A birthday tribute to the great Marty Allen
April 18, 2017 3:08 AM
by Robert Mann
On behalf of my wife, Sondra, and myself I want to thank you for meeting me for lunch last week at the Bagel Café. Thanks to our mutual friend Karen Hovsepian for setting it up for me.
However, thanking you for generously picking up the tab merely scratches the surface of my appreciation toward you and your wife, Karon Kate Blackwell.
I’ve lived in Las Vegas now for 30 years and have seen your performances many times. The entertainment community worldwide, and Southern Nevada in particular, owes you a great debt of gratitude on many levels. Seeing your 95th birthday performance at the South Point last month was a treat beyond words. As you have said many times, Karon really does play the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. Wow can she sing! And, as you have said many times, Karon is a wonderful “straight man” in the tradition of Bud Abbott (with Lou Costello), Dean Martin (with Jerry Lewis) and your own Steve Rossi.
It’s great to hear you will be continuing to make us laugh by appearing with Karon again in Las Vegas at the Rampart Saturday and in California soon after.
Following your career as a youngster, seeing you perform in Las Vegas as an adult and now meeting you in person has been tremendously rewarding on a personal level.
It’s so apparent you never have a bad word to say about anyone. I was most likely just the most recent of many who have asked you about your break up with the late Steve Rossi, but you convinced me the partnership had run its course and you just wanted to work as a single or with Karon. Some found Mr. Rossi a little overbearing after the two of you parted ways, but you had nothing but compliments for your longtime partner. As we both noted, Steve Rossi was really an excellent vocalist.
I think your goodwill toward your fellow performers may be one of the secrets to your longevity. As you told me, “I always just tried to do my job and get off.” No wonder you were able to work with all the greats, including Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Eydie Gormé, Patty Page, Barbara Stanwyck (in “The Big Valley”) and so many, many others. You downplay your friendship with so many performers who are now gone, such as the recently departed Don Rickles, but I appreciate you as one of the last links to so many greats and to a Las Vegas era we hope will return, but know never will. I’m glad you still have the desire to continue to make people laugh.
When I asked you about your heroism in World War II you told me about it in such a modest way just as you spoke about it on stage. I read online that your fellow troops even held a parade in your honor, but its something you didn’t mention.
It was special to learn about your ongoing love for your hometown Pittsburgh Steelers and the time when NFL Hall-of-Famer Franco Harris, who made the “Immaculate Reception,” asked to meet you at an event back home.
You were kind enough to explain to me that you never had to work “dirty” as so many comics do nowadays. Your bits as a boxer, golfer and football player, among many others, are classics. I’m glad video recordings of these routines still exist along with the bit you did with Martha Raye on the Hollywood Palace television show. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
I took note of how careful you were with what you ate at lunch. The rotund guy who could dance as well as Michael Jackson may be in your past, but the good diet I witnessed must be another key to your continued success. As you told me, your wife keeps an eye on what you eat.
I got such a kick out of hearing about your meeting with The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. As you explained, John Lennon took a liking to you and your wild hair. I’m sure the friendliness and warmth you showed towards The Beatles on their first tour of this country made them feel right at home. Talking with a man who was there when music history was made was a little humbling.
What a life you’ve had and are still having, for that matter.
Although the words seem a little inadequate, I’ll close by saying thank you once more. Thanks for everything, including lunch!
Very truly yours,