Stan Irwin, producer and the personal manager for many celebrities, especially Johnny Carson, died Wednesday, January 21. He was 94.
Irwin was entertainment director and VP-general manager for the entire Del-Webb Gambling/Entertainment Corporation, which included the Fremont and other downtown casinos, during its heyday, bringing in the likes of Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Frank Sinatra and many other top names of the 1950s and 1960s. Irwin was responsible for bringing Johnny Carson to the Sahara in Las Vegas, where he broke all the records in the Congo Showroom. Others he brought to Sahara for their first Vegas stints included Bolger, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jeannette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Marlene Dietrich, Dan Dailey, George Burns, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Eleanor Powell, Eydie Gorme/Steve Lawrence, Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, Eve Arden, Bob Newhart, Maury Wills and Shari Lewis.
Irwin guilded the careers of Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, Buddy Rich, Keely Smith and Louis Prima. He managed Pearl Bailey and her husband-drummer Louis Bellson for 30 years, setting up the key step in her career via an all-black version of “Hello Dolly” on Broadway and a famous photo of Bailey on the cover of Life magazine. Having started in showbiz as a vaudeville comic, Irwin toured the world as the comedian who warmed up the audience at Bailey’s USO shows.
Irwin was executive producer of “The Tonight Show” in 1962, the first year of Johnny Carson’s reign.
He was also responsible for bringing the Beatles to Las Vegas for the first time and got them to do two shows in one night. Demand was so high that Irwin had to move them from the Sahara to the Las Vegas Convention Center on August 20, 1964. The 50th anniversary of that event was recently celebrated in Las Vegas.
Irwin was also a songwriter who wrote the lyrics and Lan O’Kun the music to “That’s What God Looks Like to Me” for Frank Sinatra. Irwin wrote it as a gift to Sinatra after Sinatra’s mother died.
Irwin was born in New York City into a showbiz family.
He is survived by his wife.