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Transcript of interview with Shecky Greene by Barbara Tabach, June 5, 2018







At the time of this interview, Shecky Greene (1926 - ) is energetically snuggled into his modest Henderson home. His wit and signature sense of humor are at in full swing. Shecky sees a joke in every nook and cranny of a conversation and seamlessly spins the moment with a tune or voice characterization. A native of Chicago, his given name is Fred Sheldon Greenfield. His Jewish parents, Bessie and Carl Greenfield raised Shecky and his older two brothers in a secular but kosher setting. He recalls honing his humor as a child and creating his path to a decades-long career in comedy lounges and in film. His narrative glitters with names of Las Vegas entertainment history. He also talks about his passion for the St. Judes Ranch in Boulder City.

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Greene, Shecky Interview, 2018 June 5. OH-03444. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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AN INTERVIEW WITH SHECKY GREENE An Oral History Conducted by Barbara Tabach Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV – University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers, Editors: Barbara Tabach, Claytee D. White iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas iv PREFACE At the time of this interview, Shecky Greene (1926 - ) is energetically snuggled into his modest Henderson home. His wit and signature sense of humor are at in full swing. Shecky sees a joke in every nook and cranny of a conversation and seamlessly spins the moment with a tune or voice characterization. A native of Chicago, his given name is Fred Sheldon Greenfield. His Jewish parents, Bessie and Carl Greenfield raised Shecky and his older two brothers in a secular but kosher setting. He recalls honing his humor as a child and creating his path to a decades-long career in comedy lounges and in film. His narrative glitters with names of Las Vegas entertainment history. He also talks about his passion for the St. Judes Ranch in Boulder City. v TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Shecky Greene June 5, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Barbara Tabach Preface…………………………………………………………………………………………..iv Shares family roots to his birth name of Sheldon; the Shecky nickname that became his professional name. Looks at his Russian Jewish roots, his parents, growing up in Depression era Chicago, in a family of three boys………………………………………………………………….………...1 – 3 Joins US Navy in 1944, aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard (CV/CVA-31); Bing Crosby; discovering his sense of humor; quitting his bar mitzvah studies. Talks about his two older brothers’ personalities……………………………………………………………………….…4 – 8 Talks about seeking work in Las Vegas and Reno in the 1950s; Milton Berle; working Florida clubs; contract at the Last Frontier Hotel, Dorothy Shay, Xavier Cugat, Patty Andrews. Mentions working in North and South Dakota, New Orleans, orchestra leaders Al Hirt and Pete Fountain. How he developed his following from Jewish people to mainstream, doing accents and making up words. Catskills, New York to Los Angeles; married to Marie for over thirty years………..9 – 13 Talks about living and working in Las Vegas, involvement with St. Jude’s Ranch in Boulder City, Jack Adams; 1956 and Elvis Presley, Frontier Hotel, Wayne Newton, Frank Sinatra who gifted him a monkey; story of Sinatra “saving my life.” Work at lounges Riviera and Tropicana lounge; J.K. Houssels; Mary Kaye Trio………………………………………………………….…..14 – 19 vi Las Vegas Jewish community stories. Mentions the musical Most Happy Fella, movies he was in; Don Rickles and his popularity. Reflects on a 1965 clip of himself and Groucho Marx; Bobby Breen, Judy Garland, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor………………………………………………20 – 23 Thoughts about modern comedians, such as Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman. His first partner was Sammy Shore. Reflects on Ed Sullivan and being on his TV show; Jack Benny, Abe Margolies, Marty Allen and Steve Rossi. His wife Marie’s father was Las Vegas musician Vido Musso. Buddy Hackett. Beldon Katleman…………………………………………………….…………….24 – 30 Retells story of his arrest by Ralph Young; Foxy’s Deli; Mel Brooks and the play The Producers. Describes differences between Jews raised in Midwest versus the East. Caesars Palace, Al Benedict, MGM, Michael Gaughn, South Point Hotel, Circus Circus, Suncoast Hotel….....31 – 36 vii 1 This interview occurred June 5, 2018, in Shecky Greene’s Henderson NV home. Barbara Tabach is the interviewer. Being in his ninth decade of living, he instills the interview with his iconic comedic relief – as well as renders reflections on his life. Reading the transcript may not fully do justice to his comedic timing and his frequent burst into song. I'll start out by asking you to say your name and to spell it so that we type it correctly. My name is Shecky Greene. My birth name is Fred Sheldon Greenfield. Fred Sheldon was named after a man by the name of Freda Zelda. I'm the Jewish religion and Jews are named after people that died. I didn't want the name of Fred Sheldon, Freda Zelda. I wanted the name Al and my uncle had that name, so I killed him to get that name, but they wouldn't give it to me. They revived him and then I took the name Fred Sheldon. Later on, as I got into show business, my brother called me, when I was a little kid, Shecky. We don't know where that came from. From that time on my name was Shecky, Shecky Greene. I went all through schools and my earlier life with the name Shecky Greene. You spell that S-H-E— S-H-E-C-K-Y, G-R-double E-N-E. It's funny about that name because I just looked in the telephone, the smart phones, and was showing some kids what I had done in show business, and there's ten young comedians took the name Shecky. That's the first time I saw it, yesterday. I was kind of thrilled with that. I've got to find out who these kids are. That's a compliment. Yes, I think it is now to take that name. Plus the fact, there was a famous racehorse that was 2 named Shecky Greene that ran against Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and he had the lead for a mile. Also, he was an Eclipse Champion that year. When I went to England one time, I was doing a show and an Englishman says, "You know what? Your name is Shecky Greene, and I thought you were a horse. I didn't know you were a human being. I thought you were the horse." So I gave a little, ugh, and walked away. That's funny. Before we get sidetracked completely, for the Jewish project I think it's very interesting for people to first tell me what they know about their ancestral roots. Where did your Jewishness start? The funny thing about my Jewishness—and I'm not a religious man—I come from the family where we had the basic religions, the grandmother with the cooking and keeping the kosher house and all of that, and my mother did that for a while until she went to work during the Depression. Shecky, my name Shecky – In Israel the money is called shekels, and a lot of people think I came off of that. My mother was born in Russia; she was one year old when she came over. My father was born in Chicago. I think my mother should have married somebody that really had that European background because all her life she had that—what do we call it? We've got a word in Yiddish. That is (--schmata), European flavor. My father was kind of a wild guy from Chicago. He was a shoe salesman. At one time, he was a vice president of a shoe company, but when the Depression came on, everything went bad, and then my father became a shoe salesman on the road. He would drive three hundred miles and sell shoes and then drive back to go to the racetrack. Then he taught me how to go to the racetrack, and that has been my downfall ever since. You said your mother worked in the home and then she went to work? 3 My mother was a regular housemother until the Depression came. Then she went to work at a place called Maling Brothers; it was a chain of lady shoe stores in Chicago. She became the best saleswoman. She just got to love that job and that became her life was that job. Every time I had to talk to my mother, I had to buy a purse. That's good. How many children were in your family? There's three brothers. My oldest brother died here in Las Vegas, my brother Paul. I have a brother Marvin who is very sick right now. He and I broke our legs at the same time. I broke my leg about -- I think about six, seven months ago now -- and the very same day that I did, he broke his leg in Milwaukee. I told him, "Don't get out of the bed anymore." You've healed quickly. No, I'm not healed. I'm walking around with a walker, a cane and crutches. I'm taking pictures and I show it to my doctor that he wasn't quite successful; he was in selling the walker, cane, and the crutches because he sold them to me. I went to a psychiatrist here in Las Vegas. At the beginning when I first got here, we had strange doctors in Las Vegas. People used to say, "If you have to go to a doctor in Las Vegas, go to the airport first." Meaning you should go someplace else? Yes. I never had too much luck with doctors in Las Vegas. Let's talk about Chicago a little bit more. Take me back to what it was like to grow up Shecky Greene in Chicago. I'll tell you, Shecky Greene—most of the things, Barbara, that I do and the kind of humor that I had in my performances really stems from my middle brother, Marvin, the one that's still hanging on in very bad shape in Milwaukee. He did dialects. We used to stay up waiting for my 4 mother, so we would pretend we're a band off the radio where he would play the drums and I would sing. I would have a carpet sweeper and I'd make it into a microphone. We would sing with the stuff on the radio. But he used to do dialects, and because of him I started doing dialects. I did things in Chicago. In school I was the funny guy. The funny guy in school, you always find are not the smartest; that the personality covers up the ignorance. The teacher would say, "All right, let me see your paper. Oh, that's all right. You'll get it better the next time." Well, I had so many people tell me I'd get it better the next time that I never got it the first time. Growing up, I lived in West Side of Chicago. It was a Jewish neighborhood. We come from a family with lox and bagel on Sunday with an onion and the cream cheese, and then Saturday night we'd have the corned beef and stuff. Friday night we'd have the typical Shabbat food. My mother used to cook a lot of times before she went to work. We had a wonderful bunch of people in the Jewish neighborhood. Later on we got some Italians in there and some other people. The Polish were hiding; they said they were Jews. [Speaking Yiddish] That means that the Polish are Jews. Then we moved to the North Side of Chicago, which was like a little better neighborhood. The Jews that moved to the North Side of Rogers Park had a little bit more money than the Jews that lived in the West Side. The (Bulcher) kids were—matter of fact, I picked up the phone today with a friend of mine that's still living that I went to school with. Every one of the kids that I went to high school with and grammar school and part of college, we still talk to each other. Those that are living call each other all the time. How old are you? I'm ninety-two. That's a long time to keep in touch with folks. 5 Yes. I can't find too many ninety-two-ers. Every time that I call somebody, this is the way it goes. "Oh, listen..." "Well, when did that happen? Oh, I didn't hear. Ah. Okay." Then I'll call another friend. "Hi, I want to...When did that happen?" I just call the mortuary now direct. "Hello." "You got her Friday." But it is very sad when that happens. Well, yes. I had the greatest bunch of people. I went into the navy. I graduated high school and went into the navy. When did you go into the navy? At the beginning of '44. The war was still on. I got aboard a ship called the Bon Homme Richard, CV-31 Essex-class carrier, an aircraft carrier. Even that turned out to be funny because when I got aboard ship, the guy said, "What did you do before you got into the navy?" I said, "I was in charge of an ice cream stand at a drugstore." He said, "That's what you'll do onboard ship." I said, "I'll work in a drugstore?" He said, "No, you'll be in charge of the ice cream." Which I was. We were shooting at the Japanese, the guys, and I was going, "You want strawberry?" Later on everything that I ever did from the beginning of my school to in the navy all became part of my act. Everything was my mother. I would say, "My mother says, 'Eat the chicken.' I said, 'Mom, you make the chicken too greasy.' She said, 'Well, you tell me I make it greasy.'" She says, "Why do you tell people I talk with an accent?" I said, "Because it's funny that way." She goes, "I don't like it." I said, "You know the kind of money I make telling people you talk with an accent?" She said, "What kind of money?" And I told her. She said, "Listen, if you can tell this and make money, your uncle will learn to talk this way, too." Did she speak with an accent? No. 6 That's funny. Consequently, everything in my life—My wives, if I got a divorce, I put the divorce in. I was married to Linda. I would say, "We got married and on our honeymoon night she says to me, 'Hey, get (indiscernible).'" I said, "We didn't have sex, but it rained. I'll never forget how it rained." Consequently, Barbara, everything that I ever did on the stage is part of my life. You didn't make anything up? Well, I made things up as to things that did happen or didn't happen or people that I met. I'd make up about people that I met. I was very fortunate to work with Bing Crosby. I said, "Bing, I don't like golf." And he said, "Baa, baa, bu-da, boo, boo, boo. Baa, baa, baa, baa." If you remember that's what he used to say. He'd go, "Baa, baa." So that was funny. Everything, my whole life was that way. I think God is going to give me another year to find some more humor. When did you know you were funny? My brother and I both did things. I'm not saying all Jews, but Jews have a sense of humor that have sustained them forever. Moses had to have a sense of humor. "Everybody come. We're walking in the desert. Come on. If you make ten miles, I'll give you a pair of shoes." Right now, a cell phone. They would walk through the desert, and Moses would go, "All right, give them another block. Oh, God, the feets are burning." Everything I made humor out of it. My bar mitzvah I quit because the rabbi had a beard, a long beard, and he had all this food in it. I used to say to people when we'd go to lunch, "I'd dip his beard in water and make soup." But that was my whole thing, and I had a lot of that from my brother. There's three boys and you're the youngest? I'm the youngest. What did the oldest brother do? 7 That will take a long time to tell. He was a good boy. During the Depression everybody got messed up. He quit high school. He had a tough time most of his life. I would put him into things. I bought him a gas station. A lady came in one day and she threw a match down. He says, "Get out of the car." She goes, "What?" "Get out of the car. Pick that match up. Would you throw that match in your house?" That's the kind of personality he had. She called the police and he was arrested. Another time a lady says, "Do me a favor. I just want five dollars' worth of gas." He filled it up. He gave her five dollars and five cents. He goes, "You owe me five cents." She said, "I told you just five dollars." He says, "Hey, lady, you get five cents more." She called the police and he was arrested. He was one of those kind of guys. Finally I moved him into a police station and we never had to worry about that anymore. What did the next brother do? The next brother went to college, to Illinois. This is Marvin? Marvin. Marvin went to Illinois and then he quit. He got married before he went into the service and he stayed married for seventy years, but I think that's the thing that really destroyed him because he had to take care of his wife. He had a tough life, too. Then I bought him a tile store and every black guy that came in he had a fight with because the black people wouldn't give a measurement. They would hold their hands out and say, "I want one about this size." My brother finally went crazy. "Why don't you people measure these things? Why?" That's the kind of background I came from. My father was now bought out because he had losing tickets from the horses. But it was fun. I had a wonderful grandmother, wonderful aunts. Everybody had a nervous breakdown. Her brother had a nervous breakdown. Her sister 8 had a nervous breakdown. And I come from that stock. But Middle Eastern Jews all have a little problem. You know that, don't you? Middle Eastern Jews? Middle Eastern Jews, yes, like the Russians and the German Jews. You mean Eastern European Jews. Yes. A guy would say, "I want to tell you this is the most delicious piece of fish I ever tasted." He goes, "Yeah, Bobby, but I'll tell you it's a good piece of fish. But did you go to those Solomon’s down the street? Believe it when I tell you his fish is better. There's always something better." "But I don't eat over there. I eat over here. So why should I eat his fish?" "You don't want to eat his fish, don't eat his fish. You want to come and start an argument over a piece of fish?" Many comedians wanted to come to Las Vegas in the fifties and the fifties as it was opening up? Yes. Let me tell you my situation. I knew about Las Vegas because Las Vegas was really getting started at that time. I worked for people in Chicago and it was the hoodlums. I worked for Sam Giancana's group and those kind of people. I was a young kid, so I didn't have anything...They liked me. I really didn't know I was going to stay in show business. Let me just interject one question. You worked for them in what capacity, as an entertainer? At a nightclub. They owned the clubs there. Yes. I worked one place, then another place, and then finally I went to work for them. They 9 owned a club in Reno. But up until that time, although I did work little cockamamie places, I didn't want to be in show business. I didn't know what I wanted to be. I had a girlfriend back in Chicago that I was very much in love with, and I still talk to her once a week now. She was married and had three kids. Her husband died. But I still talk to her. She's ninety-two. We call and talk. I went to work—excuse me. [Coughing] That's from the fish I just had with those two guys. I think a bone got caught. I went to work in Reno and I really hit it big in Reno. I had a group of guy singers that [Milton] Berle used to work with, so I started working with them and I developed an act. I was very popular in Reno. Then they signed me for three years. After I finished, I went to work up at Lake Tahoe and they came up and they ripped up my contract. [Speaking with accent] I had a guy that talked like this rip up my contract. "We told you not to work here. We told you not to work Lake Tahoe. It's too close to Reno." So that was the end of that. But then later on I came down. I was working in Florida and the man that was booking Florida started to book the Last Frontier Hotel. But in Reno I met this girl at a bar. I was very unhappy, very lonely, very lonely. I don't know how it happened. Somebody said, "Why don't you two get married?" It's said a way a Jew should get married; a Jew should meet the parents and the grandparents, the whole (gaschitka). But I married this girl. I had the contract for the Last Frontier Hotel. I called and I said, "I don't want to work there. I'm not going. I'm going to quit." Then Geri—I didn't even know her last name; then when I really knew her, I didn't want to know her first name—she called and reinstated the job, so I had to come to Vegas; I had to come to the Last Frontier Hotel. In essence, she really is the making of my Las Vegas career because I came here and I hit it big. At the Last Frontier I worked with...Dorothy Shay was the first one. You've never heard 10 of Dorothy Shay. No, I'm not sure I have. Doesn't mean I haven't read about it. She was the song that my cousin—that sang the song...Dorothy Shay, I worked with her three weeks. Then they brought in Xavier Cugat and I worked with him. Then they brought in Patty Andrews and I worked with her. So they kept me there. Then I started drinking and gambling and buying property and getting rid of it right away. I had thirty-six acres where the airport is, and I gave it back to the guy who was the engineer at the Desert Inn, because I didn't want to stay with my wife. We weren't getting along. I ended up staying nine years, though. If I would have kept that property, I would have even kept her. What years was that approximately? This is 1954-55. Worth millions now. Well, the planes go over it now. That's one place. I had that kind of background. I did and then I took back. That's been my personality. Did you have a manager per se in those early days? Early years I had a guy that was an agent in Chicago, a Jewish drunk. He was once Jackie Gleason's manager. Anyway, I went with him and he booked me in places in upper Minnesota; that's why I didn't like show business; I didn't want those places. I wanted a nice Jewish audience because I did a very heimish-type show. I was working South Dakota, North Dakota, and I went into work and the guy was building the stage. He says, "It will be done in a couple of hours. You can work." I gave him a hit in the back. He swallowed two nails. Then it snowed. They had a snow like forget about it. Inside an hour it was up to here. No, no, this is not for me. I went to the boss, a Greek. I said, "Listen, I'll give you whatever you paid for the stage and everything." He said, "Listen, don't do that because I've got a couple of Jews coming in on a bus." He had a couple of Jews. 11 I quit that job and then I went back and I fired this agent. When I started to make it, he sued me here; he sued me there; he sued me. I just told you about the Las Vegas thing. Before Las Vegas I went to work in New Orleans. I went to work for two weeks in New Orleans. I forgot the name of it. Al Hirt was my orchestra leader. Pete Fountain was my...You know these people? Oh, yes, I do, yes. This was across from the Roosevelt Hotel. Look at the way I forgot the name of my place. Yes, I'm ninety-two. It will come to me. Anyway, I went into this place and I stayed three weeks. Then I was leaving and the guy wanted me again. Then he gave me fifteen percent of the business and I stayed. I drew all the Jews and everything. They always had the music and all of the thing, but now I began to bring the wealthy Jews in there. I always had that kind of following. After the New Orleans thing is when I went to Reno. Then I found my beloved. But we adopted two children, she and I. They'll be here next week, two girls. One is this big and the other is that big. You're indicating that one is short and petite and one is tall. Yes. The short one became a lawyer. The tall one got married and she's in the floral business. But they're not Jews. I didn't raise them Jews. I should have, I think. But who knows? They would be two more people for the people in West Virginia to hate. Well, I can't say Trump because Trump has got a Jewish son-in-law. I don't know what Trump is. I don't think Trump knows what he is. It's very challenging. It's frightening. What's happening today in this country is frightening. 12 How do you make humor out of—you always seem to react to whatever you're around—how does one make— Well, I would make humor out of that. I would talk about his hair. He and I go to the same hair place. I would say, "Donald, could I...?" "No, nobody is getting...It's a special that I do." That kind of thing. Him trying to convince me that his son-in-law is Jewish. "No, I tell you, he's a Jew. He's a kike. He is. He's a real Jew. Yeah, I'm telling you." That type of thing. Well, you don't call them that. There's a million things you can talk about. The inappropriateness, right? Yes. How come he doesn't allow Jews in that apartment building? Anyway, I'm going to tell you about my Jewishness. You said you cultivated a Jewish following. You did go more mainstream; everybody knew Shecky Greene. Oh, yes. First of all, I do every dialect. Swedish [speaking Swedish]. I do Irish [speaking with an Irish accent] I can do any dialect; German. [Speaking German]. But are those real words or just sounds? Some words. I always had pride in being a Jew. There is something that we all have as we're born Jews; there's a pride whether we go to temple. Our food makes us separated from the average because Jew food isn't your food. That sounded like an anti-Semite. Jewish food is from Germany, from Czechoslovakia. We're from all over anyway. I had this wonderful pride and I got this wonderful pride in being Jewish. The only thing is when I'd go up to the mountains to work in New York—you ever been to the Catskills? I've never been to the Catskills, but I've heard so much about it I wish I had experienced it once in my life. 13 Oh, you missed. It was wonderful. I worked up at the Catskills. I had an agent up there, Charlie Rep. I became one of his favorites. He was giving me more money than the guys that had been there for years. I developed that following, so that following all followed down to Las Vegas because those kind of people were the people that came to Vegas. You sort of geographically start in Chicago, you go to the Catskills? I did a period of my time there. Yes, I went to the Catskills. But all roads are going to eventually lead you to Las Vegas. No. I was working Las Vegas at that time, at the beginning. It was about the same time. You weren't actually living here or residing here yet? No. We took a place, but we lived in Los Angeles. She wanted to be there. She never came from that kind of thing, my first wife. She wanted a Beverly Hills bed. We moved to a place called Tarzana, which were brand-new, Encino, Tarzana, and then we moved to Beverly Hills. There were better bars for her in Beverly Hills. Then I married the one here. She and I went together and we broke up because she saw me drunk one night and she left. You're gesturing towards your wife, Marie. Yes. You've been married to Marie for how long? Thirty-seven years. Okay, it stuck. We stopped talking thirty-six years ago. No. Las Vegas, I watched it change. We had a lot of Jews in Las Vegas, as most of the owners were Jewish. A lot of times I got in trouble, I needed their Jewishness to save me. 14 Why is that? Or how did that start? If I got arrested, a gentile guy would say, "Just leave him in jail." But a Jewish guy, there's a little [Yiddish], a little something nice for him. "All righty, he did it. So he did it, get him out of there." I did a lot of benefits. I built St. Jude's. Did you know that I built St. Jude's Ranch out here? Talk to me about that. I don't know that I understood. I had a Baptist minister come to me, Jack Adams, and he says, "I would like to build this place, St. Jude's." Well, St. Jude's was Danny Thomas' thing at the beginning. I put it together. I got some stars off of the Strip and we did it at the Riviera, and it hit big, to build the St. Jude's Ranch out there for kids. The one that's in Boulder City? Boulder City, yes. I built that with Jack Adams. Every year we had an affair. Then little by little I just walked away from it. Jack Adams, they shipped out. I don't know why they did. They made him something and they shipped him out of town. Somebody told me that he did something with a kid, pedophilia or something. For years I thought he was mucking around with his dog, Petophilia. Oh, goodness. Talk about coming here. Many of the casino owners and operators were Jewish. Let me tell you, in a lot of towns, like Omaha, they had like a little Las Vegas; they had gambling places hidden. Miami had gambling places hidden; Chicago had places like that. But then everything came to Las Vegas, and those owners, those guys, some of the guys that worked for the mob, they sent in here, so a lot of our Jewish boys were connected. I don't want to give names, but they were connected and they were 15 put in by these people. The first one that really started to break it open for the public was Howard Hughes when he started buying the hotels. He bought the Desert Inn and he bought Beldon Katleman's property. That's when it started to change. I make up songs on the stage about "my town was small and now the buildings are tall," and I did a thing. [Singing] "It to me is not the same. What they've done to Las Vegas is a dirty shame. I don't mind what they did, but listen to this, my friends. What they did do this town certainly comes to the end. They charge for parking now. They want fifteen dollars..." I make that up; just as I get on the stage, I make that up. I think it's great. I've watched so many changes and all kinds of people have come in. Big corporations have come in. I was signed with the Howard Hughes Corporation, and they were in love with Wayne Newton. They paid me a lot of money, though. Let me tell you, we knew the change from Jewish type of thing in Las Vegas when [Elvis] Presley started to get popular. I worked with Presley when the Jews wouldn't even go to see him. When he first came here, he was my opening act at the Frontier Hotel. He was your opening act? Yes, in 1956. As big as he was getting, nobody came to see him. He did like a lounge act. He came out. The curtain came down behind him. He was with a baseball jacket playing the—it was terrible. I said to his manager, Tom, I said, "Tom, you've got to get him clothes." So we sent him over to Liberace and they started making his clothes. I was always the one that said that I helped him with that situation. He was a wonderful boy. But the Wayne Newtons were in town and they became popular. They took him from downtown and he became like Mr. Las Vegas. I don't 16 know why. He doesn't know one Jewish word. [Singing Yiddish words] "Wayne Newton. You can't sing in Yiddish a song. That will bring you to the end." I used to get on the stage and sing my Yiddish [NAME?]. I don't know why I did that to that audience. Were you an opening act for him, too? No, no, no. No, no, no. For who, Wayne Newton? Yes. No, okay. But Elvis was a nice guy. Elvis was a good boy until all of that crap. When I was doing a series at the MGM, he had his dressing room upstairs. We were together every day. I only got one little picture of him and I in all the time I was with him. If I would have had pictures, I could have sold them, fifty dollars apiece, five dollars apiece. Then I got my friend [Frank] Sinatra. You saw him, right over here. Oh, yes. What are you doing in that photo? He was invited to my birthday. Khashoggi. You ever hear of Khashoggi? Yes. Khashoggi and I became very friendly. He had a big suite in New York at the old Olympus Hotel and he invited me on my birthday and he had a big party for me. He said, "Shecky, I've got a surprise for you, all right?" I said, "Okay." In comes Sinatra. Sinatra and I used to fight. We had good times, bad times. He came and we did that thing. So that was a good time. I think. What caused the good time-bad time? Was that his personality, your personality? When I worked with him in Florida, it really was probably the worst time of my life. I had many, many situations because I was really a Farbissina. You know what a Farbissina is? 17 No, I don't. Mixed-up, when you say Farbissina. When I worked with him, he was married to Mia [Farrow] and I was drinking and he was drinking. He gave me rings. He gave me a monkey for my birthday. The monkey wasn't weaned yet. The monkey used to grab me over here and for a month I was walking around like this. I would feed the monkey a banana and show him how to eat it. I gained twenty-two pounds. The monkey kept on losing weight. I kept on showing him how to eat a banana. I got more calls from my dealings with Sinatra. He called me from Germany, from England. [Speaking German] I'd answer them that I don't know what they're talking about. The English, "Shecky, is it true that he hit you and you hit him?" And all