Steve Allen life and biography

Steve Allen picture, image, poster

Steve Allen biography

Date of birth : 1921-12-26
Date of death : 2000-10-30
Birthplace : New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-08-30
Credited as : Comedian and tv host, writer and lyricist, first host of The Tonight Show

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Steve Allen, also known as Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen, Stephen Allen, William Christoper Stevens, William Christopher Stevens born December 26, 1921 in New York, New York, United States - died October 30, 2000 in Encino, California, United States was an American comedian, writer, composer, lyricist, actor, concert artist, and lecturer who composed over 7,900 songs and was the author of fifty-four published books. Though he got his start in radio, Allen is best-known for his television career. He first gained national attention as a guest host on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. He graduated to become the first host of The Tonight Show, where he was instrumental in innovating the concept of the television talk show. Thereafter, he hosted numerous game and variety shows, including The Steve Allen Show, I've Got a Secret, The New Steve Allen Show, and was a regular panel member on CBS' What's My Line?

Allen was the son of Carroll Allen, who performed vaudeville under the stage name Billy Allen, and comedienne Isabelle Donohue, whose stage name was Belle Montrose Allen. Allen's father died before he was two, and Allen spent much of his childhood traveling with his mother from city to city. He attended seventeen different schools, ending up at Union High School in Phoenix, where his mother had taken him for the sake of his health. He was, he said later, "a pampered, sickly beanpole, too weak for athletics and too asthmatic for the army," but he loved writing, learned to play the piano by ear, and began to develop his remarkable talent for comedic ad-libbing.

In 1941 Allen enrolled at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, but as his asthma became worse he returned to Phoenix. After a brief spell at the State Teachers College of Arizona in Tempe, in 1942, he was offered an opportunity to work in the radio business. Allen worked at KOY radio in Phoenix as announcer, writer, pianist, and producer. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, but asthma continued to plague him, so he was discharged after only five months and returned to KOY. Here his ad-libbing skills became evident.

On 23 August 1943 Allen married Dorothy Goodman, whom he had met while attending the State Teachers College of Arizona. They had three children and divorced in 1952. That same year, Allen found himself at a dinner party seated next to actress Jayne Meadows, who, appalled by his gaping at her, said, "Mr. Allen, you're either the rudest man I ever met or the shyest." They married on 31 July 1954, and had one son.

In 1944 Allen moved to Los Angeles and continued his radio career. He joined the Hollywood station KNX in 1948 as a disc jockey with a midnight time slot, but his chat between records soon proved to be a bigger draw than the music. Allen expanded his comedic audience and transferred his ad-lib abilities to television. By 1954 he was working at the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), where he created and hosted the Tonight Show, which became the standard for late-night television comedy programs. He left the Tonight Show in 1956 in order to concentrate on the Steve Allen Show (which aired on NBC from 1956 to 1960), introducing talented new entertainers to prime-time television viewers.

By 1960 Allen had established himself as one of the top television and radio personalities in the United States. Although primarily known for his comedy, Allen introduced and helped make popular many of the famous comedians and entertainers of the 1960s: singers such as Andy Williams, Steve Lawrence, and Eydie Gorme, and comedians such as Louis Nye, Don Knotts, Tom Poston, Tim Conway, Steve Martin, and Jackie Mason. Allen was "hip" long before most Americans knew what the word meant.

After leaving the Tonight Show, Allen moved to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) to do a syndicated show (the Steve Allen Show) from 1961 until 1964. He hosted I've Got a Secret for CBS from 1964 to 1967. From 1968 to 1972, with his wife Jayne Meadows, he did a syndicated version of the Steve Allen Show (CBS). He continued to campaign against coarse language on television, blowing a whistle to drown out any mild epithet uttered on his shows, which at that time were primarily broadcast live.

Throughout his life Allen pursued his interest in writing, developing new concepts and ideas, and writing books that required the reader to think. His works include a novel, Not All of Your Laughter, Not All of Your Tears (1962), the nonfiction book Letter to a Conservative (1965), and the poetry collection Flash of Swallows (1969).

After the 1960s Allen continued his television career. Half talk show, half historical review, the Emmy-winning Meeting of Minds ran on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) from 1977 to 1981. The show featured actors playing historical figures such as the Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen, the political philosopher Machiavelli, and the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning from their differing perspectives. They debated history and society, with Allen as moderator. Allen's later career also included several motion pictures, including The Benny Goodman Story (1955) and The Sunshine Boys (1975), in which he played a cameo role as himself.

In 1986 Allen was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. In later years Allen backed the Parents Television Council, a watchdog group, by sponsoring advertisements urging broadcasters and parents to exercise responsibility. He commented, "It saddens me that television, which was once wholesome, instructive and entertaining, has now become so vulgar and violent." Allen died of an apparent heart attack after carving pumpkins with his grandchildren, and is buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, in Los Angeles.

Known variously as "Mr. Midnight," television's "Renaissance Man," and "the thinking man's comic," Allen parlayed five decades in show business into a string of successes in almost every entertainment medium. His droll sense of humor, talent for improvisation, knack for patter, and style as an interviewer inspired the successful formula for numerous television talk shows. "He was an icon, an original," said comedian Milton Berle. Johnny Carson added, "He was a most creative innovator and brilliant entertainer."

Allen's autobiographies include Mark It and Strike It (1960) and Hi-Ho Steverino!: My Adventures in the Wonderful Wacky World of TV (1992). Articles about Allen are in Time (23 Nov. 1953), America (14 Nov. 1964), Psychology Today (Aug. 1982), and the Los Angeles Times (15 Apr. 1982 and 6 Oct. 1985). Obituaries are in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times (all 1 Nov. 2000), and the (London) Times (2 Nov. 2000). An oral history interview by Ronald Davis, "Reminiscences of Steve Allen," done on 18 November 1975 for the New York Times Oral History Program and Southern Methodist University Oral History Project on the Performing Arts, no. 96, is a good source for information about Allen's life in the entertainment business up to 1975.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

Family: Born December 26, 1921, in New York, NY; died of an apparent heart attack, October 30, 2000, in Encino, CA; son of Carroll (performed vaudeville under the stage name Billy Allen) and Isabelle (performed vaudeville under the stage name Belle Montrose; maiden name, Donohue) Allen; married Dorothy Goodman, August 23, 1943 (divorced); married Jayne Meadows (an actress), July 31, 1954; children: (first marriage) Steve Jr., Brian, David; (second marriage) William Christopher. Education: Attended Drake University, 1941, and State Teachers College of Arizona (now University of Arizona), 1942. Politics: Democrat "radical middle-of-the-roadism." Religion: Christian.

AWARDS

New York City Board of Trade Award for television documentary on organized crime, 1953, for The Tenth Commandment; Sylvania Award for words and music, 1954, for The Bachelor; George Foster Peabody Award for best comedy show of 1960, for The Steve Allen Show; Grammy Award, 1964, for song "Gravy Waltz"; Brotherhood Award, 1967, for The Ground Is Our Table; Peabody Award, Emmy Award, Television Critics Circle Award, Encyclopaedia Britannica Award, and Film Advisory Board Award, all for the PBS series Meeting of Minds; cited in 1984 Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific composer of modern times; inducted into Television Hall of Fame, 1986.

CAREER

Writer, composer, performer, comedian, actor, lecturer, jazz pianist, and producer. KOY (radio station), Phoenix, AZ, announcer, writer, pianist, and producer, 1942; performer for radio stations KFAC and KMTR, Los Angeles, CA, beginning 1944; Mutual Broadcasting Co., Los Angeles, CA, performer on Smile Time, 1945-47; KNX (radio station), Los Angeles, CA, talk show host, 1948-50; Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), New York, NY, appeared in various television shows, beginning 1950; host of Songs for Sale, CBS, 1951; National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC), New York, NY, creator and host of Tonight Show, 1954-56, and Steve Allen Show, 1956-60; worked in television for American Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) and in syndication, 1961-64; host of I've Got a Secret, CBS, 1964-67, and, with wife Jayne Meadows, of Steve Allen Show, syndicated, 1968-72; host of Laughback, syndicated, 1976-77; creator and host of Meeting of Minds, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 1977-81; performer, The Big Show, NBC, 1979-80, and The Steve Allen Comedy Hour, NBC, 1980-81; performer, cable network miniseries Steve Allen's Comedy Room and Steve Allen's Music Room; performer, Life's Most Embarrassing Moments, NBC, 1984, and Inside Your Schools, ABC, 1984-85; host of The Start of Something Big, syndicated, 1984--. Featured in several motion pictures, including The Benny Goodman Story, Warning Shot, and Down Memory Lane; actor on stage in Pink Elephant, The Wake, and Tonight at 8:30. Military service: U.S. Army, Infantry, 1943.

WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
UNDER NAME STEVE ALLEN


* Windfall (poetry), privately printed, 1946.
* Fourteen for Tonight (short stories), Holt (New York, NY), 1955.
* Bop Fables (humor), illustrated by George Price, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1955.
* The Funny Men, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1956.
* Wry on the Rocks (poetry), Holt (New York, NY), 1956.
* The Girls on the 10th Floor, and Other Stories, Holt (New York, NY), 1958.
* The Question Man (humor), Bellmeadows Press, 1959.
* Mark It and Strike It: An Autobiography, Holt (New York, NY), 1960.
* Not All of Your Laughter, Not All of Your Tears (novel), Geis, 1962.
* (With others, as told to Henry Kane) How to Write a Song, Avon (New York, NY), 1962.
* Letter to a Conservative, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1965.
* The Ground Is Our Table, photographs by Arthur Dubinsky, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1966.
* Bigger than a Breadbox, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1967.
* Flash of Swallows (poetry), Droke House, 1969, 2nd edition, 1972.
* The Wake (autobiographical novel; adapted from play of the same title; also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1972.
* Curses!; or, How Never to Be Foiled Again, illustrated by Marvin Rubin, Hawthorne (Mt. Laurel, NJ), 1973.
* Princess Snip-Snip and the Puppykittens, illustrated by David Gantz, Platt & Munk (New York, NY), 1973.
* What to Say When It Rains, Price, Stern (Los Angeles, CA), 1974.
* Schmock! Schmock!, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1975.
* Meeting of Minds: The Complete Scripts, with Illustrations, of the Amazingly Successful PBS-TV Series, Crown (New York, NY), Volume 1, 1978, Volume 2, 1979, Volume 3, 1989, Volume 4, 1989.
* Chopped-Up Chinese, Price, Stern (Los Angeles, CA), 1978.
* (With Donald H. Dunn and Roslyn Bernstein) Ripoff: A Look at Corruption in America, Lyle Stuart (Secaucus, NJ), 1979.
* Explaining China, Crown (New York, NY), 1980.
* Funny People, Stein & Day (Briarcliff Manor, NY), 1981.
* The Talk Show Murders (mystery novel), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1982.
* Beloved Son: A Story of the Jesus Cults, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1982.
* More Funny People, Stein & Day (Briarcliff Manor, NY), 1982.
* How to Make a Speech, McGraw (New York, NY), 1986.
* (With Jane Wollman) How to Be Funny: Discovering the Comic You, foreword by George Burns, McGraw (New York, NY), 1987, revised edition, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1992.
* Murder on the Glitter Box (mystery novel), Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1989.
* (With Bill Adler, Jr.) Passionate Nonsmokers' Bill of Rights, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.
* Dumbth: And 81 Ways to Make Americans Smarter, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1989, revised edition published as Dumbth: The Lost Art of Thinking: With 101 Ways to Reason Better and Improve Your Mind, 1998.
* Steve Allen's Funny Songs (printed music), Meadowlane Music, 1990.
* The Public Hating: A Collection of Short Stories, Dembner (New York, NY), 1990.
* Murder in Manhattan (mystery novel), Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1990.
* Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1990.
* Murder in Vegas (mystery novel), Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1991.
* Hi-Ho, Steverino!: My Adventures in the Wonderful Wacky World of TV (autobiography), Barricade Books, 1992.
* The Murder Game (mystery novel), Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1993.
* Make 'Em Laugh, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1993.
* More Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1993.
* (Author of foreword) Diana Louise Michael, Vows of Silence: A True Story of a Survivor's Triumph over Rape, Teenage Suicide, and Religious Abuse, 1993.
* Reflections, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1994.
* The Bug and the Slug in the Rug, illustrated by Michelle Hofbauer, Greene Bark Press (Bridgeport, CT), 1995.
* The Man Who Turned Back the Clock, and Other Short Stories, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1995.
* Murder on the Atlantic (mystery novel), Kensington (New York, NY), 1995.
* But Seriously. . . : Steve Allen Speakes His Mind, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1996.
* Wake Up to Murder (mystery novel), Kensington (New York, NY), 1996.
* Die Laughing (mystery novel), Kensington (New York, NY), 1998.
* Murder in Hawaii (mystery novel), Kensington (New York, NY), 1999.
* Steve Allen's Songs: 100 Lyrics with Commentary, McFarland & Co. (Jefferson, NC), 1999.
* Steve Allen's Private Joke File, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2000.
* Vulgarians at the Gate: Trash TV and Raunch Radio: Raising the Standards of American Culture, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2001.

PLAYS; UNDER NAME STEVE ALLEN

* (Author of music and lyrics) Sophie (musical based on the life of Sophie Tucker), produced on Broadway, 1963.
* The Wake (autobiographical play), produced in Hollywood at Masquers Theatre, 1971.
* The Al Chemist Show (musical), produced in Los Angeles at Los Angeles Actors Theater, 1980.
* Seymour Glick Is Alive but Sick (musical revue), produced in New York, 1982.
* (Author of music and lyrics) Alice in Wonderland (musical), produced on CBS-TV, 1985.

OTHER

Contributor to Dialogues in Americanism (debates), Henry Regnery, 1964. Also author of musical Belle Starr; author of words and music for NBC show The Bachelor; author of pamphlet Morality and Nuclear War, World Peace Broadcasting Foundation, 1961. Also author and producer of a television documentary on organized crime, The Tenth Commandment, 1953; author of narration for film Down Memory Lane. Contributor to sound recording Treasury of American Comedy, edited by Carole Ita White, Dove Audio, 1995. Former columnist, Song Hits, Downbeat, and Cosmopolitan. Composer of more than four thousand songs, including "South Rampart Street Parade," "Gravy Waltz," "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," and "Impossible." Author of lyrics for film themes, including Houseboat, On the Beach, and Sleeping Beauty. Contributor of stories, poems, and articles to periodicals, including New York Times, Look, Chicago Tribune, Atlantic, and Saturday Review.

MEDIA ADAPTATIONS

Murder in Vegas, The Murder Game, and Murder on the Glitter Box were adapted as audio cassettes, Dove Audio, 1994- 95.

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