Comedian Rip Taylor (07/13/1931-10/06/2019) called Paradise Palms home for six years between 1975 and 1981 while he was a mainstay of the Las Vegas strip. While owning his Palmer & Krisel-designed Model 7 home at 3328 Pawnee Drive, Taylor was named Las Vegas entertainer three times in the 1970s, sharing the stage with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Debbie Reynolds, Ann-Margret, Judy Garland and Mac Davis at Las Vegas mainstays such as the Dunes, Thunderbird, Stardust, Las Vegas Hilton and Harrah’s.
Taylor had earned many nicknames over his 50-year career, including the Crying Comedian, the King of Confetti, the King of Props and The King of Camp. Growing up in Washington, D.C. Taylor bounced around from foster home to foster home throughout his childhood. He learned at a young age that if kids weren’t bullying him, they were laughing at him, and he used that as the basis for his future career. As a teen he attended the Capitol Page School and later became a congressional page before enlisting in the US Army Signal Corps during the Korean War. It was during this time that Taylor began to come into his own, entertaining his fellow troops by lip synching to Mario Lanza. Recognizing his talent, Taylor quickly was reassigned by the Army to Special Services where he entertained the troops in Korea and Japan.
After returning to the US, Rip found an agent in the Yellow Pages and began performing in clubs throughout the east coast and Catskills. It was during one of his Catskills performances that we was spotted by a scout for the Ed Sullivan Show. Turns out this was the moment that led to his big break – and first nickname. Taylor traveled to Los Angeles and learned that there were two performances he needed to film for Sullivan’s show, whose producers would air whichever performance was funnier. The first performance was filmed in the afternoon and the second took place in the evening. The afternoon show went well, but in the evening, Sullivan had had one too many cocktails at lunch and when he went to introduce Taylor, unable to even see clearly enough to read cue card, he forgot Taylor’s name. Already nervous, Taylor was backstage fretting and quickly ripped out a nose hair for tears before rushing on stage crying “I’m Rip Taylor!” Taylor cried throughout the whole performance and became a hit. From then on Sullivan invited Taylor back many times and would always introduce him as “The Crying Comedian.”
The Ed Sullivan Show led to Taylor’s Las Vegas appearances when he caught the eye of a local producer who booked him alongside actress Eleanor Powell to perform at the Dunes. Their show became an instant hit, and was carried over four additional weeks which led to more Vegas bookings. It was during this time that Taylor’s second nickname – the King of Confetti – was earned after appearing on another variety talk show. While filming The Merv Griffin Show Taylor performed his act and started bombing on stage. The audience wasn’t laughing, and frustrated, Taylor ripped up his 5x8 cue cards and threw them at the audience. He left the stage knocking parts of the set over thinking he had just killed his television career and headed to Sardi’s to wallow in his pity. The next day Taylor called Griffin’s show to apologize and pay for the set damages, and quickly learned his outburst caused the switchboard to light up with everyone wanting to see more of “the comedian who went crazy.”
|Show card for Taylor & Powell's show at The Dunes
Taylor spent nine years in Las Vegas performing as an opening act for Sammy Davis Jr., in addition to Frank Sinatra, Robert Goulet, Sandra Dee, Maurice Chevalier, Andy Williams and Hermione Gingold. Taylor loved performing with Davis, saying he was a great guy. Davis was known to have a little fun on stage too, and used to have all of his song lyrics on a teleprompter at the foot of his stage. During one memorable performance, Davis played a prank on Taylor by substituting a porno for lyrics. Taylor instantly began erupting in laughter, along with Davis’ band, while the audience sat stone faced and bewildered. Davis howled with laughter in the wings, singing “That’s some b*tch dying tonight” to Taylor.
|Taylor and fellow Paradise Palmer Phyllis Diller horsing around
Taylor earned his third nickname, the King of Props, in the 1970s after appearing on an episode of Laugh In ringing the bell. This led to him incorporating more props and more confetti into his shows. Taylor also became a fixture of game shows, appearing on The Gong Show, Hollywood Squares, the Match Game and Super Password. He also performed in the Flamingo Hotel’s Rockettes Extravaganza show, and hosted the short-lived $1.98 Beauty Pageant between 1978 and 1980. The beauty pageant allowed Taylor to highlight his comedic schtick by parodying popular beauty pageants at the time, with receiving a $1.98 cash prize as well as a bouquet of rotting vegetables.
Taylor’s Las Vegas ties didn’t end with performing; he was also in investor in long-time friend and fellow Paradise Palmer Debbie Reynolds’ casino on Convention Center Drive, and had an indefinite show run at her hotel. The duo also performed at various other hotels around town, often billed as “Debbie Reynolds and her best friend Rip Taylor.” Taylor was also good friends with notable Las Vegan Liberace, cutting the ribbon at his estate auction after his passing.
During his later years, Taylor was such a comedic fixture that he would often play himself in TV shows such as Will and Grace, Life with Bonnie and The George Lopez Show, and in films such as the Jackass series and Wayne’s World 2. Taylor also starred in other films such as The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, Chatterbox, and Cheech and Chong’s Things Are Tough All Over. He took on a few serious roles playing Demi Moore’s boss in Indecent Proposal and as Kate Hudson’s father in Alex and Emma. His unique voice led to numerous animated roles, including The Jetsons, Tom and Jerry, Duck Tales, Scooby Doo, and an Emmy win for his role as Uncle Fester in the animated Adams Family series.
|Taylor was a recurring cast member on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, playing the part of the next door neighbor