Tuesday, October 21, 2008
He's opened for Elvis Presley. Along with Joey Bishop, Moms Mabely, Redd Foxx and Phyllis Diller, he headlined the Las Vegas Strip for years. The Comedy Store in Los Angeles was started by him. And, he is the father of MTV-Generation Xer, Pauly Shore. Sammy Shore, at 81, is still going strong, writing books, and even opening for Tony Orlando.On a cloudy day in October, I sat with Mr. Shore as he sold books at the local library book fair, and we talked about life in Las Vegas, entertainment, and even politics. His book, "The Warm Up" is less about the years he spent with Elvis, and more about growing up in the entertainment industry. He writes about the issues of going on the road while being a full-time father and husband. He writes about realizing that he was no longer part of the "under thirty" crowd. The book is as much about coming to terms with getting older as it is about spilling inside secrets of parties and concerts.
As we sat, Mr. Shore also chatted about his latest projects. He just published a book called "The Man Who Made Elvis Laugh" about the years he spent trying to get work with, then succeeding on stage with the most popular entertainer in the world. There are stories about band members, and late night sandwiches that you once heard about in talk-shows- but for Sammy, there are some real, honest to life "this happened to me" tales of life and death, women and drugs, and of course, "Vegas Elvis".
For many of us, Sammy is synonymous with the Comedy Store. He and his ex-wife, Mitzi, ran that club until it became the mecca for hundreds of young comedic minds including Sam Kinison, Steve Moore, Argus Hamilton, Jim Carrey, and even Robin Williams. But, according to Sammy, "Mitzi really turned that club into something. I gave it to her in the divorce and she turned it into the wonderful place it was." She brought in Andrew Dice Clay. For some she gave them a home in the condo behind the building. The respect he has for her business sense is inspiring. I asked how the Store was doing now.
"You know it's not the same. People are fighting over what it's supposed to be- a production company, a club- but it's not going to be the same place anymore. Now that Mitzi isn't running it, it's lost its heart." The Comedy Store remains part of the Shore family, but he noted, his daughter Sandi as a great influence to many comic minds. "Sandi is so talented. She has more talent in her pinky than anyone else in the family. She even wrote a book about how to be a comedian. She's just wonderful."
Shore also tours with his famous son, Pauly. "They're a different crowd. I was the original 'Weasel' you know. He gets on stage, and I just give it to him. The crowds love it. Can't outdo the old man!" I asked Sammy what he thought of other young comics, "Oh like who, that Dane guy, I can't really say anything. People that are good, write a lot of their own material. I don't see a lot of writing on stage anymore. There's a lot of dick jokes, but anyone can do the dick jokes. If they're good dick jokes, I'll laugh, but there's so few good ones now."
The small, unassuming gentleman gives the appearance of a former beatnik, maybe heading to a poetry reading, but he is all business. While we sat, he was on the phone with a publisher who didn't send him enough books to sell at this event. "They're complaining about one small edit before they reissue. I was on Larry King, and Larry didn't say, 'oh you misspelled synagogue' or something. It's nonsense. Everyone wants to sue you if you said something they don't want to hear. The publishers are just covering themselves, and it's a waste because I want to sell books, or I wouldn't be here."
"No good comedy about elections anymore. Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin. But Will Durst and Mort Sahl, they get it. This can't keep going the way it's going. We need to have a change."
People were admiring and buying, too. Sammy Shore is also opening up a new venue, when he isn't working as a Comedy Host of the Laughlin Tropicana, touring with Tony Orlando, or spending time with his wife Suzanne, and their adorable little dogs. "Oh I lost one of those kids last year. It was awful. Worse thing. Just like losing a kid in a way.. 12 years together. He was a great dog. Just a sad day. I still get shooken up about it."
Few people like Sammy Shore are on stages today. Mort Sahl teachers script writing. Phyllis Diller does voice over work for Family Guy. Chuck McCann is a frequent guest, along with Stan Freiberg on the Dr. Floyd Podcats. But, Sammy is only 81, and he is probably going to be the guy who opens for his favorite singers for another 20 years. He's part of what makes Las Vegas- VEGAS.