Charles “Blackie” Hunt, a legendary Las Vegas musician in the Characters lounge act and estranged husband of Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, died Tuesday, Dec. 30, of heart failure. He was 73.
A staple on the Las Vegas Strip in the 1950s, Charles Henry Hunsberger (later changed to Hunt) was born in Pottstown, Pa. He began playing the piano at age 7 and also learned to play several horns and the accordion.
After graduating from Pottstown High School, he joined the Mary Johnson Quintette. He later graduated from West Chester State Teachers College in Pennsylvania with a music degree and joined the Charlie Morrison Group before hooking up with the Characters in 1953 in Philadelphia, playing clubs from New York to Florida.
Eventually, in 1955, he was booked into the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, where the redhead picked up his moniker. After the group broke up, Hunt teamed with a new group and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the mid-1960s. The Characters were inducted into the Casino Legends Hall of Fame in 2002.
Hunt performed at charity benefits and other shows throughout his life. His last appearance was in October at the Bootlegger Bistro, a popular Las Vegas eatery he co-owned with his wife.
The Hunts’ Bootlegger Bistro opened in 1972 and moved to its current location on Las Vegas Boulevard in 2001. Today, the club is a favorite haunt of vintage Las Vegas entertainers, including Buddy Greco, Sonny King, Mary Kaye, Marty Allen and Robert Goulet.
The Hunts, who were married in 1968, separated this year. In addition to his wife, Hunt is survived by a son, daughter and stepson; his mother; and two brothers.