In Remembrance of “Best in the Desert” founder Casey Folks and Entertainer Buddy Greco

Casey Folks

Casey Folks

The following item was posted on the website operated by the family of my friend of more than 50 years, Casey Folks.  Don’t get me wrong, we were not drinking buddies. Our friendship began when I was creating and promoting the Mint 400 back in the ‘60s. He was still deep into racing motorcycles and was in the process of getting a motorcycle franchise so he could open a dealership in Las Vegas. His reputation was already world-wide! If he was entered in a race, most competitors knew they were racing for second place.

When the Martelli brothers, Matt and Josh, purchased the Mint 400 Off-Road Race in 2012, they contacted me to discuss the future of the race and to be a consultant (which lasted for the first four years). At the same time, they had the good sense to contact Casey (who was promoting the best series of off- road races in the United States). A deal was struck to have his company, Best in the Desert, to sanction and run the “Great American Off-Road Race.” The Martelli’s would promote the race, Casey would take charge of the actual race, its rules, technical inspections, etc. There couldn’t have been a better choice.

“Casey has been an integral part of bringing our vision for the Mint 400 to life,” explained Matt Martelli, of Mad Media. “Working with the BLM and other agencies, and handling logistics is a tedious, thankless job.  And, Casey, did it for years to provide all of us with a place to race.”

Casey Folks at Best in the Desert

Casey Folks at Best in the Desert

Casey Folks ruled his races with an iron fist. Every racer was a friend!  But, once that “Green Flag” dropped, there were no friends. You were a racer and the rules were not going to be bent to allow someone an edge. If you broke a rule you were penalized! That was just one of the many reasons he was so highly respected. As a former racer, myself, before Casey came along to promote events, I saw rules ignored when someone cheated in a race, and who was a good friend of the promotor etc. It happened a lot during those early years of the sport. Rules were often ignored!  If you entered a “Best in the Desert” promoted event, however, you knew you were going to get an honest race and a “fair shake!”

What I remember most about Casey was the smile he always had when we would meet. He would give me a big hug, which was truly appreciated. He hadn’t forgotten me! He seemed to be especially glad to know that I was going to be a part of the Mint 400 race, which I had created back in 1967 (the first actual competitive event was staged in 1968), and nurtured through 1972, along with the late Mel Larson, who took over responsibilities of promoting the race when I was promoted to the Thunderbird Hotel.  Eventually motorcycles were dropped from the Mint 400, and Casey continued his motorcycle career,

I truly loved the guy! Here is the rest of the story as written by an un-known author for the Casey Folks family:

“With a sad heart, Best in the Desert announced the passing of their leader on January 12, 2017. Casey Folks suffered a massive stroke on the morning of January 7th in Parker, Arizona. Casey was doing what he loved, living his passion for off-road racing, getting ready to drop the flag on the latest UTV race event.  He was rushed to a hospital and transported by air to Las Vegas for care. Despite efforts by the best doctors in Las Vegas, Casey succumbed to the effect of the stroke.

Casey lived a life most of us only dream about. He was a participant, promoter, and friend to the off-road racing industry. An ardent competitor, Casey raced motorcycles between the ages of 21 and 45. He won 16 championships in his career and in 1980, was the first to Ironman the Baja 1000 and finish. He was the only person to finish every Barstow to Vegas race.

In 1968, Casey opened Sportsman Cycle Sales with his racing partner and friend, Tom Scales. The dealership opened as a Husqvarna Dealer with only two motorcycles. One was Casey’s race bike and the other was Tom’s race bike. Many stories were told Monday mornings after a race about Casey and his Chippewa Charley’s (boots) moving another competitor out of the way. Casey didn’t gain many friends by this but it sure created a buzz about the guy from Sportsman Cycle. Over the next few decades Sportsman Cycle grew into the premier motorcycle racing shop in Las Vegas. Through Casey’s guidance and support, Sportsman Cycle birthed and nurtured many racers that went on to have very successful racing careers. In 1988, Casey passed the baton to his oldest son Daryl so he could focus on his next passion in life: The Best in the Desert Racing Association.

He started Best in the Desert in 1984 for motorcycles. Then he introduced the “Vegas to Reno” race in March of 1996, adding for the first-time cars, trucks, and quads to his races. Due to Casey’s drive and strengths, Best in the Desert grew into North America’s largest and most prestigious off-road racing organization, aptly named “The American Off-Road Racing Series”.

Casey competed in almost every type of off-road event throughout the Western United States.  His portfolio included over 30 races in Baja, Mexico, and the Tunisia Rally in Northern Africa. He served as the American Consultant for the Incas Rally in Peru and was the event coordinator for the Nevada Rally, representing the company “Acerbis Adventure” based in Italy.

Casey was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2012, joining the ranks of off-road racing’s greatest legends and honored by off-road racers worldwide.

His many friends at the Bureau of Land Management had respect and trust in Casey’s judgment and stated that Casey’s high standards established the rules for safety in off-road desert racing.

He survived by the love of his life Diane DeLauer, son Daryl Folks and his wife Sheri Folks, his son Bryan Folks, his sister Joan Ragona-Suarez, and 3 beautiful granddaughters: Adrianna, Morgan, and Marlee.

Casey created memorable moments for thousands and thousands of people. We thank him for a lifetime of dedication to the sport we all love. As life goes on, and we continue to experience the passion of off-road racing, his legacy will live on.  Remember the words he lived by, “Life is an Adventure. Come Live Your Adventure with Best in the Desert”. Casey’s life was truly an adventure, and we will always treasure our memories of him.  He will be greatly missed.  Hooyah!

 

THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:

Buddy and Leslie

Buddy and Leslie

We lost another wonderful entertainer, friend, and resident of our little village. Yep, Buddy Greco who celebrated his 90th birthday a few months ago, checked out and got his ticket to the “Great Band Upstairs” the other day. He passed from natural causes (old age) having accomplished everything possible while he was on earth. He left behind his equally talented wife, Leslie Anders, to carry on the memory of this giant in the musical business. Not only was Buddy a damn good singer, he was an arranger, a lyricist, and a fabulous man on the ivory keys. He did it all!

Buddy, before he and Leslie left for London to find work, had a small ranch with all kinds of critters running around the acreage. They were Leslie’s critters and basically had the run of the property. The old Cast Group held a couple fund raisers at the ranch and it was fun dodging the goats, rabbits, chickens, and even a horse during the parties. But, like Buddy would say:  “Hey, they live here what the hell am I going to do…kick ‘em out on the street?” I’ve asked a few of his friends to recall a moment or two with Buddy, so here they are:

Melinda and Frankie Randall were long-time friends of the Greco’s, and when Buddy and Leslie  made the move to Palm Springs, they pitched in to help them get settled. Soon, the Greco’s had found the spot they had been looking for to open a nightclub.

Lezlie Anders and Buddy Greco where the featured act in the Palm Springs Follies show for one season in Palm Springs, California.  The audience loved them and they loved Palm Springs.  So, after their run at the Follies was over, they decided to open up a supper club named after Buddy.  But where to locate the restaurant? They contacted entertainer, Frankie Randall, who had owned a home there since 1975, to help them find a location for “Buddy Greco’s Supper Club”.  Frankie scouted out several places with them over a couple of months, and when they settled on a small room in Cathedral City,  Frankie told them it was the wrong location for the Club, but they went ahead anyway.

 

Together Once Again, Frankie Randall, Carme, Buddy Greco, and Freddie Bell

Together Once Again, Frankie Randall, Carme, Buddy Greco, and Freddie Bell

The location had space for only 62 people for dinner, with a stage for Buddy and a trio to perform on. Lezlie out did herself on decorating the interior and they both prided themselves on the food—it had to be perfecto!  The interior had zebra striped carpeting, black chairs, and what made the room was ALL of Buddy’s framed Record Albums and memorabilia around the room—It always put a smile on a visitors face  One was a framed picture of Buddy at six-years old holding sheets of music.  Both restroom walls were covered with Buddy’s sheet music, which was very clever and creative.  The servers wore black and white piano ties with black shirts and pants. Of course, the main attraction was Buddy and his trio.  After dinner was served, Buddy put on a full musical show, which included all of his great music and a ton of fabulous stories.

Many nights, Frankie Randall and I would come in for dinner, and Frankie would end up on stage with Buddy!  It was almost like a competition between the two pianists/singers to try to-out-do each other! Those evenings were some of the best nights ever for all of those in the club when it happened!  Frankie would play and sing and then Buddy would play and sing and then Frankie would go back to the piano, then Buddy and in crescendo, both men would play the piano and sing together!  It was always a magical night when it happened! During the summers, the boys talked about doing this together on the road, but sadly it never came to fruition.

 

The restaurant closed and Frankie became ill with stage four lung cancer and passed on Dec. 28th, 2014 at age of 76, with his funeral on Jan. 10th, 2015. Now Buddy has passed at the age of 90 on Jan. 10th, 2017. The two are finally on the road together. How sweet!

Another friend of Buddy’s, Ron Erickson, sent me the following:

It must have been about 1965 when I went to work at the Sands Hotel and Casino. What an education I got there! I worked for Al Freeman who was a Vice-President in charge of marketing and a real professional. He was just as involved with tasks for Jack EntratterCarl Cohen, and for any of the other owners. Charles Barron was a real mentor for me and I would have coffee with him almost nightly–in the very lounge that Bob Anderson was talking about in his memories of Buddy. I remember the night Buddy Greco first appeared in the new lounge (part of a major remodel) which was home for Louis Prima (first time he worked with new wife Gia instead of Keeley Smith), The Righteous Brothers, The Hines Brothers (billed as: Hines, Hines & Dad), and Gaylord & Holiday. But Bob is right, so many of the Copa Room stars would end their night doing a set in the lounge after two shows in the Copa Room. It was just like a third big room show. Buddy was a solid draw in that room and everyone came by to say hello and sit in. He was a great entertainer and he’ll be missed. Kind of disappointed that for all the times we had dinner or a sandwich in the Garden Room, not a single photograph. Ah, the good old days.

Well, I’m sorta getting tired of writing these type of columns about friends passing on to another dimension of life. It’s happening far too often.

I’m outa here!

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