"The Man Who Made ELVIS Laugh"
The Man Who Made ELVIS Laugh, Sammy Shore, TCB Joe Publishing, USA, Hardcover/Softcover, USA, 2008, 309 pages, Illustrated, ISBN-13: 978-0977894598
Sammy's friends are themselves comedy royalty and icons: Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Shecky Greene (who also opened for Elvis), Bob Hope, Red Buttons, Jan Murray, George Burns and Sid Caesar. A lengthy interview in the book with Sid Caesar is fascinating reading.
Las Vegas, Nevada - 1969. Two forces collide that change the entertainment world forever.
The Man Who Made ELVIS Laugh has as its tag line "A Life In American Comedy". It is a very true tag! Sammy Shore's memoir is engaging, at times hilarious, and at times a very frank one.
This is Sammy's second memoir. His first, published in 1984, was The Warm-Up, a title referring both to his role for many of the entertainment world's biggest stars and also what would become the name of his one-man club act. The Man Who Made Elvis Laugh is a fresh and updated telling of his life. If I recall correctly (it has been many years since I read The Warm-Up) Sammy's original autobiography had a darker tone than his latest book.
While there is plenty of Elvis the Sammy Shore story is much richer than just his years with the King in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and on the road. Sammy was part of a colorful and legendary by-gone age of consummate stand-up comedians.
Sammy knew and worked alongside many of the Las Vegas greats. Apart from Elvis he was warm-up man for Tony Bennett, Ann-Margret, Paul Anka, Diana Ross, Neil Sedaka, Tony Orlando and Sammy Davis Jr, to name only a few.
At times the Sammy Shore story is a bumpy ride as the author offers both the highs and (some) lows of his long and ultimately successful career. And who would have thought one could make it as an Unbilled Comedian!
There are many wonderful stories of Sammy's time around Elvis and one that stands out is when Elvis got his own back on the comedian during a Las Vegas show. It has to do with the showroom balcony and a mannequin dummy dressed in a suit and tie!
After opening Elvis' shows for several years, Sammy was unceremoniously dumped by the Colonel and Elvis after he dared to front his own show in the Las Vegas Hilton Lounge. Years later, after Elvis' death, he crossed paths with Parker in a Palm Springs supermarket. How Sammy found the Colonel then makes for interesting and quite sad reading.
The Sammy Shore story is one full of humor, honesty, self doubt and loneliness. At the same time it is a reflection of what is great about talent, the human spirit and perseverance.
Sammy's observations on contemporary comedians are as illuminating as his jokes are funny:
"Getting old sucks. It's like visiting an all-you-can-eat-buffet. What should be hot is cold; what should be firm is limp; and the buns are bigger than anything else on the menu."
Throughout his book Sammy's hilarious one-liners and more involved jokes cannot help but bring a smile to the reader's face.
"At my age my sex life has narrowed down to an internal affair with myself"
Sammy also provides his recipe for a happy life!
Interestingly, Sammy's son Pauly has become a modern day star in his own right. He also holds the distinction of having pissed on Elvis! True story.
Sammy was one of those asked to be part of the 20th Anniversary Reunion Concert in Memphis in August 2007. His account of that event has both positive and negative elements. The negative reflects the bottom line of EPE, while the positive suggests genuine feeling on the part of Priscilla Presley.
That Sammy was voted"the best opening act" in 1980 by the Atlantic City press symbolises his great talent.
My only concerns about The Man Who Made ELVIS Laugh relate to the book design. The page formatting is basic with large print and double spacing. Similarly, the black and white visuals are not well set on the page. However, these are but minor concerns and do not detract from what is a riveting and very funny memoir. Sadly, apart from a photo of the huge billboard outside the International Hotel showing their names, there is only one visual of Elvis and Sammy (with Miss Norway - see above).
Verdict: The Man Who Made ELVIS Laugh is an engaging and heart warming account of one comedian's life. Not just any comedian but one from the Golden Age of Las Vegas' greatest, a time when to be one of the best you had to have an innate talent rather than a cue card and blue tongue. You will start reading The Man Who Made ELVIS Laugh for its Elvis content but very soon that will be but a blur as you become engrossed in what is a fascinating life story which stands on its own, well beyond the myriad of stars who crossed Sammy's path over nearly seven decades of stand-up success. In entertainment parlance, the Sammy Shore memoir is a more than entertaining interlude.
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Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, September 2008