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Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen
Steve Allen
October 30, 2000
Age 78 
Heart Attack 
Buy or Hear the Music 
Gordon's Pick:  Plays Jazz Tonight

     The press release by Steve Allenís family 

    Television's Renaissance Man Steve Allen Dies At 78. 

     Multi-talented television pioneer Steve Allen passed away suddenly 
     Monday night October 30th at the home of his youngest son, Bill, in 
     Encino, California. 

     Mr. Allen was resting after a visit with four of his twelve grandchildren when 
     he lost consciousness and died of an apparent heart attack. 

     Widely recognized for his renaissance talents as an author, composer, 
     musician, poet, playwright and performer, Allen was the creator and first 
     host of NBC's Tonight Show. He also won Peabody and Emmy awards for 
     his PBS series Meeting of Minds and starred in the memorable motion 
     picture The Benny Goodman Story. The composer of over 8,500 songs, 
     including the popular standard This Could be the Start of Something Big 
     and the Grammy award winning Gravy Waltz, Steve Allen was recognized 
     by the Guinness Book of World Records as the "most prolific composer of 
     modern times." 

     Only the day before his death Mr. Allen had performed before a sold out 
     audience at Victor Valley College, one of the scores of music and comedy 
     concerts he continued to give around the country each year during his 
     seventh decade of life. 

     Mr. Allen was also the author of more than 50 published books including 
     comedies and mysteries as well as more serious tomes on subjects as 
     diverse as education, morality, China and the farm worker movement of 
     Caesar Chavez. On the day of his death, Mr. Allen was working on the 
     promotional plans for the December release of his 53rd book Steve 
     Allen's Private Joke File, and adding the final touches to his manuscript 
     for his 54th book, Vulgarians at the Gate concerning the rising tide of 
     violence and vulgarity in the popular media. 

     Steve Allen was married to television, film and stage actress Jayne 
     Meadows for more than 46 years. Miss Meadows described Allen as "my 
     best friend and my partner on stage and off for more than 48 years. He 
     was the most talented man I've ever known and the one true love of my 

     Steve Allen is survived by Miss Meadows, four sons, eleven grandchildren 
     and three great grand children.

TV Host Steve Allen, Dies at 78 

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Steve Allen, the droll comic who pioneered late night television with 
the original ``Tonight Show,'' composed more than 4,000 songs and wrote 40 books, has 
died at 78. 

He died Monday night at the Encino home of his son, Bill Allen, the son said Tuesday. 

Allen also starred as the King of Swing in the 1956 movie ``The Benny Goodman Story.'' He 
appeared in Broadway shows, on soap operas, wrote newspaper columns, commented on 
wrestling broadcasts, made 40 record albums, wrote plays and a television series that 
featured guest appearances by Sigmund Freud, Clarence Darrow and Aristotle. 

His skill as an ad libber became apparent in his early career as a disc jockey in Phoenix. He 
once interrupted the playing of records to announce: ``Sports fans, I have the final score 
for you on the big game between Harvard and William & Mary. It is: Harvard 14, William 12, 
Mary 6.'' 

Allen's most enduring achievement came with the introduction of ``The Tonight Show'' in 
1953. The show began as ``Tonight'' on the New York NBC station WNBT, then moved to 
the network on Sept. 27, 1954. 

Amid the formality of early TV, ``Tonight'' was a breath of fresh air. The show began with 
Allen noodling at the piano, playing some of his compositions and commenting wittily on 
events of the day. He moved to a desk, chatted with guests, taking part in sketches, doing 
zany man-in-the street interviews. 

``It was tremendous fun to sit there night after night reading questions from the audience 
and trying to think up funny answers to them; reading angry letters to the editor; 
introducing the greats of comedy, jazz, Broadway and Hollywood; welcoming new comedians 
like Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters, Mort Sahl and Don Adams,'' he once said. 

Allen's popularity led NBC in 1956 to schedule ``The Steve Allen Show'' on Sunday evenings 
opposite ``The Ed Sullivan Show'' on CBS. 

A variation of ``Tonight,'' the primetime show was notable for its ``Man in the Street 
Interview'' featuring new comics Louis Nye (``Hi-ho, Steverino''), Don Knotts, Tom Poston, 
Pat Harrington and Bill Dana. The show lasted through 1961, although the last year was on 

Allen cut back his ``Tonight' duties to three nights a week when the primetime show 
started. He left even that in 1956. He was replaced for a season by Ernie Kovacs, then NBC 
tried a new format in 1957, ``Tonight! America after Dark.'' It failed, and ``Tonight'' 
resumed with Jack Paar, followed by Johnny Carson in 1962. 

Over the years, Allen maintained a busy career, making appearances in movies and TV 
series, often with his wife Jayne., Her sister, the late Audrey Meadows, portrayed the 
long-suffering Alice to Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden on ``The Honeymooners.'' 

He wrote great quantities of songs, and several were recorded by pop vocalists. His most 
popular song was ``This May Be the Start of Something Big.'' 

A self-styled advocate of ``radical middle-of-the-roadism,'' Allen often spoke out on 
political matters such as capital punishment, nuclear policy and freedom of expression. He 
once considered running for Congress as a Democrat, but decided against it. 

Toward the end of his life, he spoke out against the increase of sexual content on 
television. In a speech last year, he said tabloid television talk shows such as the ``Jenny 
Jones'' show have ``taken television to the garbage dump.'' 

``There are moral failures in the marketplace,'' he said. 

Allen was proudest of his ``Meeting of Minds'' series which appeared on PBS from 1976 to 
1979. He moderated a panel of actors impersonating historic figures such as Galileo, Emily 
Dickinson, Cleopatra (played by Jayne Meadows), Charles Darwin and Attila the Hun, who 
explained their diverse philosophies. 

When an interviewer asked Allen in 1985 how he managed to do so many creative things, 
he replied: 

``I never asked myself that question. It would be like asking how my hair grows. The 
mystery of creativity is just that: it is a mystery, and particularly mysterious to me about 

Steve Allen came by his humor naturally; both his parents, Billy Allen and Belle Montrose, 
were vaudeville comedians. Their son was born in New York City on Dec. 26, 1921, during a 
brief respite from their travels. Steve was 18 months old when his father died, and his 
mother continued touring the circuits as a single. 

The boy grew up in other people's homes, mostly with his mother's family in Chicago, the 
Donahues. He remembered the place as ``a rooming house with the smell of cabbage 

Allen won a partial scholarship to study journalism at Drake University, but severe asthma 
caused him to transfer to Arizona State Teachers College in 1942. After a few months he 
dropped out to work as a disc jockey and entertainer at radio station KOY in Phoenix. 

Drafted in 1943, he was soon released because of asthma. He returned to KOY, and married 
his college sweetheart, Dorothy Goodman. They had three sons, Steve Jr., David and Brian, 
and divorced in 1952. 

Allen moved to Los Angeles and began offering his comedy and music on local radio. 

A midnight show on KNX brought Allen a small but enthusiastic audience and attracted 
national attention in 1950 when it was carried on the CBS network as a summer 
replacement for ``Our Miss Brooks.'' The networks were converting to television, and he 
was invited to New York for ``The Steve Allen Show,'' which appeared five evenings a week 
on CBS. 

In 1952, Allen was invited to a dinner party at which he was seated next to the beautiful 
actress Jayne Meadows. Uncharacteristically, he was speechless. 

At the end of the evening, she turned to him and said, ``Mr. Allen, you're either the rudest 
man I ever met or the shyest.'' His reddened face indicated the latter. They began dating 
and married in 1954. 

Their only child, Bill, said that on Monday, his father was visiting his home. ``He said he 
was a little tired after dinner. He went to relax, peacefully, and never reawakened,'' the 
younger Allen said. 

He added that his father had a ``long, full and extraordinary life.'' 

    Quotes on Steve Allen 

    By The Associated Press,  

    Show business friends and colleagues talk about Steve Allen: 

    ``He was one of the sharpest guys off the cuff. He never played dumb. He played many 
    characters, straight man and comic, and he did each role perfectly. But the role he played 
    best was Steve Allen.'' - ``Tonight Show'' host Jay Leno. 

    ``All of us who have hosted the 'Tonight Show' format owe a debt of gratitude to Steve 
    Allen. He was a most creative innovator and brilliant entertainer.'' - Former ``Tonight Show'' 
    host Johnny Carson. 

    ``He had a magnificent mind. His mind just wouldn't stop. It was overflowing with a variety 
    of subjects. He had an extraordinary technique of making you feel warm and communicated 
    with you. He was a kind, gentle and warm man. I can't put into words the way I felt about 
    this man. I loved him.'' - Entertainer Dick Clark. 

    ``What was great about Steve is all of America thought of him as their friend or neighbor. 
    He was talented in so many different ways, he was a true triple threat kind of guy. Steve 
    Allen was an American original.'' - Pianist Richard Williams, a frequent guest on Allen's 
    television shows. 

    ``Quite an incredible man we have lost. It was just quite a thing to watch him. He was 
    always doing something. He was such an intelligent man and that's what made him so 
    prolific with writing. Lately, he's been on a vent to lift up the morality of our business. He 
    was very upset about what happened on certain radio and television shows. He was a very 
    concerned citizen about what was going on in the world.'' - Entertainer Ed McMahon. 

    ``I'm not sure they make men like Steve Allen anymore. He worked to the last moment. He 
    was a legendary figure who had real depth.'' - Michael Levine, former publicist for Allen. 

    ``He had one of the best comic minds in the business. No matter what you were talking 
    about, he could make it funny.'' - Comedian Rich Little. 

    ``Rarely have I ever known a man more humble and more decent. What made Steve truly 
    heroic was what he did in his final years, so courageously championing a national cause to 
    restore a sense of decency to the industry he so dearly loved and which has so clearly lost 
    its way.'' - Brent Bozell III, chairman of the Parents Television Council, a nonprofit 
    organization to restore responsibility to the entertainment industry. 

    ``He was my best friend and my partner on stage and off for more than 48 years. He was 
    the most talented man I've ever known and the one true love of my life.'' - Wife Jayne 

    ``Steve Allen was an enormous influence on television. His early work is really the 
    foundation for what late-night shows have become.'' - Talk show host David Letterman. 

    ``If it wasn't for him there wouldn't be any talk shows.'' - Comedian Milton Berle. 

    ``His career has proved that he was one of the great renaissance figures of today, whether 
    it's music, writing or talking. He was helpful for anybody in any kind of cause. I can't believe 
    we are losing him.'' - Comedian Art Linkletter. 

Steve Allen, Comedian Who Pioneered Late-Night TV Talk Shows, Is Dead at 78
                  Steve Allen, the versatile entertainer who created 
                  the "Tonight" show for NBC in 1953 and was widely 
                  regarded as a founding father of the late-night talk show, 
                  died on Monday at the home of his son Bill in Los Angeles. 
                  He was 78 and lived in Los Angeles. 

                  The cause was apparently a heart attack, his family said. 

                  In more than 50 years in show business, Mr. Allen 
                  demonstrated his talents in many areas. An accomplished 
                  pianist who never learned to read music, he composed 
                  more than 5,000 songs, some of them hits. Among them 
                  were "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," 
                  "Impossible" and "Gravy Waltz." He wrote the lyrics 
                  for some movie music, including ballads heard in 
                  "Picnic," "Houseboat" and "On the Beach." 

                  He also wrote more than 50 books, all of them dictated 
                  into a small tape recorder that he always carried. They 
                  ranged from poetry and novels to social criticism, 
                  music, foreign affairs and, of course, humor. A new book, 
                  "Steve Allen's Private Joke File," is to be published in 

                  Mr. Allen was keenly  interested in social justice 
                  and wrote pamphlets on a variety of issues, including 
                  the problems facing migrant workers, as well as capital 
                  punishment and nuclear proliferation. (He was 
                  opposed to both.) He once considered running for 
                  Congress from California, calling his politics 
                  "middle-of-the-road radicalism," which was his 
                  way of describing mid- century liberalism. 

        He acted in several movies, among them "The Benny 
        Goodman Story" (1955), in which he played the title 
        role, and was a master of ceremonies or a guest on many  
        television programs, including several versions of "The Steve  
        Allen Show" as well as "I've Got a Secret" and "What's My Line?"  

                  But he was probably best known for the humor that 
                  seemed to tumble effortlessly from his lips in 
                  television appearances, accompanied by a 
                  high-pitched giggle. Mr. Allen believed that everyone 
                  had a "silly center" and that no one should try to 
                  suppress it. 

                  So when he was told that he had colon cancer in 
                  1986, he said he would list his condition as critical: 
                  "critical of nurses, critical of doctors, critical of the 
                  food, critical of the prices."  When the hospital listed 
                  his condition as stable, Mr. Allen said, "You know 
                  what the condition of the average stable is." 

                  In his heyday on the "Tonight" show, from 1954 to 
                  1956, Mr. Allen once delighted his fans by going out 
                  on the street dressed as a New York City policeman, 
                  hailing a taxi, hurling a huge salami into the back 
                  seat and ordering the driver to "take this to Grand 
                  Central Station." He read an assortment of things to 
                  the studio audience, finding much humor in the 
                  letters to the editor of The Daily News. He was 
                  especially fond of letters with signatures like 
                  "Disgusted, from the Bronx." 

                  He loved practical jokes. On one occasion he put out 
                  a record album of piano music called "The Discovery 
                  of Buck Hammer." The cover featured a photograph 
                  of a pianist whose talent was said to have been 
                  discovered posthumously. Critics loved the album, 
                  only to learn later that all the playing had been Mr. 

                  He would invite his studio audience to suggest song 
                  titles and then devise a lyric instantly. Once 
                  someone shouted the name of the best seller of the 
                  day "Dr. Zhivago," which led Mr. Allen to sit down at 
                  the piano and sing to the tune of "Chicago": 

                  Zhivago! Zhivago! 

                  Whenever I'm sick 

                  Zhivago! Zhivago! 

                  You cure me real quick. 

                  Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen was born on 
                  Dec. 26, 1921, in New York to parents who were part 
                  of a vaudeville team. His father, Carroll, worked 
                  under the name Billy Allen and was straight man to 
                  his mother, the former Isabelle Donohue, whose 
                  stage name was Belle Montrose. His father died 
                  when he was 18 months old. 

                  Mr. Allen spent his formative years in Chicago, living 
                  with his mother's family, whom he later described as 
                  "sarcastic, volatile, sometimes disparaging, but very, 
                  very funny." In 1941 he briefly attended Drake 
                  University in Des Moines on a journalism scholarship 
                  and then Arizona State Teachers College. He was 
                  drafted into the Army but was discharged after five 
                  months because of recurring attacks of asthma. 

                  After his discharge, he started working in radio, first 
                  in Phoenix, then in Los Angeles. In 1947 he was 
                  hired by KNX, the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, to be 
                  a disc jockey. Fans were greatly attracted to his 
                  chatter, and he soon spent more time talking than 
                  he did playing records. As many as a thousand 
                  people would visit his studio broadcast each 
                  Saturday night, and Mr. Allen would interview them 
                  as well as celebrity guests. 

                  He made a bet with Frankie Laine, the singer, that 
                  he could write 50 songs a day for a week. He 
                  remained in the window of a Hollywood music store 
                  and did it, winning $1,000 from Mr. Laine. One of the 
                  songs, "Let's Go to Church Next Sunday," was 
                  recorded by both Perry Como and Margaret Whiting. 

                  CBS invited him to Manhattan and gave him his own 
                  half-hour television show from 1950 to 1952. He 
                  moved to NBC in 1953 as host of "Tonight." The 
                  predecessor of what would become Johnny Carson's 
                  long-running "Tonight," it began as a local program 
                  on WNBT, which was then the New York outlet for 
                  NBC. It moved to the network 15 months later. 

                  In the beginning the show's regulars included Gene 
                  Rayburn, the announcer, and Skitch Henderson, the 
                  orchestra leader. Somewhat later, Mr. Allen 
                  discovered and promoted the singing talents of 
                  Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme and Andy Williams. 
                  There were many stunts; he had his hair cut on one 
                  show, sold hot dogs on another and tried out 
                  weight-reducing equipment on still another. He 
                  frequently took his microphone into the audience. 

                  Mr. Allen cut back his "Tonight" schedule in the 
                  summer of 1956 to begin "The Steve Allen Show," 
                  which NBC offered as a prime- time Sunday night 
                  competitor to "The Ed Sullivan Show" on CBS and 
                  "Maverick" on ABC, and left late-night television for 
                  good in January 1957. 

                  Among the comedians whose careers flourished on 
                  "The Steve Allen Show" were Don Knotts, who played 
                  a terminally nervous individual named Mr. Morrison; 
                  Bill Dana, who appeared as a Latin astronaut named 
                  José Jiménez; Pat Harrington, who was Guido 
                  Panzini, an Italian golfer; Tom Poston, the very 
                  forgetful man; and Louis Nye, who played the always 
                  effete advertising executive Gordon Hathaway and 
                  always called Mr. Allen "Steverino." The show ran 
                  through the 1959-60 season and was in syndication 
                  throughout the 1960's. 

                  "The Steve Allen Comedy Hour," with some of the 
                  "Tonight" regulars, ran on CBS during the summer of 
                  1967, and Mr. Allen was host of a similar variety 
                  show on NBC in 1980 and 1981. 

                  Besides performing, Mr. Allen generated many ideas 
                  for programs. One, "Meeting of the Minds," offered 
                  imagined conversations between figures of the past, 
                  among them Emily Dickinson, Galileo, Charles 
                  Darwin and Attila the Hun. Mr. Allen acted as 
                  moderator. The program was seen on public 
                  television in the 1970's. 

                  He also wrote the music and lyrics for "Sophie," a 
                  Broadway musical based on the life of Sophie 
                  Tucker, which ran for only eight performances in 
                  1963; the book, music and lyrics for "Seymour Glick 
                  Is Alive but Sick," a revue produced in 1982; and 
                  music and lyrics for songs in "Alice in Wonderland," a 
                  musical produced on CBS in 1985. 

                  Mr. Allen never stopped performing, making personal 
                  appearances and doing radio broadcasts. In January 
                  1995 he played the title role in a production of "The 
                  Mikado" by the New York Gilbert and Sullivan 
                  Players. In recent years he began speaking out 
                  against what he saw as a rising tide of smut on 
                  television, condemning shows that he felt had 
                  "taken television to the garbage dump." At the time 
                  of his death he was completing a book on the 
                  subject, "Vulgarians at the Gate." 

                  Mr. Allen's first marriage, to Dorothy Goodman, 
                  ended in divorce. In 1954 he married Jayne 
                  Meadows, the actress and sister of Audrey Meadows. 
                  In addition to their son, Bill, he is survived by 3 
                  sons from his first marriage, Stephen Jr., Brian and 
                  David; 11 grandchildren; and 3 great-grandchildren. 



All-Music Guide
 For someone of Steve Allen's versatility and staggering capacity for work, jazz occupies a small yet significant portion of his biography.  Yet despite his crowded agenda, Allen can still spin out facile, competent, bop-and-cocktail-flavored piano in fast jazz company - nothing particularly original but always pleasurable to hear. He started to play the piano while a child - his parents were traveling vaudeville performers - but the keyboard soon had to take a backseat to his media career, first on radio and then on television. Best-known as a comedian and the first host of the American TV institution, the Tonight Show (1954-57), Allen frequently played piano and sang on his shows and used them as a forum to present guests from the jazz world. He also played the lead role in the film The Benny Goodman Story in 1955, produced the TV series Jazz Scene USA in 1962, and narrated a history of jazz on records The Jazz Story (Coral). Allen recorded frequently for Coral, Dot, Roulette, EmArcy, and Decca during the peak of his TV fame and as late as 1992, taped an enjoyable mainstream set for Concord Jazz, Plays Jazz Tonight.. In addition to some 43 books (and counting), Allen claims to have written (as of 1994) more than 4, 700 songs, of which only a bare handful - "This Could Be The Start Of Something (Big)," "Gravy Waltz," "Impossible" - have staked claims in the repertoire. Ultimately Allen's most valuable contribution to jazz has been as a cheerleader in the mass media. -- Richard S. Ginell



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