Thursday, October 8, 2020

Paradise Palms Celebrity Spotlight: Buddy Rich

Paradise Palmer Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich (09/30/1917-04/02/1987), billed as the World’s Greatest Drummer, made his move into Paradise Palms Las Vegas when he and his wife Marie purchased the original Marquis model home in Fountainbleau Estates at 1734 Sombrero Drive in September 1964. The three bedroom, two bathroom home was handed over "lock, stock and barrel, fully furnished," complete with the original sales office with sliding glass doors still intact where the carport was intended to be completed.

Buddy Rich's Paradise Palms Las Vegas home, 1734 Sombrero Drive

Rich was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of vaudeville parents who brought him into showbiz at just 18 months of age. Rich possessed the impressive gift of natural rhythm, so much so that he began performing solo on Broadway at age 4, earning the nickname Baby Traps the Drum Wonder performing Phillip Souza’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” as his signature hit song. After just over a decade, Rich made history becoming the second highest-paid child entertainer in the world earning $1,000 per week by the time he reached 15.

Buddy Rich as Traps The Drum Wonder

In 1937 Rich began a jazz career playing with clarinetist Joe Marsela, and two years later joined Tommy Dorsey’s band while plating with greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Ventura, Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa. Rich also began a film career, making appearances in Symphony of Swing, Ship Ahoy and How's About It before joining the Marines to fight in World War II. After returning from the War, Rich formed his own band with the help of Frank Sinatra, and went on to form numerous other bands over the following years before marrying his wife, Marie, in 1953.

In 1955, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich recorded the collaboration album titled, "Krupa and Rich," which featured the song "Bernie's Tune," where they traded drum solos for a total of six minutes. Rich would join Harry James’ band, and began his Las Vegas ties in 1956 playing with James at the El Rancho.  Rich would go on to play in Jazz at the Philharmonic, the 2:30 am nightly show at the Dunes sharing the stage with Roy Eldridge, Herb Ellis and Ray Brown.

In January 1962 Buddy Rich had signed with the Harry James Band for a record $1,500 per week salary ($12,800 in 2020 dollars). James and Rich had also previously played together during a European tour in 1957 and James had been working to get Rich back into the group ever since. Following a worldwide tour as a musical emissary with the State Department, Rich was finally lured to Las Vegas on a more permanent basis.

In November 1963 fellow Paradise Palmer Dave Victorson lured Rich to perform at the Thunderbird, where he shared the stage with Belle Barth and Billy Daniels, before being reunited again with Harry James in 1964 for an engagement at the Flamingo where he performed until the Aladdin opening on April 1, 1966. It was during this time that Buddy and Marie decided to become full-time residents of Paradise Palms, purchasing their Fontainebleau Estates home on Sombrero Drive joining the already long-list of celebrity residents. 

Buddy and Marie Rich arrive in Paradise Palms, Las Vegas

Columnist and fellow Paradise Palmer Forrest Duke covered Rich's move to Paradise Palms, Las Vegas

Headlining in the Bagdad Theater, Rich entertained crowds with two shows nightly, at 11:30 pm and 3:15 am, alongside songstress Susan Maro. From there, Rich recorded the Sounds of 66 album with Sammy Davis Jr, who proclaimed to be Rich’s biggest fan, before moving on to an eight-week stint at the Sands Celebrity Theater. It was in 1965 that Rich was crowned the World’s Greatest Drummer in an international jazz poll.

In July 1967 Rich went on a two-week concert tour with Frank Sinatra and fellow Paradise Palmer Shecky Greene following the filming of the Sinatra-Green film Tony Rome. Upon their return, Rich and Sinatra settled in the Copa Room at the Sands along with comedian opener Pat Henry. Rich ran into some legal trouble in 1968, when he arrested in January for defrauding an inn-keeper in Reno, and then in March when he was convicted on one count of Federal tax evasion for failing to report $50,000 in income in 1961. Rich was placed on probation, and ordered to pay $40,000, covering tax liabilities plus six percent interest over a five-year period, along with an additional $2,500 fine.

That summer Rich began a stint with Tony Bennet at the Caesar’s Palace Circus Maximus theater during which he was hit with a lawsuit for failing to make payments on his convertible Jaguar, owing $881.39, which was followed a week later by another lawsuit from locally-owed Casual-Aire Men’s Shop stating Rich owned them $1,857.55 for goods procured between 1963 and 66. The following week, Rich’s wife Marie, sued for divorce citing extreme mental cruelty and asking for $2,250/month in alimony and child support, along with their Paradise Palms home, a furniture store in Miami, and a 1965 Lincoln Continental. Rich continued his show at Caesar’s, later moving to Nero’s Nook. It was at Caesar’s where he famously recorded the album Mercy, Mercy before a live audience.

Marie Rich eventually dismissed the divorce later on in 1968, but the hard times ensued for Buddy. In July, Rich was hit with a tax lien filed by the IRS for $141,606.27 (just over $1M in 2020 dollars), then a few months later Rich’s wife filed for divorce again, upping the monthly alimony ask to $2,750. Again, Buddy and Marie reconciled, but Rich filed for bankruptcy in August. The following year, Rich’s home at 1734 Sombrero along with all of it’s furnishings was seized and auctioned by the IRS on June 12, 1970, ending Rich's residency in Paradise Palms. Sam Mintz, owner of the Blue Angel Motel, purchased the home for $1,900 plus assumption of a first and second mortgage totaling approximately $30,000.

The end of Rich's Paradise Palms residency

Rich was close friends with fellow Paradise Palmer Johnny Carson, and was a frequent guest on his show. Carson would often play off of Rich’s caustic personality, and it was these appearances that helped Rich become a celebrity personality. Carson was often spotted around town attending Rich's performances, and Rich was often enlisted to play for Carson's private events. He would later open a club in New York City called Buddy’s Place, along with a second club simply titled Buddy’s Place II. Rich would continue to make numerous TV appearances throughout his career, including a notable drum battle with Animal on The Muppet Show in 1981. Rich passed away at the age of 69 in 1987, a few short weeks following the removal of a brain tumor at UCLA Medical Center.

Rich and Animal, 1981

Lifelong friends: Rich and fellow Paradise Palmer Johnny Carson