Marty Allen died on Monday in Las Vegas, from complications from pneumonia. Allen was 95. He was a favorite both on TV and in Vegas casinos for decades as the wild-eyed comedy partner of Steve Rossi.
He was still performing then with his wife, Karon, and told me in 2015: “I’ve been a very lucky person.” Over the years, he performed on Ed Sullivan on the same episode with The Beatles, made Elvis laugh, and even met the Pope.
“The fact that I’m entertaining. I love that I’m entertaining. To have someone come over and say we had a great time watching you, that’s all, that’s worth everything to me.”
Allen was born March 23, 1992, in Pittsburgh. He served in Italy during World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps. While there he met Pope Pius XII. “I had a three-day pass to the Vatican. I worked my way in to see the Pope. My friend asked me to get rosary beads blessed by the Pope. I said it’d be easier to get Eisenhower to get you a discharge! I was very fortunate to do that,” Allen had told me. “He always had an audience with a lot of military people, and I was fortunate in that respect.”
Allen tried one comedy partnership that didn’t get too far. But Nat King Cole introduced Steve Rossi to Allen, after Rossi wanted to stop being a production singer, because duos were hot in comedy. Allen & Rossi weren’t quite Martin & Lewis or The Smothers Brothers, but they did achieve hotness themselves — as Allen likes to call even now, “I did more Sullivan shows than Ed Sullivan!” In February 1964, Allen won over Beatlemaniacs by proclaiming, “I’m Ringo’s mother!” Allen also performed on Broadway in two separate productions in the ’60s: “Let It Ride!” and “I Had A Ball.”
They also made regular visits to the talk shows of Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas. And upon going solo, Allen had a recurring spot on the original run of The Hollywood Squares from 1966 to 1980 — even serving as the game show’s substitute center square when Paul Lynde wasn’t available.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Allen took on different comedy partners with multiple appearances on TV’s Circus of the Stars.
“I could relate to animals in a certain way,” Allen recalled. “If they asked me to work with an elephant or a chimpanzee, I knew how to react with them. Because basically, Sean, I’m, like a little kid. I’m not only a comedian. I’m actually funny. I guess the animals were laughing when they had a chance to work with me.”
As did everyone else who had the chance.
Rest in peace, Marty.