Shecky Greene

Shecky Greene (born Fred Sheldon Greenfield; April 8, 1926)[1] is an American comedian. He is known for his nightclub performances in Las Vegas, where he became a headliner in the 1950s.[2] He has appeared in several films, including Tony Rome, History of the World, Part I and Splash, and has guest-starred on such television shows as Mad About You, Laverne & Shirley, Love, American Style, and Combat!

Shecky Greene
Fred Sheldon Greenfield

(1926-04-08) April 8, 1926
Years active1954–present
Spouse(s)Nalani Kele (1972–1982; divorced)
Marie Musso (1985–present)

Life and career

Greene was born in 1926, and grew up on the North Side of Chicago and served in the United States Navy during World War II.[3][4][5] Greene had planned to become a gym teacher, but had been performing comedy at various venues in the upper Midwest, and started his comedy career at the Prevue Lounge in New Orleans, where he worked for six years.[6] 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.[7]

He invented a hysterical, free-form approach to comedy that the confines of a five minute television spot could not handle.[8][9][10][11]

Offstage, his main passion was horse racing. A thoroughbred horse named Shecky Greene (January 30, 1970 – March 9, 1984) was the 1973 Eclipse Champion Sprinter and the frontrunner for nearly seven furlongs in the 1973 Kentucky Derby until Secretariat ran off with the race.[12][13] Arlington Park in Illinois still runs a Shecky Greene Handicap. 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".[3]

Greene played Carnegie Hall and appeared on 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, Lou Carnesco in two episodes of The Fall Guy and a fourth-season 1985 episode of The A-Team entitled "Members Only". Greene was widely respected by his peers, including Johnny Carson, who was a longtime fan. Greene made 40 appearances on The Tonight Show,[14][15] 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 the Match Game and Tattletales (with his first wife Nalani Kele) in the 1970s.[16]

He was recruited for Broadway shows but 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."[17][2][18]

Greene suffered from panic attacks and stage fright and didn't perform for six years beginning in 2003.[19][20][21] After an absence of many years, Greene returned to perform in Las Vegas in 2009.[22][23][9][10][24][25][26][27]

Personal life

He has been married, since 1985, to Marie Musso, daughter of Vido Musso, a prominent Las Vegas musician who played saxophone with Benny Goodman.


Year Title Role Notes
1967Tony RomeCatleg
1971The Love MachineChristie Lane
1976Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved HollywoodTourist
1981History of the World, Part IMarcus Vindictus
1984SplashMr. Buyrite
1984LovelinesMaster of Ceremonies
2000The Last ProducerPoker Player


  1. Wills, Adam. (2008) Shecky Greene, Jewish Virtual Library; accessed April 7, 2016.
  2. "Legend Shecky Greene Returns to Las Vegas". KLAS News. Retrieved 2017-03-27.
  3. Neworth, Jack (March 25, 2016). "Ladies and gentlemen, Shecky Greene!". Santa Monica Daily Press. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  4. "Shecky Greene". Combat. December 10, 2019.
  5. Schweikart, Larry (May 18, 2006). America's Victories. Penguin. ISBN 978-1101217818. Comedian Shecky Greene sailed aboard the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard.
  6. Olderman, Murray (January 9, 2005). "Leaving Las Vegas". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  7. Renzi, David (December 26, 1996). "Shecky Greene has become the man he wants to be". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 2017-03-27.
  8. Nesteroff, Kliph (June 12, 2011). "Outrageous and Courageous: The Myth and Legend of Shecky Greene". WFMU Blog]].
  9. Nesteroff, Kliph (20 June 2011). "An Interview with Shecky Greene - Part One". Classic Television Showbiz.
  10. Nesteroff, Kliph (23 June 2011). "An Interview with Shecky Greene - Part Two". Classic Television Showbiz.
  11. Nesteroff, Kliph (3 November 2015). The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy. Grove/Atlantic, Inc. ISBN 978-0802190864.
  12. Michelson, Miles. "Shecky Greene Thoroughbred". Pedigree Online.
  13. "Pound, Feinstein & Associates » No one remembers Shecky Greene".
  14. "Tonight Show Samplers". Retrieved May 6, 2011.
  15. "Shecky Greene".
  16. "Instagram post by Things That Made Me LOL 😂 • Mar 5, 2017 at 3:25am UTC". Instagram. Archived from the original on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  17. Boland, John (November 14, 2015). "He did it his way: The nice and nasty of Sinatra". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  18. Roura, Phil (April 30, 1995). "Shecky Greene Doesn't Pull Any Punch Lines". New York Daily News.
  19. Schwartz, Ben (December 21, 2015). "The Hilarity of Influence: An Interview with Kliph Nesteroff". Los Angeles Review of Books.
  20. Christon, Lawrence (16 October 1994). "COMEDY: It's Not Easy Being Greene: Did you hear the one about the comic whose life became a nightmare of gambling, alcohol, panic attacks and prescription drugs? Shecky Greene can tell it". Los Angeles Times.
  21. Robert Klein, and Shecky Greene Moments Before Quitting Friars Club YouTube; April 25, 2014. accessed April 7, 2016.
  22. Smith, John L. (May 15, 2009). "Shecky Greene's Return to Las Vegas Stirs Up Memories of Sinatra, Caesars". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  23. Katsilometes, John (March 23, 2017). "Shecky Greene knows slapstick, but fall at Italian club is the real thing". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  24. Katsilometes, John (24 July 2015). "Fountains incident recalls night at Caesars Palace starring Shecky Greene". Las Vegas Sun.
  25. Seabaugh, Julie (May 7, 2014). "Gilbert Gottfried Is Offended You're Offended". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  26. Gopnik, Adam (November 24, 2015). "Frank Sinatra and the Scandalous but Scholarly Biography". The New Yorker.
  27. "Elvis Presley's at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas 1956". Elvis History Blog. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
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