has appropriately been termed television's renaissance man. He has
hosted numerous television programs, appeared in several motion
pictures, written more than forty books, and composed several thousand
songs. He once won a $1,000 bet that he couldn't compose fifty songs
a day for a week.
his career in radio in 1942 as an announcer for station KFAC in
Los Angeles. In 1946 he joined the Mutual Broadcasting System as
a comedian and two years later signed with CBS as a late-night disc
jockey on KNX in Hollywood. He first gained national attention when
his program was booked as a thirteen week substitute for Our
Miss Brooks during the summer of 1950. This led to his first
television program, the Steve Allen Show which debuted on
Christmas Day 1950 on CBS. The show was later moved to Thursday
nights where it alternated with the popular Amos 'n' Andy.
In 1954 Allen
began hosting a daily late-night show on NBC, The Tonight Show.
During the next three years, he introduced many television innovations
which his successors continued. Most of these involved his audience.
Using a hand microphone, he went into the audience to talk with
individuals; he answered questions submitted by the audience; members
of the audience would attempt to "stump the band" by requesting
songs the band couldn't play. Allen involved his announcer Gene
Rayburn in nightly chit chat and he spoke with the band leaders,
Skitch Henderson and Bobby Byrne. These techniques epitomized Allen's
belief that "people will laugh at things that happen before their
eyes much more readily than they will at incidents they're merely
In 1956 Allen
became a part-time host on Tonight because he was appearing
in a new version of the Steve Allen Show. Still on NBC, he
was now programmed on Sunday nights--opposite The Ed Sullivan
Show on CBS. Thus began one of the most famous ratings wars
in television history. Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan were perhaps
as distinct from one another as two men could be. Allen was a witty,
innovative performer, willing to try virtually anything. Sullivan
was a stiff master of ceremonies who compelled his guests to conform
to rigid standards of decorum. Although Allen occasionally received
higher ratings, Sullivan eventually won the war and after the 1960
season NBC moved The Steve Allen Show to Mondays. A year
later Allen took the show into syndication and continued for three
more years. From 1964 to 1967 he hosted the highly successful game
show I've Got A Secret on CBS.
most innovative television offering was Meeting of Minds.
The format was an hour-long dramatized discussion of social issues.
Allen would act as the moderator accompanied by his "guests" in
this imaginative exercise, historical characters such as Galileo,
Attila the Hun, Charles Darwin, Aristotle, Hegel or Dostoevski.
The idea for this program came in 1960, following Allen's reading
of Mortimer Adler's The Syntopicon. Rejected by the major
networks, the series was accepted by the Public Broadcasting Service
in 1977 and ran until 1981.
long career as an entertainer Allen also developed a reputation
as a social activist. He considered running for Congress as a Democrat
from California; he actively opposed capital punishment; he openly
supported the controversial comedian Lenny Bruce. He wrote about
the plight of migrant farm workers in The Ground is Our Table
(1966) and what he considered the collapse of ethics in America
in Ripoff (1979). In later years, Allen occassionally appeared on television
but spend most of his time operating Meadowlane Music and Rosemeadow
Publishing located in Van Nuys, California. Allen died in Encino, California, October 30, 2000.
Photo courtesy of Steve Allen
(Valentine Patrick William) ALLEN. Born in New York City, U.S.,
26 December 1921. Attended Drake University, 1941 and Arizona State
Teacher's College, 1942. Married 1) Dorothy Goodman, 1943 (divorced,
1952); children: Stephen, Brian, and David; 2) Jayne Meadows, 1954;
child: William Christopher. Worked as radio announcer at stations
KOY, Phoenix, 1942; KFAC and KMTR, Los Angeles, 1944; entertainer-comedian,
Mutual Network, 1946-47; entertainer-comedian, CBS television, 1948-50;
created and hosted The Tonight Show for NBC television, 1953-57;
created and hosted Meeting of the Minds for Public Broadcasting
Service, 1977-81; continued television guest appearances, 1970s-90s;
composed more than 5,700 songs, several musicals; author of 46 books;
vocalist, pianist, over 40 albums/CDs. Recipient: Grammy Award,
1964; Emmy Award, 1981; Named to Academy of Television Arts and
Sciences Hall of Fame, 1986. Died in Encino, California, October 30, 2000.
Songs for Sale
1952-67,72-73,76 I've Got a Secret
1953-55 Talent Patrol
1954-56 The Tonight Show
1956-61 The Steve Allen Show
1967 The Steve Allen Comedy Hour
1977-81 Meeting of Minds
1980-81 The Steve Allen Comedy Hour
1985-86 The Start of Something Big (host)
Rich Man, Poor Man
Now You See It, Now You Don't
1979 The Gossip Columnist
1984 The Ratings Game
1985 Alice in Wonderland
1996 James Dean: A Portrait
1954 The Follies of Suzy
1954 Sunday in Town (co-host)
1955 Good Times (Host)
1957 The Timex All-Star Jazz Show I (host)
1966 The Hollywood Deb Stars of 1966 (co-host)
Good Old Days of Radio (Host)
1981 I've Had it Up to Here (Host)
1982 Boop Oop a Doop (narrator)
1983-86 Life's Most Embarrassing Moments (host)
1984 Stooge Snapshots
Memory Lane, 1949; The Benny Goodman Story, 1955; College
Confidential, 1960; Warning Shot, 1967; Where Were
You When the Lights Went Out?, 1968; The Funny Farm,
1982; Amazon Women on the Moon, 1987; Great Balls of Fire!,
1989; The Player, 1992; Casino, 1995.
Funny Men. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.
it and Strike it: An Autobiography. New York: Holt, 1960.
in Americanism, with William F. Buckley; Robert Maynard
Hutchins; Brent L. Bozell; and James MacGregor Burns. Chicago: H.
Regnery Co., 1964.
Ground is Our Table. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1966.
Than A Breadbox. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1967.
Allen Show; Talk