Allen’s death a blow to Hollywood

IT’S NOT A GOOD MORNING: Steve Allen’s death delivered a major blow to show business — and the world around him that he loved. Sure, Steverino was a terrific humorist, un-toppable m.c., prolific author, poet, songwriter, actor, humanitarian. But if you asked him the role he enjoyed most in his life, he answered, “Grandpa.” The Allens have four sons, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Steve had been a very involved parent and grandparent, and was known to have taken off work to coach Little League. It’s no wonder the title of his next book is “The Vulgarians at the Gate,” aimed at TV producers “who are leading children down a moral sewer,” as per his latest ad, Tuesday in the L.A. Times. And it was in his role as grandfather, while visiting son Bill and grandchildren Monday evening, that Steve took his last bow. As Bill recalled, Steve had spent a typical day working at his office, had a light dinner with wife (of 46 years) Jayne Meadows with whom he’d been inseparable, and then went over to Bill’s house to visit with the grandchildren, as was his usual habit. At 8:30, Steve said he felt tired and wanted to rest. He died at 9 p.m. Steve had had two strokes in recent years but had recovered fully; neither attack was evident to any of us who’ve enjoyed being with him. This past Sunday, he’d given a two-hour performance at Victorville and got a standing ovation. He had bookings deep into next year. Dec. 3, he was to emcee the Scopus Award dinner honoring Jack Valenti. This week he was asked to do a commercial for a medical product. He called son, Dr. Steve Allen Jr., to ask his professional advice on whether to accept the gig … One of Allen’s future dates, Nov. 12, was to join Milton Berle and Sidney Shelton in hosting a Friars toasting to Sid Caesar … Allen’s friendship with Berle goes back to when Berle says he babysat 2-year-old Allen between vodvil shows in which a teen Berle appeared on the bill with Steve’s mother, comedienne Belle Montrose; she asked Miltie to tend baby Allen on her break. Berle said he always kidded Steve that “he owes me $1.75, to get my suit cleaned after he wee-wee’d on me!” Miltie was very emotional when I spoke to him. “I got so choked up when his son Bill called to tell me. We lost a heavyweight,” Berle said. “Not only the theatrical world — but everyone will feel his loss. He (Steve) was a true icon,” said Berle repeatedly. “And he was such a kind person — never any bitterness or jealousy. I was on his show so many times. We’d have a good time ad-libbing songs together when someone in the audience would shout out a title” … Louis Nye was spotted by Steve when they were in an elevator in a N.Y. building; Louis joined Allen’s talkshow as a “Man on the Street,” along with Tom Poston and Don Knotts; Nye became a regular on the show, with characters including “Gordon Hathaway.” “I’d always break him up when I spoke with an English accent,” laughed Louis, who initiated the “Hi ho, Steverino” greeting. “No matter where I go, people always greet me with ‘Hi ho.’ Steve was a true Renaissance man — and so kind and generous. He was part of my life,” said Nye. Louis and wife Anita remained close friends with Jayne and Steve for more than 40 years … At his 75th birthday bash, Steverino was also toasted by Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, David Letterman, Bill Maher and Dick Clark, and Jay Leno devoted his entire show to Allen as sole guest … I’d always found Steve to be a true gentleman, a genius talent who never stinted when called upon for any contribution of his many talents to countless charities and tributes. His graciousness shone through everything he said or did. He was a remarkable performer who never ceased to appreciate a mention, no matter how small, in the column. There’d be a personal “thank you” note from him each time (not that I’ve ever sought one!) … I always got a laugh talking with Steve because he’d break out his tiny tape recorder in the middle of our conversations. No, he wasn’t quoting anything brilliant I’d said; he’d suddenly get an idea or an inspiration, for a one-liner to use in a speech, or a theme for a book, or a title for a song or –? As son Bill explained, “His brain was so spontaneously creative, he had to take note of it right away — and then flush it out fully next day!” He was most proud of the 24-hour-long PBS “Meeting of the Minds” shows on which wife Jayne often appeared. He won a Peabody and Emmy for them … The shows are favorites on Allen’s Web site, Other favorites with fans via the web are his scripts, books like “Hi Ho Steverino, Adventures in the Wonderful World of Television.” Thanks, Steverino for the wonderful world of Steve Allen.

MERV GRIFFIN, ANOTHER GIANT talkshow host, was deeply saddened when I told him Tuesday morning of Steve Allen’s death. “He was so wonderfully bright, funny and intelligent,” said Merv. “He was so versatile — from his ‘Man on the Street’ ‘interviews’ to ‘Meeting of the Minds.’ ” I’d been talking to Griffin about a search for his missing 1970s talkshows. They were stolen from his vaults on Vine St. and sold — for the monetary value solely of the tapes! They included 90-minute interviews with the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Merv hopes if any fans taped these shows and still have them, to please contact him. He’d like to put them together himself, “so they won’t be cannibalized,” he said … Johnny Carson, who followed Allen with “The Tonight Show,” admitted his sadness. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Steve Allen. He was a most creative and innovative and brilliant entertainer.”

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