Comedian, Impressionist Kirby Dies

Comedian George Kirby, who delighted audiences for more than 40 years with impressions ranging from John Wayne to Ella Fitzgerald, has died at 71 after a long illness.

Kirby began his career in Chicago and came to Las Vegas in 1952 as part of the Count Basie show, one of the first black acts to play Vegas.

As Kirby’s act caught on, he head-lined solo shows at Caesars Palace and other spots on the Strip and often appeared on TV with Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson and Mike Douglas in the 1960s and 1970s. He was also a regular on “The Copy-cats,” a weekly showcase for impressionists.

Kirby once said that he kept on imitating the stars of yesteryear because the voices of today’s celebrities lack character: “There are no more Sydney Greenstreets, Peter Lorres, Jimmy Cagneys or Jimmy Stewarts.”

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