Shecky Greene in The Love Machine (1971)
Fred Sheldon Greenfield
April 8, 1926
(m. 1972; div. 1982)
Shecky Greene (born Fred Sheldon Greenfield; April 8, 1926) 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. 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
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. He emulated his older brother who liked to speak in accents.
Greene had planned to become a gym teacher, but he had been performing comedy in Chicago at mob-run nightclubs 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. 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.
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".
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 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.
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."
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."
Beginning in 2003, and lasting for six years, Greene suffered from panic attacks and stage fright rendering him unable to perform. In 2009, in Las Vegas, Greene returned to performing.
Greene owned several nightclubs over the years and in different cities, including New Orleans.
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. As of 2016, Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois, outside Chicago still holds a Shecky Greene Handicap race.
Greene has been married three times. 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, 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.
- Las Vegas Entertainment Award — Best Lounge Entertainer
- Jimmy Durante Award — Best Comedian
- Las Vegas Academy of Variety and Cabaret Artists — Male Comedy Star
|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||Lovelines||Master of Ceremonies|
|2000||The Last Producer||Poker Player|
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Comedian Shecky Greene sailed aboard the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard.
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- "Elvis Presley's at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas 1956". Elvis History Blog. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
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- "300 Famous Individuals with Mental Health issues, illnesses, and disorders". namikenosha.org. National Alliance on Mental Illness, Kenosha. Retrieved January 6, 2021.