Our In Memoriam list, unfortunately, keeps growing.
Latest addition, Lounge Pioneer Freddie Bell. I had the pleasure of interviewing Freddie back in 2004 about his life and career in Las Vegas. Though he hailed from Philadelphia, he loved Las Vegas. He and his group, The Bellboys, had come to Las Vegas in the early 1950s and were one of the early lounge acts that helped put Las Vegas on the radar of visitors from around the world. Today, most people remember Louis Prima, Keely Smith and Sam Butera and maybe the Mary Kaye Trio. But groups like Freddie Bell and the Bellboys and the Treniers were staples in the Lounges of the Las Vegas Strip for more years than many of us can remember.
Freddie and the Bellboys recorded "Giddy Up a Ding Dong" and "Hound Dog". A young Elvis Presley, appearing at the Frontier Hotel in 1956, caught Freddie's lounge act and heard him sing "Hound Dog". He approached Bell about the song and Bell basically said "If you want it, it's yours". Freddie was that kind of guy. He did a killer impersonation of Presley and Elvis would often drop in to watch Bell's act and then laugh the loudest at the impersonation.
Freddie was pals with the Rat Pack in the glorious 1950s and was headlining the lounge at the Sands thanks to Jack Entratter who hoped by employing the energetic singer he could control his gambling habit. Bell was one of the lucky ones chosen to join the Rat Pack in the fabled Steam Room at the Sands prior to them taking the stage for the legendary Summit in 1960.
He married another lounge stalwart, Roberta Sherwood, in the early 1960s and they often alternated on a lounge double bill in throughout the early 1960s.
When Sonny King passed away a few years back, Freddie Bell took his place anchoring the late-night party at the Bootlegger Bistro.
He entered Valley Hospital earlier this month due to complications from lung cancer. He passed away earlier today at the age of 76.
We will miss him and his wonderful sense of humor. He had a strong sense of the entertainment history of the Las Vegas Strip and his role in defining the lounge scene. He was a true pioneer.