bananas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)