Shecky Green is on the other line. I ask him a provocative question, sure to elicit something special in response.
“How are you, Shecky?”
“You’d be surprised!I am getting older by the minute!” he says. “I gotta tell you something: This might not mean diddly-squat to a lot of people, but I’m the last entertainer — the very last one — who started in this town in 1953.”
The last one, Shecky Greene.
It’s been a lot of minutes for Shecky, who turns 92 Sunday. Mentally, he is nimble as ever. Even his casual conversation is as sharp and funny as a stage show. He jokes, he sings, he could provide his own rimshots if need be.
“I have been offered many shows, but I’m 92! I can’t walk anymore! I’d spend an hour ‘Hello, Folks! Oooh! That hurts! Ouch! That hurts, too!’ That’s not much of a show.” Shecky then breaks into an impromptu song, one of his favorite gags, “The closing song would be, ‘I’m not around anymoooore, Darling, this is the end of me! I just had a talk with a guy named J.C.! So don’t you worry about meeeee!’”
Even as his mind is fleet, his feet are not. Shecky’s been leaning on a walker ever since he fractured his upper right leg in a fall at the Italian American Club on March 22, 2017. He’s in physical pain a lot, but loves talking of his career and yesteryear. His first Vegas gig was indeed in 1953, opening for Dorothy Shay, the novelty singer known as “The Park Avenue Hillbilly.”
Shecky recalls Shay’s encores, “She told the audience, ‘You know, you don’t have to go crazy about me, because I am coming back anyway.’ I loved it. I’ll never forget that.”
Shecky was held over for 18 weeks, unheard of at the time (this gig pre-dated even Liberace’s storied residency at Riviera in 1955). Breaking from his busy schedule as a Strip stand-up, especially for his time at the Riviera, Greene was a mainstay on daytime and late-night talk shows. He was also a good dramatic actor, playing the hard-drinking Pvt. Braddock on the ‘60s series “Combat.” Over the years he guested on “The A Team,” “Love Boat” and such ensemble-cast shows
Shecky is often recalled for his appearances on the same bill as Elvis Presley, and also the Freddie Martin Orchestra, at the New Frontier in April 1956. The ill-fated lineup is part of Vegas lore: The dinner crowd had no use for the rising rock ‘n’ roll star, who was making his Vegas debut. After the poor reception for Elvis on opening night, the lineup was flipped so Shecky could headline the balance of the two-week engagement.
Years ago, Shecky recalled in an interview with the L.A. Times, “I didn’t even know who Elvis Presley was. The kid should never have been in there. He came out in a baseball jacket. Four or five musicians behind him had baseball jackets on. It looked like a picnic.”
Shecky, the name, remains synonymous with joking around. “Isn’t it amazing?” he says. “You know, some people don’t know me or what I’ve done, and I’ll hear on TV, ‘Don’t be a Shecky!’ I go, ‘What the hell’s going on? It’s Shecky again!’ ”
Shecky again! A great title for a show, if he ever changes his mind.
Penn Jillette’s latest film, “Director’s Cut,” is being released nationwide in May, and the verbose half of Penn & Teller is working on a mid-May date for the film to run in Las Vegas.
The film was originally screened at Brenden Theaters at the Palms in June 2016.
Buoyed by a crowdfunding campaign, “Director’s Cut” is a film within a film. Jillette plays creepy filmmaker Herbert Blount, who is covertly filming the making of a cop movie starring Harry Hamlin and Missi Pyle. Blount stalks Pyle throughout the movie, which also highlights Teller in an unnerving — and speaking — role as a suspected sniper.
The film is directed by Adam Rifkin, who also directed the upcoming, “The Last Movie Star,” starring Burt Reynolds. During the premiere of “Director’s Cut,” Rifkin said Reynolds’ performance in that film might be the finest of Reynolds’ career.
The Reynolds legacy
The Big News coming out of Tuesday night’s UNLV College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame was Todd Fisher’s announcement of the Debbie Reynolds Performing Arts Scholarship. Fisher, Reynolds’ son and the brother of the late Carrie Fisher, told the crowd at UNLV’s Student Union Ballroom the endowment is for $1 million and would boost the school’s performing arts programs.
Fisher said afterward the Reynolds Scholarship could well lead to more scholarship endowments in other UNLV programs.
A Las Vegas resident, Fisher is also working on a book about his famous family, titled, “My Girls.”
The Hall of Fame’s 2018 honorees were Smith Center President Myron Martin; Guy Laliberté, founder of the Strip’s predominant production company, Cirque du Soleil; glass sculptor Dale Chihuly and his wife, Leslie Chihuly; Claudette Robinson, a Motown star as a member of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; and acclaimed Las Vegas urban planner and architect Denise Scott Brown. Also recognized with the Koep Dean’s Medal were broadcaster and educator Dr. Harvey Allen, and arts administrator William Lowman. Artist and educator Tim Bavington, known for creating “Pipe Dream” at Symphony Park, was UNLV’s Alumnus of the Year.
Raiders in the house
A triumvirate of former Oakland and L.A. Raider legends dined at Piero’s Italian Restaurant on Friday night. Ex-coach and quarterback Tom Flores, former QB Jim Plunkett, and wideout Fred Biletnikoff were all in the house. But the one who was really barking out signals was owner Freddie Glusman, who relished the presence of Raiders greats.
Deana? That you?
If you look closely at the gallery of The Masters coverage, you might see Deana Martin, daughter of the late Dean Martin. She and her husband, John Griffeth, are attending the tournament for the first time. Deana is returning her “Celebrity Roast” tribute to her father to South Point Showroom at 6 p.m. April 15. Actor Joe Mantegna is to be skewered. The roasters include ex-“Saturday Night Live” cast member Joe Piscopo; actor and “The Sopranos” guest star Lou Martini Jr.; Clifton Collins of “Westworld,” Kristen Vangsness of “Criminal Minds,” Gail O’Grady of “NYPD Blue”; touring comic Mike Marino; director Matthew Gray Gubler, also of “Criminal Minds”; and legendary comic Tom Dreesen.