Steve Allen, the original host of the NBC late night talk program THE TONIGHT SHOW (from 1954-57) earned the title “Mr. Midnight” during his earlier radio days when he hosted a Hollywood midnight radio talk show in 1948 on station KNX.
Allen’s most popular sketch on THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW (TONIGHT) was the “Man on the street” featuring Don Knotts as the nervous Mr. Morrison, Tom Poston as the man who could not remember his own name, Pat Harrington as Italian golf player Guido Panzini, Louis Nye as the smug Gordon Hathaway (“Hi Ho Steverino!”) and Bill Dana as José Jiménez (“My name José Jiménez”). Dayton Allen also appeared with his humorous “Why Not!” catchphrase.
Steve Allen invited Elvis Presley to sing on program on July 1, 1956 where the up-and-coming rock star sang “Hound Dog” to a sad-faced Bassett hound wearing a top hat.
Steve Allen was also a composer/lyricist of thousands of songs, including “This Could Be the Start of Something” (his theme song), “Pretend You Don’t See Her” (a top-ten hit for Jerry Vale), “Impossible”, and “Gravy Waltz” (a top-40 instrumental hit for Allen himself in 1962, and a jazz standard today).
Allen once made a bet with singer-songwriter Frankie Laine that he could write 50 songs a day for a week. Putting himself on public display in the window of Wallach’s Music City in Hollywood, Allen won his bet and collected $1000 from Laine.
Steve Allen also wrote more than 50 books, including “Hi Ho, Steverino!: My Adventures in the Wonderful, Wakey World of TV.”
Some of Steve Allen’s quotations follow:
- “Radio is the theater of the mind; television is the theater of the mindless.”
- “Beware of assuming that credentials establish intelligence.”
- “If my mind ever listened to what my mouth said, I’d have a lot of accounting to do.”
- “I used to be a heavy gambler. But now I just make mental bets. That’s how I lost my mind.”
- “We pride ourselves on the high moral standards of our programs and I mean that sincerely. We don’t resort to sex or crime or violence or drinking…on the programs.”
- “Is is bigger than a bread box?” (Allen coined the questions while making an appearance as a panelist on WHAT’S MY LINE on January 18, 1953)
Around the time Johnny Carson took over the reigns of THE TONIGHT SHOW, Steve Allen returned to television in syndicated version of THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW (aka “The WESTINGHOUSE SHOW) that aired on Westinghouse Broadcasting from June 1962 to October 1964. The program followed Steve Allen’s original 90-minute format used on THE TONIGHT SHOW.
Born Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen on December 26, 1921 in New York City, New York, comedian Steve Allen died of a heart attack brought on by a car accident on October 30, 2000 in Encino, California. He was 78. Steve Allen is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.
For his career in show business, Allen was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – a television star at 1720 Vine Streeet and a radio star at 1537 Vine Street.