Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rumblings from the Mothership :: Operation: 00-OddBalls Commences!

When one thinks of borscht-belt comedians, and Ed Sullivan Show regulars, Marty Allen and Steve Rossi, the subtle, suave and debonair skills of a super-spy really don't spring to mind. Splutter, maybe. But not spring. Basically, picture Joe Besser, with Larry Fine's wild hairdo, and Marty Feldman's googley eyes, and then team him up with carbon-copy of Dean Martin from a vintage copier that's a little low on toner and you'll have a pretty good mental picture of our dynamic duo.

As the legend goes, Rossi was "discovered" by Mae West while acting in a production of The Student Prince in 1953, who incorporated the singer into her Vegas show. After the tour ended, Rossi formed the Robinaires, a musical group, who wound up as part of Nat "King" Cole's entourage. But by 1957, the singer was ready to try something different. Maybe some comedy, he confided with his boss, who knew a guy, who new a guy that he felt would be a perfect fit. Allen, meanwhile, after a hitch in the Army Air-Corps, used the GI Bill to attend USC, majoring in journalism. But while in college, Allen spent most of his nights honing a comedy act at several clubs that soon had him opening for the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Allen had also toured with Cole, who, remember, knew a straight-man who needed a comedian and gave Rossi the funny-man's number.

The two had chemistry, hit it off, and over the next decade the duo made over 700 guest-appearances on the tube -- including three of the four Sullivan episodes which featured The Beatles -- and hammered out 16 comedy albums on top of all the touring and live performances, providing an opening act for the likes of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.

As for Allen's famous "Hello dere!" catch phrase, apparently, one night in the middle of the act, the mad-quipper suffered a bad case of brain-lock and couldn't remember his lines and just kept blurting out "Hello dere" over and over. The audience loved it, chimed in, chaos ensued, and he's been using it ever since. As with most comedy teams, alas, they were destined to split up, and split up they did in 1968. But before the break-up, the duo had enough of a following to land them the lead in a feature film, a spoof, naturally, on the current spy and espionage-addled box-office boom called The Last of the Secret Agents?

And to be honest, these unlikely heroes both have their moments in the film to come. And remember, it could be worse. We could be dealing with Sammy Petrillo and Duke Williams. Yoinks! Now there's a scary thought.

For the full film review of Allen and Rossi's The Last of the Secret Agent? click on over to 3B Theater for a complete debriefing on part One of our Five part Operation: 00-OddBalls spy-spoof retrospective. The rest of which we will be rolling out over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!


Unknown said...

I love it that you are writing about my boss Steve Rossi!

Check out his website at

Steve also continues to do interviews with interested bloggers.

I just saw Steve this morning. He and Marty remain dear friends but no longer perform together since their induction into the Comedy Legends Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2005.

Both gentlemen enjoy good health and good laughs!

Thank you again for remembering them! You can also continue to check out their acts in Las Vegas.

W.B. Kelso said...

Good to hear, and thanks! While poking around YouTube I saw some footage of Mr. Rossi circa 2009. Looked good and still sounded great.

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