Dubbed Red Buttons when, as a redheaded teen, he got a job as a singing bellhop wearing a coat adorned with dozens of buttons.
A veteran of the vaudeville and burlesque circuits and the Borscht Belt.
Early in his career, he sometimes partnered with actor-singer Robert Alda.
Married his first wife, a stripper named Roxanne, in 1940, but the marriage was annulled after two years.
In December 1941, he was set to play on Broadway in a comedy called The Admiral Takes a Wife, about life on a naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Unfortunately, the show was scheduled to debut on December 8, the day after the Japanese bombed the real Pearl Harbor, and the production never opened.
Was performing onstage in 1942 when Minsky's burlesque show Wine, Women and Song was raided by police and shut down. The event is widely considered the end of the burlesque era.
The catchphrase from his 1950s TV variety program, The Red Buttons Show, was "Strange things are happening," and it became a big hit among the younger generation.
When ratings plummeted in the second year of his show, he scrambled to find good comedic material and went through more than 160 writers in a two-year span, among them Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart.
In later years, was known for his "Never had a dinner" routine, about famous people who were never honored with a testimonial meal.
2005, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
1966, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Nominee
1970, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Nominee
1957, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Winner
1958, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Winner
1959, BAFTA Film Awards — Most Promising Newcomer to Film: Nominee