Legendary comedian Marty Allen dies in Las Vegas at 95
Allen's wife Karon Kate Blackwell was by his side at his final moments
Marty Allen, the zany comedian known for his wild black hair, died in Las vegas following complications from pneumonia on Monday night. Allen, 95, was a staple of TV variety shows, game shows and talk shows in the 1950s and '60s.
The news of Allen's death was confirmed by his spokesperson Candi Cazau. Allen's wife and performing partner of 30 years — Karon Kate Blackwell — was by his side when he breathed his last, the spokesperson added.
Allen was born on March 23, 1922 in Pittsburgh. He wanted to be a journalist, and even studied journalism at the Univesity of Southern California.
However, life had other plans for him and he got his first showbiz break as the opener for jazz singer Sarah Vaughan. She introduced Allen to Nat King Cole as his opening act when she wasn’t touring. And it was Cole who introduced him to to his eventual longtime showbiz partner, Steve Rossi. That was in 1957.
Allen joined up with Rossi to form Allen & Rossi, with whom he found fame. According to Variety, Allen & Rossi produced a number of hit comedy records and appeared 44 times on The Ed Sullivan Show, including the episode which also constituted the Beatles’ debut performance.
They were also a regular on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson and The Merv Griffin Show; they also toured comedy clubs nationwide, headlined shows at major Las Vegas casinos and released a series of hit albums. In 1968, however, despite a successful run, they decided to part ways — it was an amicable breakup and they continued to reunite for shows through the '90s.
After Rossi died in 2014, Allen said: "Everyone remembers those shows with The Beatles, and they were great, but we appeared on all the shows... There wasn't a talk show on TV that didn't want Allen & Rossi."
Allen was married to Lorraine 'Frenchy' Allen from 1960 until she died in 1976. From the 1980s, Allen teamed up with his very talented wife Karon Kate Blackwell to perform their musical comedy act to audiences around the country.
The couple met in 1983 and married in 1985, while she was managing a restaurant. According to Wikipedia, the duo performed comedy/music revue shows together in Las Vegas, across the nation, on cruise ships and even internationally. In 2015, the couple were said to be spending about 50 days per year on the road.
The veteran comedy star released his official illustrated biography covering his amazing 70 years in showbiz in 2014. The book, Hello Dere! An Illustrated Biography, which has more than 200 photos of Allen interacting and performing with superstars ranging from Elvis Presley to Richard Burton, the Beatles and others, was edited by wife Blackwell.
He kept making crowds laugh into his mid-90s. "It's unbelievable to be 94 years old," Marty Allen told a New York audience in 2016. "My wife says, 'What do you want for your birthday?' I told her, 'An antique.' So she framed my birth certificate."
In his comedy career, spanning more than 70 years, Allen had shared a stage with many superstars such as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Elvis Presley — all of whom are long-dead. Allen was the only living link to that generation of superstars — his death thus marks the end of an era.
Allen was a regular entertainer on the Las Vegas Strip for much of his life, and tributes from there poured in Monday night.
"We have lost another iconic Las Vegas entertainer, Marty Allen," Las Vegas magician Lance Burton tweeted. "What a funny man who brought joy to millions of people for 95 years."
Comedian Gilbert Gottfried also bid his farewell to "one of the funniest people onstage and off."
Honored to have had him on my podcast & grateful to have attended his 95th Birthday Celebration. Farewell to one of the funniest people onstage and off. RIP Marty Allen pic.twitter.com/g4lzrUNWVp— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) February 13, 2018
Movie critic Gino Salomone said he was deeply saddened by Allen's death.
Deeply saddened to hear of the death of my friend #martyallen who passed away at the age of 95. I was honored to have his friendship and cherished every phone call and joke that he would tell me. He was universally loved and I will miss him.— Gino Salomone (@Moviegino) February 13, 2018
Goodbye dere Pal! pic.twitter.com/ysdfoujLDJ
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