Sammy Shore took time off a treadmill on Tuesday afternoon to talk of his old friend Jerry Buss.
“He was one of the nicest people I ever knew,” the venerable comic said in reference to the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Lakers who died Monday of cancer at age 80. “I’ve met thousands of people in my business in the past 65 years, including Elvis and all kinds of people. No one was as kind and bighearted as Jerry Buss. When he died, I started to just cry. Couldn’t handle it. I’m still struggling with it.”
The 86-year-old Shore is still in action at the Clarion Hotel (the old Debbie Reynolds hotel-casino on Convention Center Drive), sharing a regular comedy show with fellow legend Pete Barbutti over the past five months. But Shore is most famous for his years as Presley’s opening act at the International and Las Vegas Hilton during the King’s Las Vegas run from 1969-’76.
Shore also is well-known as the co-founder of The Comedy Store in L.A. (which went to his wife, Mitzi, in the couple’s divorce) and as the father of comic actor Pauly Shore. Sammy was a popular comic at The Horn in Santa Monica, Calif., and one of his most loyal fans was Buss, who visited the club on Saturday nights when the Lakers weren’t playing at The Forum.
“He loved my preacher bit, Brother Sam,” Shore recalled. “I would always open my show with, ‘It’s showtime!’ and I was told just this morning by (Buss’s right-hand man and spokesman) Bob Steiner that was where Jerry got the term for those great Lakers teams. He’d say, ‘I got ‘Showtime!’ from Sammy Shore.”
Shore was a Lakers season-ticket holder during their years at The Forum before he moved to Las Vegas six years ago. He was the emcee for team events, and in 1984 when Shore released his autobiography, “The Opener,” Buss hosted a lavish book-signing party at his home.
“We had this media night, and my gosh it was a party,” Shore said. “It must have cost Jerry $15,000 to $20,000 to make that all happen. But that’s the kind of guy he was. He was so kind, and he always made me feel special.”