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
The Hangover is served at The Crack Shack in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Khine Moore, executive chef at The Crack Shack at Park MGM in Las Vegas, makes The Hangover with a fried chicken breast or thigh dipped in honey-butter, sprinkled with Crack Seasoning and topped with an egg. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dessert Before Dinner winner Becky Quan
Nine of Las Vegas’ top women pastry chefs offered original creations built around Girl Scouts Trefoils shortbread cookies Saturday night at Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada’s annual Desserts Before Dinner Gala. The top dessert, as voted on by the audience, was an homage to Good Humor’s old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars created by NoMad’s Becky Quan. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chef Sammy D is cooking again in Las Vegas
Sam DeMarco served his first public meal since returning to Las Vegas on Sunday, with a pop-up brunch at 7th & Carson. And the veteran of the First Food & Bar, Rattlecan and Sam’s American has more in store for the downtown spot. The chef, known as Sammy D. to his friends, is taking on a consulting chef role with restaurant that will see some of Sunday’s offerings added to the regular menu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Carl’s Donuts in Las Vegas celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day
Carl’s Donuts, a Las Vegas-based company that’s been serving the city since 1966, celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day with specialties themed to fall. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Harrison of "Pawn Stars" has a new store - VIDEO
Rick Harrison, the Pawn Stars co-star and owner of Gold & Silver Pawn, talks to the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes about his soon-to-open Rick’s Collection retail outlet of mostly mid-century masterworks at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa - VIDEO
Because of popular request, the 1-year-old Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa, with shrimp, ground pork, neither or both. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial by Fire cocktail at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Adam Rains, head bartender (also Grand Poobah and a few other things) at The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, makes one of the bar’s tiki drinks, (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gordon Ramsay renovating Las Vegas steakhouse - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is preparing to re-launch his Paris Las Vegas restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cats owners compete for top show awards
The annual Jazzy Cats event is taking place at the Rio Convention Center this weekend attracting cats owners from around the country and the world to compete for the top show awards. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas serves blackened Cajun catfish - VIDEO
Troy Remer, sous chef at Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, blackens Cajun catfish on the grill before serving it with mashed potatoes and collard greens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon at Mr. Chow - VIDEO
This just may be the gold standard for the filet mignon. Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has introduced The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon, which is coated with real 24-karat gold. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working as a mermaid in Las Vegas - VIDEO
McKenzie Kawano works as a mermaid at the aquarium at the Silverton in Las Vegas. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinkbox Doughnuts opens third store in Las Vegas area
Las Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts, which opened its third store at 9435 W. Tropicana Ave., specializes in doughnuts such as the new Station Wagon, with Butterfinger; pink-velvet Pretty in Pink; and hybrid Glazed DoughCro Bites. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal, with image courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
Starbucks brings back Pumpkin Spice early
Starbucks declares Aug. 27 the first day of fall as they make their pumpkin spice items available a full month early. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo at Carmine’s in Las Vegas
Roberto Leon, a line cook at Carmine’s at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, makes Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo with eight pounds of lobster, a pound each of mussels, clams and shrimp, two pounds of pasta and two gallons of sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'American Idol' auditions in Las Vegas
“American Idol” was in Las Vegas Monday looking for singers to compete in its upcoming 2020 season. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan part of the Harlem Globetrotters
Scooter Christensen, who grew up in Las Vegas, will play with the Harlem Globetrotters at The Orleans in Las Vegas Sunday, Aug. 25. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa Returns To Red Rock. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort is set to open on Aug. 26.
Hubert Keller’s Backyard Kitchen
Chef Hubert Keller of Fleur and Burger Bar shows off his backyard kitchen in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Watermelon Mojitos and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Bartender Cassy Leedom and Chef Norberto Ortega make a Watermelon Mojito and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas celebrates National Fajita Day
Cook Ruben Fuentes and general manager Taylor Pulliam of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas prepare steak and shrimp fajitas with the restaurant’s signature fiery treatment. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pasta Shop Ristorante serves a watermelon-shrimp salad
Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson serves a summer salad that combines watermelon with greens, feta and shrimp. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Factory Kitchen in Las Vegas makes classic affogato
Jorge Luque, pastry chef at The Factory Kitchen at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes affogato with two simple ingredients - house-made gelato and fresh espresso. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review Journal with image from The Factory Kitchen)
The Cereal Killerz Kitchen serves over 100 cereals
Christopher Burns, owner of The Cereal Killerz Kitchen at Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson, makes a Milk & Cookies Shake from his more than 100 varieties of cereal. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in Las Vegas makes a State Fair CrazyShake
Bianca Zepeva, a shaker at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes a State Fair CrazyShake with a kettle corn rim, caramel, corn-based ice cream, popcorn brittle, crushed kettle corn, sprinkles and a cherry. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Balboa Pizza Company makes Thai peanut chicken wings
Irma Perez, kitchen manager at Balboa Pizza Company at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, near Las Vegas, brines chicken wings for 24 hours before roasting and frying them and finishing them in various styles such as Thai peanut. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
New Venetian pool deck
Final touches are currently being added to the hotel’s main tower pool deck, which consists of five pools. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who is Vegas Vic? (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride explains the origins of the Vegas icon.
Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas serves a 4-pound Big Island Feast Burger
Cindy Sun, general manager of Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas, makes the Big Island Feast Burger with 2 1/2 pounds of the house bacon/beef blend, Napa-cilantro slaw, six slices of American cheese, a can of grilled Spam, six slices of chargrilled pineapple, four fried eggs and a drizzle of teriyaki and serves it with macaroni salad. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)