Steve Allen was an outstanding personality in the American show business. He was a star of the American TV, actor, comedian, composer, musician, linkman, etc. An ordinary person would need approximately ten lives to do all the things that Steve did during his one. He was far more than a humorist or television personage. This paper will aim to show that Steve Allen was a personality whose concept of hosting TV programs was a real revolution in the sphere of show business.
Childhood & Early Life
Steve Allen was born on December 26, 1921 in the family of vaudeville comedians in New York. His father Billy Allen died unexpectedly when Steve was only a year and a half. In order to make their living, his mother Belle Montrose was reluctant to leave little Allen for her family in Chicago, the Donohues, while she traveled as part of a vaudeville. The boy developed in his mind a world of laughter and fun. All relationships in the family were built up on the sense of humor: even when they argued it never happened without at least a touch of humor.
When he finished Chicago high school, Allen entered Drake University, located in Des Moines, Iowa. Later he moved to Arizona State Teachers College in Tempe. The study in the College for him was simply a formality, as he did not have interest in it. Thus, he decided to abandon his course of study in 1942. After this he tried himself as a DJ on Phoenix radio station KOY, where he had his own show. Steve spent his spare time developing comedy acts which he performed in local clubs. He had to stop his early career when World War II commenced. He did military services, but due to some problems with his health he was soon released from the army. After the war he returned to Phoenix where he continued working as a producer-announcer-pianist-writer at KOY Station, improving and perfecting his comedy style.
Beginning Of Steve Allen’s Career
In 1945 Allen, being a father of a newborn child and expecting one more, took his savings and went to Los Angeles where he took a job of an announcer for KFAC. In 1946 he started working for Mutual Broadcasting System where he created a very popular five-nights-a-week comedy sketch show “Smile Time”. He was the first to introduce such features of today’s shows as dialogues with celebrities, funny miniatures, and friendly talks with audience. After 2 years of working on Mutual, Steve took a 30-minute music talk-show on KNX, which soon became 30 minutes longer. It was frequented by celebrities that helped them to be in constant contact with public and increased their popularity. In most cases Allen invited stars in order to tell the public about their latest movies or albums. A year later his show gained the first place in the rating of shows on the Los Angeles radio, and in the course of time it was voted the most popular show in the history of Los Angeles. The fact that Allen was very creative and resourceful can be proved by the following example: Doris Day, an American singer and actress, was to attend one of the episodes of the show, but she failed to turn up. In order to save the situation, Steve decided to think on his feet and had a 25-minute improvised dialogue with the absolutely unknown audience.
By 1950 Steve Allen established a close contact with the public. He was known by everyone as a great comedian and improviser. In 1950 CBS predicted Allen’s television career in New York. The co-workers of this network thought that Steve was ready for the “big scene”. He had been working hard for the next three years. The result was a regular circle of guests on such shows as “What's My Line?”and “This is Show Business”. He also took part in TV series called “Songs for Sale”.
The Tonight Show
During the crisis in his private life (a divorce with his first wife) he continued professional development. In 1953 he left CBS, and came with an idea to create a late night program with the same features which “Smile Time” consisted of. NBC offered him to host a 19-minute show called “Tonight”. It became popular on the local level, drew attention of many viewers, and opened new vistas for creativity. In 1954 Steve Allen became a TV superstar. This happened because the “Tonight” show, being on the full NBC-TV network, gained the first place among the most talked-about shows. The next two years, from 1954 - to 1956, discovered such American stars as Andy Williams, Eydie Gorme, and Steve Lawrence. The show which was hosted by Steve Allen acquainted Americans with people of the artistic world who subsequently became stars, for instance Louis Nye, Jackie Mason, Don Knotts, Lou Rawls, Tom Poston, Tim Conway - the list is almost endless. Actors, singers, musicians, comedians, top producers with great pleasure advertised their names in this show.
The Steve Allen Show
In 1956 NBC proposed Steve to be a host of a new late-night “The Steve Allen Show”, the aim of which was to compete with “The Ed Sullivan Show”. It included some elements of comedy, performances of famous singers, and variety of actors. This entertainment program helped to gain the popularity for such actors as Bill Dana, Don Knotts, and Tom Poston, who were regular visitors of it. In 1958 “The Steve Allen Show” won a Peabody Award for its “genuine humor and frank experiments” (Steve Allen Biography). In September, 1959 Allen moved to Los Angeles and this decision put an end to his cooperation with NBC.
Later perspective television projects
Allen worked a lot and rested little. The results of his work made his fans happy. In 1961-1962 Steve worked on ABC-TV where he hosted a weekly comedy show. From 1962 to 1964 he revived his old tonight format on a new late-night “The Steve Allen Show”, organized by Westinghouse TV. Then Allen returned to CBS for three seasons, where he held a position of linkman on a panel game show “I’ve got a secret”. In the summer of 1967 Steve Allen with his wife Jayne Meadows hosted a weekly comedy show for an American commercial broadcast television network. This was a warm-up for creating the third series, for Filmways and Golden West (1968-1972).
In 1976 Allen decided to resurrect old names through the new format of the show. He gathered such stars as Louis Nye, Tim Conway, Jonathan Winters, Skitch Henderson, Bill Dana, Jayne Meadows, Don Knotts, and Gabe Dell. This program was called “Laughback” and continued 90 minutes.
“Unofficial Miss Las Vegas Showgirl Beauty Queen Pageant” was on a wave of popularity among American public in 1974. It was hilarious parody of beauty shows. American journalist, television host, and actor Johnny Carson called this program “the funniest show of the year” (“Steve Allen”).
From 1977 to 1981 Steve hosted talk-show “Meeting of Minds” aired on the PBS Network. Allen had serious talks with Marie Antoinette, Aristotle, Cleopatra, Plato, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and other figures from history. Such extraordinary show multiply won awards. “Meeting of Minds” charmed the viewers. Historian Will Durant shared his impressions: “Meeting of Minds held our family fascinated. We felt it a conception of originality and courage... a masterpiece of presentation” (Steveallen.com).
His creativity knew no measures, but Steve Allen worried about having time to realize all his ideas during his life. However, he was delighted with what he achieved. In an interview with Associated Press he said , “The world has already let me do about 28 times more than I thought I was gonna be able to do at the age of 217 — so, thanks, to the universe” (“Steve Allen. Biography”). The most productive period in the life of this American television personality was from 1980s to 1990s. In 1986 he became a member of the TV Academy's Hall of Fame. During the 1980s such shows with his participation as “The Big Show”and “The Steve Allen Comedy Hour” became famous.
Steve Allen’s Death
Once Steve Allen told “People” Magazine, “It kills me that someday I'll have to die. I don't see how I'll ever get it all done” (“Steve Allen Facts”). In 2000 while driving a car he had a car accident. He was not seriously injured, but received a great shock. When he arrived home, he felt sick and went to the bathroom where he died.
Steve Allen was an incredible person on American television. Over Steve Allen’s fruitful and long career covering more than 50 years he was an announcer on the radio, hosted comedy and talk shows on television, starred in some films, worked as a comedian, played the piano and authored several books. Being multi-talented person he is best known for his career on television. Steve is credited with originating the ideas of comedy bits, opening monologue, audience involvement, and celebrity interviews which in the course of time were borrowed by several other shows. Steve Allen is still remembered as a person who made a total revolution in the sphere of show business.
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