Thursday, March 24, 2011 | 6:20 p.m.
Las Vegas' own Ed McMahon died today, onstage in a hotel-casino showroom.
Radio personality Scotty O’Neil, for more than a decade the popular sidekick and announcer on the “The Dennis Bono Show,” collapsed suddenly and died onstage during a taping of Bono’s show at South Point Showroom. He was 69.
Lorraine Hunt-Bono, Dennis Bono’s wife and owner of Bootlegger Bistro, confirmed that O’Neil died this afternoon. No official cause of death has yet been determined. O’Neil is survived by his wife of 15 years, Kristy Killian.
In a statement released this evening, Dennis Bono said:
"I am sad to announce the passing of my dear friend and co-host Scotty O’Neil. Scotty was an important part of my life as both a personal friend and a working partner. For over eleven years, he has been a pivotal part of The Dennis Bono Show. Scotty was a very talented consummate professional and a man of great integrity and character. Scotty passed onstage doing what he loved. We are devastated at his loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. Scotty's voice will continue to be heard over the airways as the voice of The Dennis Bono Show. I will always miss my sidekick."
After a routine start to today’s broadcast, O’Neil dropped from the interview couch to the floor during a commercial break while he was talking to guest Corrie Sachs, who portrays Reba McEntire in “Country Superstars Tribute” at the Golden Nugget. The tragedy unfolded 15 minutes into the show. Paramedics’ efforts to revive O’Neil onstage were unsuccessful, and he was taken to St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s Siena Campus.
A former lounge vocalist and also Nevada’s former lieutenant governor, Hunt-Bono was in attendance at today’s show, which began at its usual 2 p.m. start time. She said that when she arrived at the hotel, Dennis Bono and O’Neil were in good form, going over the show’s monologue.
“They were in the dressing room, going over the monologue at the last minute like they usually do, very last-minute, very improvisational,” Hunt-Bono said in a phone conversation this afternoon. “Scotty seemed in really good shape, jolly like he always was. They came out, did the monologue and sat on the couch.”
After Sachs finished her first number, she joined the host and sidekick on the couch, and the show went to commercial.
“Corrie said Scotty just got this expression on his face, his eyes rolled up, and he just looked very peaceful,” Hunt-Bono said. “Everyone thought he’d fainted. Even Dennis thought he might have been doing it as a joke, a comedy bit. Everyone was just in shock. The audience stood up, and one of the audience members was a nurse, and she came up and started trying to find his pulse, but he had stopped breathing.”
O’Neil never regained consciousness.
O’Neil was a former morning DJ at KJUL 104.3-FM, leaving the station when it changed formats from adult standards to country in 2005. He joined Bono’s syndicated variety show when it launched in 2000 at Sam’s Town. The show is spiced with Las Vegas acts, is performed for a live audience and also airs on several local AM and FM stations.
Before moving to Las Vegas, O’Neil had a long and distinguished career as a radio personality in Los Angeles and studied broadcast journalism at UCLA.
“Scotty was very well-respected in the broadcast industry, and he was a great sidekick, the perfect Ed McMahon,” Hunt-Bono said. “They loved the spontaneity. I’d ask, ‘Why don’t you guys put together the monologue the night before the show?’ But they loved playing off each other. They were both New York Yankees fans, they were both entertainment fans. They were two peas in a pod.”