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Subject: ARCHIVE: October 30, 2000 ~ Steve Allen dies at 78

Actor, Comedian, TV Host
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Date Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 09:05:16am

Curtain falls for Steve Allen

Los Angeles Times
Nov 1st, 2000

LOS ANGELES - Steve Allen, the zany comedian and witty social commentator whose career zipped at warp speed from one occupation to the next - from hosting the original "Tonight Show" to lecturing about morality to composing thousands of songs - has died at age 78.

Allen was in the Los Angeles community of Encino at his youngest son's home Monday night. He had been playing with his grandchildren when he decided to rest, then lost consciousness and later died of an apparent heart attack, said his son, Bill Allen.

Although the veteran entertainer had occasionally been in ill health over the past decade, including a bout with colon cancer, Allen lived fully until he died.

On Sunday, he performed before a sold-out audience at Victor Valley College in Victorville. On Monday he worked on promotional plans for the December release of his 53rd book, "Steve Allen's Private Joke File," and completed the manuscript for a planned future book, "Vulgarians at the Gate" about violence and vulgarity in the media.

On Tuesday, hours after his death, the Los Angeles Times printed one of Allen's occasional full-page advertisements lambasting television sponsors for "the filth, sex and violence you send into our homes."

Allen, who actively supported the Screen Actors Guild during its recent six-month strike against the advertising industry, was on the ballot as one of 74 SAG members vying for 25 open seats on the union's national board of directors. Ballots are due back from members today, with results expected later this week.

The multi-faceted performer still prided himself on working seven days a week, eight hours a day, telling the Times not long ago: "In some ways, I feel more active now than I did many years ago. I feel like I always have. Energetic. Very, very involved."

The son of vaudeville actors, Allen charmed radio and television audiences for decades with his inspired schtick, most of it ad-libbed. As original host of "The Tonight Show" in the mid-1950s, Allen invented the genre of late-night TV and redefined the art of comedy, serving up screwball skits like the Question Man and the very emotional reading aloud of letters to the editor.

"My comedy has always appealed to the hip and to the silly, whether it's the 9-year-olds who dig the silliness, or the high-school and college kids who dig the hipness," he once said.

But Allen was equally comfortable with more serious material. In 1977, he created "Meeting of Minds" for PBS, which won an Emmy in 1981 for best informational series, to present imaginary debates between historical figures such as Charles Darwin, Attila the Hun and Marie Antoinette. Allen also made a determined effort to introduce his viewers to jazz greats, showcasing soloists with "The Tonight Show" band and interviewing musicians for a television program called "Jazz Scene U.S.A."

In perhaps his most memorable acting role, Allen starred in the 1955 film "The Benny Goodman Story," with Goodman himself dubbing Allen's clarinet sounds.


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It was several days after his death that the true "cause" of death was revealed. (NT)A ruptured blood vessel caused from chest injuries from a minor traffic accident earlier that day.Wednesday, October 30, 09:09:17am

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