Las Vegas meant enough to some celebrities during their lifetimes to make it their eternal home. Did you realize all these legends were buried in Sin City? Stop by and say hello!
Tony Curtis (1925-2010)
Born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, this star of 150 movies died of a heart attack at age 85 at his home in Henderson, Nev., where he and his sixth wife, Jill, moved 10 years earlier. He was nominated for the best actor Oscar for The Defiant Ones, alongside Sidney Poitier, in 1958. But he’s best known for the 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, in which he co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. He was buried at Palm Eastern Cemetery in October 2010, in a ceremony attended by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kirk Douglas, and Curtis’ daughters Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis.
Redd Foxx (1922-1991)
Born John Elroy Sanford in St. Louis and raised in Chicago, Redd Foxx gained fame portraying Fred Sanford (his father’s name) from 1972 to 1977 on the NBC sitcom Sanford and Son. But he felt most at home in Las Vegas, where he owned a house and became one of the first Black standups to play to white audiences in the 1950s. His foul-mouthed act directly influenced Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. After the IRS seized his income for back taxes during his final years, it was Murphy who created a new TV series for him, The Royal Family, on whose set Foxx died of a heart attack during rehearsals. Murphy paid for Foxx’s funeral and headstone at Palm Eastern Cemetery.
Pat Morita (1932-2005)
Morita was one of the most successful Japanese-American actors of the 20th century. Following a series of small and demeaning Hollywood roles, he hit the big time playing Arnold in the ’70s sitcom Happy Days, and then Mr. Miyagi in the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid, for which he received a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. Born Noriyuki Morita to migrant fruit pickers in Isleton, Calif., Morita spent most of his childhood in the hospital with spinal tuberculosis. He later recovered only to be sent to a Japanese-American internment camp in Arizona during World War II. He died of kidney failure at his home in Las Vegas at age 73. His cremains are buried at Palm Memorial Park.
Sonny Liston (1930?-1970)
Liston was regarded as the second-greatest boxer of his day. (The greatest was Muhammad Ali, to whom Liston lost two heavyweight title bouts – in 1964 and 1965.) Liston compiled an incredible 50-4 record, and was still a world-ranked boxer when he died under mysterious circumstances in 1970. While the Clark County Sheriff’s Department ruled Liston’s death a heroin overdose, then-County Coroner Mark Herman said the amount of heroin found in his system was insufficient to have caused his death. Liston was born into a sharecropping family in rural Arkansas around 1930. (Birth certificates weren’t mandatory in Arkansas until 1965.) Liston is buried at Davis Memorial Park. His headstone reads: “A Man.”
Pancho Gonzales (1928-1995)
Ranked the world’s best men’s tennis player in the 1950s, Ricardo Alonso “Pancho” Gonzalez won 15 major singles titles, including two US National Singles Championships, and 13 Professional Grand Slam titles. He was also prone to fits of rage that made John McEnroe seem angelic. After 16 years as the tennis director of Caesars Palace, Gonzales – who lived in Las Vegas for the last two decades of his life – was broke and out of a job when he died of stomach cancer at age 67. Andre Agassi, his former brother-in-law, paid for his funeral and burial at Palm Eastern Cemetery
Albert Collins (1932-1993)
Nicknamed the “Master of the Telecaster,” Collins was one of the best in the blues business, even making No. 56 on Rolling Stone’s rock-focused list of “100 Greatest Guitarists.” Collins, known to wade into audiences to perform with a 100-foot guitar cord, produced 10 studio albums and six live albums during his 30-year career. He died of lung cancer at his Las Vegas home at age 61, and is buried at Davis Memorial Park.
Harry James (1916-1983)
One of the most well-known trumpet players and band leaders of the swing era, James was born in Albany, Georgia to a bandmaster and a circus trapeze artist. After playing with Benny Goodman at the height of his fame, he formed his own big band. When Harry James and His Orchestra needed a vocalist, he hired an unknown, giving Frank Sinatra his first big break. James married movie star Betty Grable in 1943, becoming half of the most celebrated couple in Hollywood until their 1965 divorce. He died at age 67, not long after being diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He was buried in Bunkers Eden Vale Memorial Park in Las Vegas, where Sinatra delivered his eulogy.
Richard “Old Man” Harrison (1941-2018)
Patriarch of the Pawn Stars reality TV show, Harrison opened the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop with his son, Rick Harrison, in 1989. From 2009 until his death at age 77, Harrison starred on the History Channel’s most popular series as, in his words, “an old grump.” By 2012, up to 5,000 people a day visited the store, many of whom hoped to be on TV. (What they didn’t realize is that tapings occurred on days when the store was closed, and featured visitors who were cast in advance.) Harrison died at of Parkinson’s disease and is buried at Palm Northwest Cemetery
Robin Leach (1941-2018)
Leach became a celebrity by covering them as the host of his syndicated Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous TV show, which ran from 1984 to 1995 and introduced his catchphrase “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” into the lexicon. Leach began his career as a journalist on London’s Fleet Street, and he ended it in the same industry, moving to Las Vegas in 1999 to write gossip for both of Las Vegas’ main newspapers, the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal. He died at age 76 of complications from a stroke, and is buried at Palm Memorial Park
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