LAS VEGAS (CelebrityAccess) – Improve master and standup comedian Shecky Greene – the Las Vegas lounge headliner for years, passed away Sunday (December 31) at home. His death was confirmed by his widow, Marie Musso Green, who told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that her husband of 41 years passed away of natural causes. He was 97.
Greene was raised in Chi-Town and served in the Navy during World War II (WWII). According to Greene’s official website, he began his career as a comedian in Milwaukee while attending college.
According to the Review-Journal, Greene’s association and love for Sin City began when he performed on the bill with singer Dorothy Shay at the New Frontier casino. His last performances in the city were in 2011, per the newspaper. Greene was renowned among comedians for his ability to work without a net or script – earning him the title of “Improv Master” among his peers.
Greene was well-known for his frequent appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and his work as the opening act for Sinatra in Miami and Elvis in Las Vegas. During the 1962-63 season, he played a recurring character on the World War II-set ABC drama Combat. He also appeared on TV shows such as Love, American Style, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Laverne & Shirley, The Fall Guy, The A-Team, Trapper John M.D., Roseanne, and Mad About You. Some of his film roles include Splash and Mel Brook’s History of the World, Part I.
He appeared as a guest on over 60 episodes of The Tonight Show and even served as a host on several occasions when Carson was unavailable. Additionally, Greene co-hosted and guest-hosted on The Mike Douglas Show and The Merv Griffin Show. He was a regular on game shows and variety shows such as Tattletales, Hollywood Squares and Match Gae. He also appeared on the Dean Martin Show and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour Show.
Later in his career, Greene struggled with substance abuse issues and famously drove his car into one of the fountains outside of Caesars Palace, admitting he was drunk at the time of the accident.
He rose above and began a comeback in the 1990s after battling mental health and depression, according to Tony Angellotti, a longtime friend. “He came back roaring, filled the Wiltern Theater on two nights and was invited by Jay Leno onto ‘The Tonight Show.’ He started working after that regularly,” Angellotti told Variety.
His wife and five adult children survive him.