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Rat Packers' Pal Sonny King


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Rat Packers' Pal Sonny King

by Valerie J. Nelson

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Sonny King

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Sonny King, a Las Vegas comedian-singer who was Jimmy Durante's onstage sidekick for almost 30 years and had close ties to the Rat Pack, has died. He was 83. King died Friday of cancer at his home in Las Vegas after undergoing treatment for tongue and throat cancer, said his brother, Donald Schiavone.

"He's been a legend in this town," Schiavone said. "He knew all the greats, and they knew him." Rat Pack leader Frank Sinatra gave King the nickname "Lounge Giant," and another member, Dean Martin, roomed with King in New York City when they were struggling young performers.

King first teamed with Durante in 1950 at the Copacabana in New York when King substituted for Durante's usual sidekick, Eddie Jackson. Four years later, King pinch-hit again for Jackson at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

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Sonny King with longtime stage partner Jimmy Durante

"I can't explain it. I don't know if it was spiritual, but we looked at each other and we couldn't stop laughing," King had said of his rapport with Durante. "The audience caught on, and they were laughing too." The pair performed together until Durante's death in 1980.

In 1955, King joined Louis Prima in the stable of entertainers at the Sahara's Casbar Lounge and reworked his act to fit in with Prima's swing style. By the end of the 1950s, King had moved to the Sands, where he worked for 13 years.

He often performed in the lounge while the Rat Pack

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