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Joe DeCarlo


1926 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Joe DeCarlo Obituary
February 23, 1926 - February 18, 2016 Joe DeCarlo, manager of Sonny & Cher, co-founder of Pips International, the former restaurant, backgammon club and nightclub in Beverly Hills, confidante and lifelong friend to several Hollywood celebrities, athletes, and notorious figures has passed at the age of 89. He was born in Rochester, NY, February 23, 1926. After a tough childhood, Joe joined the Navy at 18 to serve in World War II. The U.S. Navy quickly recognized him as an exceptional marksman and assigned him to a special amphibious training unit in Biloxi, Mississippi. Ultimately he performed a special U.S. reconnaissance mission to scout the island and caves of Iwo Jima, prior to the Marines landing on the shores in February 1945. Towards the end of the war, he had the fortune of being on board the USS Missouri to witness the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945. In the 1950s as a young man after the war, his travels and connections eventually brought him from the East Coast to Las Vegas. During the early years, he developed an expertise managing entertainment and talent acts including the likes of Louis Prima and Keely Smith including their legendary run at the Sahara hotel in 1954. As a result, he spent several years in Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. In 1959, Joe was spending more time in Los Angeles managing various night club acts and show girls including the likes of Candy Barr and Beverly Hills. Joe's relationship to the infamous Mickey Cohen began as a result of Cohen dating these women. One night in December 1959, there was the fateful murder of Jack Whalen "the Enforcer" at Rondelli's restaurant in Sherman Oaks. It became the Los Angeles blockbuster crime story at that time. (In October 2008, the LA Times ran a series of seven articles entitled, "Tales from the Gangster Squad" relating to the events of that night.) While the gunman Sam LoCigno admitted to the killing, both Mickey and Joe were charged in a subsequent trial for murder and conspiracy in an aggressive effort by the LAPD to ultimately convict Cohen. Both Cohen and Joe were acquitted of their charges. When Sonny Bono and Joe met for the first time, they bonded immediately over their Sicilian roots. In 1966, Joe co-managed Sonny and Cher with Harvey Kresky, formerly of William Morris. Joe was with Sonny and Cher through most of the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, which won 15 Emmy awards and was a success from 1971 to 1974. After the couple divorced, Joe remained a lifetime friend and confidante of Cher. He was also entrusted as Godparent to both Chaz Bono and Elijah Allman. Joe was a close friend to Hugh Hefner. He was a frequent guest and mainstay of the Playboy mansions in Chicago and Holmby Hills. On several occasions, Joe accompanied Hef along with other celebrities and close friends on the Playboy jet. They traveled to Europe and Hawaii always looking for new talent, sightseeing and enjoying life along the way. During this time, Joe became good friends with artist Leroy Neiman and developed a passion for collecting art. Pips International was a private restaurant, backgammon club, and nightclub regularly frequented by Hollywood celebrities, athletes and foreign royalty of the time. Hugh Hefner and Joe founded the club along with Stan Herman, where Joe was the mainstay host for nearly 10 years (1972-1982). In his later years, Joe would laugh remembering the dilemma when both Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley would each demand table number one on the same evening. During these years at Pips he developed lifetime friendships with Tom Lasorda and his family, Lucille Ball, Peggy Crosby, Jimmy Connors, just to name a few. In fact, in 1979 it was Joe who reintroduced his good friend Patti McGuire to Jimmy Connors and they married shortly thereafter. Prior to Pips, Joe ran Mr. D's, a popular nightclub in San Francisco that opened in May 1968. The grand opening had Bobby Darin for 10 nights followed by headlining acts of the Righteous Brothers, Tony Bennett and Ray Charles. One of Joe's fondest memories was in January 1977. Jimmy Carter was recently inaugurated as President. Joe and Cher attended a small cocktail party at the White House wherein a last minute dinner invitation from Amy Carter resulted in Cher and Joe accompanying the President and his family in the private dining quarters. President Carter and Joe had private discussions that were memorable, engaging and forever his keepsake. During his lifetime, Joe had also met Presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. In his later years, Joe lent his expertise in the entertainment business one last time in Las Vegas in the production of "Splash" at the former Riviera hotel from 1996 to 2004. He enjoyed giving his guidance and counseling to the young dancers, singers and comedy acts that worked in the shows. In 2006, he moved back to Beverly Hills and regularly enjoyed Sunday dinners with his closest friends and family. He is survived by his three nieces Joanne Romanovich and her husband D.J. Lutes, Diane Distafano, and Mary Ann Romanovich. Joe, for those that knew him, was considered the most interesting man in the world who lived a remarkable life and died just 5 days before his 90th birthday.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Apr. 26 to Apr. 30, 2016
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