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ENTERTAINMENT
Hard work is paying off for Buddy's favorite son

By Don Usherson

You've probably heard these comments almost as much as I 5: "You can't become a star in Las Vegas first! You have to do it elsewhere and then come here as a star!"

Well, we know that Wayne Newton, Shecky Greene, Rip Taylor and Kenny Kerr are examples to the contrary.

There is another rising star who, like the above, may find extraordinary success here in Vegas first. He certainly is well on his way.

I remember vividly when Sandy Hackett, a kid fresh out school and a "21" dealer at the Sahara, first took the stage at Rumors Comedy Corner started by local writer Joe Be-har, comic Rip Taylor and yours truly back in 1977.

To say the laughs were sporadic is being kind. Both Sandy and his friends knew he had a long uphill battle.

Contrary to the opinion of a few detractors that this young director of several highly successful local talent showcases had it made it in showbiz because of whom his dad was, he has never stopped working very to make it on his own. Sure, dad has helped some along the way, but that's a guarantee of opportunity, not success.

I have watched Sandy grow as a performer from a brash young kid who relied mostly' on his dad's material and who was easily thrown off course by hecklers to a polished comedian who now writes most of his own stuff and who handles an audience like they were drinking buddies.

To see him "kill" a crowd like he did last week in the featured comedy spot of the "Folies Bergere" at the Tropicana should make any Las Vegan proud of one of its own.

From the time he walks onstage through his sure-to-be-classic "Keno" routine, one can finally see the greatness of Buddy Hackett in the kid who some thought 10 years ago wouldn't be able to shine his dad's comedy shoes.

There are dozens of offspring of famous people who can tell you how much of a burden it can be when you pursue the same field as the parent. Few ever overcome having to measure up to the never-ending comparison.

And though no one excepts donations and expressions of sympathy to start pouring in, it hasn't been the Cakewalk some may think.

I know personally of his hundreds of auditions locally and around the country for comedy jobs. He has raced back and forth to L.A. every pilot season auditioning for television roles. He takes every job available, including dozens of charity gigs each year. He travels around the country doing one-nighters in everything from underpaying comedy clubs to Playboy Clubs.

He's been the comedy half of a short-lived Martin and Lewis-type duo called Hack 'n Sack with singer Richie Sacks. Now, during his off hours, he runs a sandwich shop named Sacks.

He has auditioned for some jobs as corny as portraying one of the Blues Brothers just to get onstage to work.

I've watched him try to perform before a charity crowd poolside at the Dunes while several dozen singers from a local group rudely marched in front of him, distracting the audience from hearing any of his punch lines.

He has appeared on several TV shows and in at least two motion pictures, neither of which won any Academy Award nominations to say the least.

Most importantly, though, over the course of the past 10 years or so, his demeanor onstage, his material and his overall performance have improved to the point that he now ranks as one of the best young comics in the city.

Those that have seen him steadily in the Maxim's "Playboy's Girls of Rock and Roll" and those that saw him most recently in front of 1,000 people each show at the Trop seem to agree, as well as the buyers at each property.

"Playboy's" producer Dennis Levinson has brought him back several times, and "Folies" producer Larry Lee has indicated he would be back in that show when possible. It's not just friends patting him on the back anymore.

Being born with a silver spoon in your mouth may give you a tool to start digging a foundation for success, but it is virtually useless unless, like this young performer, you continue to dig and scratch and scrape with it until you find your own shovel big enough to get the job done.

In order to fill the comedy spot in this magnificent show, previously handled by such pros as Ray Fell, George Carl and Tony D-Andrea, you've got to be good. Producer Lee has never put a bad act in the "Folies."

Sandy once told me the story of how his dad told him that he had proposed to Frank Sinatra that they try to book their sons on the same bill somewhere. Sandy's response was, "What! And face that audience when they find out the Sinatra/Hackett bill they paid big bucks to see was me and Junior?"

Well, I can guarantee the audience at least would not be disappointed in the comedy opening act.

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