This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Steve Allen (1921-2000)

Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen was born December 26, 1921, in New York City. Despite having five names, he grew up in poverty. He was the son of Carroll Allen (real name Carroll Andrew August Abler/1888-1923), who went by the stage name Billy Allen as a vaudeville comedian, and Isobelle Donohue (1886-1964) who went by the name of Belle Montrose as a vaudeville comedienne.  Together they performed as the team of Montrose and Allen. Milton Berle said Belle Montrose was the funniest woman he ever saw. Steve's dad died when he was a year and a half. His mother took him to Chicago, where she grew up. 

For a single parent/single child childhood, with hardly any money, he was very active in school. He taught himself to play the piano but never learned how to read music. Later he joined the school band and took up the trumpet and then the band director had him play the tuba, since he was such a tall boy. Steve always played by ear, whatever he played. To reiterate, he never learned to read music.

After graduating from high school, he went to Arizona State Teachers' College (now Arizona State University) in Tempe. Steve dropped out of college after two years and went to work as a staff announcer at Phoenix radio station KOY and then he married Dorothy Goodman. Eventually he enlisted in the United States Army and was trained as an infantryman. After basic training at Fort Ord, his assignment for the rest of his military career was just down the road at Camp Roberts. He never left the country. Or California for that matter.

Upon his honorable discharge from the Army, Steve returned to Phoenix for a short while before deciding to go back to California, to Los Angeles. He worked as an announcer for KFAC. Then he got a job on a comedy show on the Mutual Broadcasting System, Smile Time, featuring Wendell Noble. He moved on to a bigger station, KNX, as a staff announcer. While that seems like a demotion, in terms of pay it was a huge promotion. Steve knew how to work. In time, he had a daytime talk show in which he would play the piano and create songs on the air. And he could also be so funny. He proved himself to be a great entertainer. The audiences to see his show were huge and many people, if not most, couldn't get into see him. (The tickets were free.) And when Doris Day couldn't show up for an interview on one episode, Steve improvised a comedy routine that the listeners say was unforgetable. 

In 1950, the situation comedy Our Miss Brooks, went off the air for summer. So he had a nationwide program that lasted 13 weeks. He then moved back to his native New York City to work at TV station WCBS-TV. This involved other work at CBS in New York. When Arthur Godfrey couldn't host his show Talent Scouts because he couldn't get out of Miami, Steve filled in for him and ad libbed all the commercials. For one, he told how wonderful Lipton's soup and Lipton Tea was. And he took the soup and the tea and poured them into Arthur Godfrey's ukelele. He divorced his wife Dorothy at this time.

He next went to WNBT (now WNBC-TV) and NBC where he was the first host of the Tonight Show. He married actress Jayne Meadows during this time. He went back to Los Angeles in 1959 and continued working on TV, writing songs, and acting in movies. Jayne would give him a fourth son.

Steve had one last radio gig: He had a radio program on WNEW in New York City in 1985. He actually did the show from his office in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles but the show played well in New York. His program came on just after Soupy Sales' show.

What more could we say about Steve? Well, first, the writer of this 'blog knew Steve as a personal friend. Steve knew of the 'blogger's devotion to his faith. Steve always called himself an "involved Presbyterian." But in actuality, even though he had a strong upbringing in the Roman Catholic faith, Steve didn't think much of churches or religion or anything like that.

He wrote several books and more than 7,000 songs. 

On October 30, 2000, Steve was involved in a minor traffic accident near his son's home. The drivers got out of their cars, exchanged insurance information, looked at the damage to the cars, and both said, "Aw, forget it. I don't see much damage done here." Steve went his son's house. When he got in the house, he told her he didn't feel well, so he went to sleep that evening. He had a massive heart attack and never awoke. Steve was 78 years old. After his autopsy, they said the minor accident actually caused several ribs to break and a major artery broke.

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