Comic Marty Allen marks 93rd birthday with laughs, songs

LOS ANGELES — On his 93rd birthday, comedian Marty Allen could easily rest on his laughs.

Instead, Allen was marking Monday’s milestone onstage at a Las Vegas hotel with his wife, singer Karon Kate Blackwell. The act includes her songs, his comedy, and photos and anecdotes about the celebrities that Allen has worked or brushed shoulders with over the years.

“I lived in a time of superstars that will never come again,” said Allen, who opened for singers that included Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn and Tony Bennett, just to name a few.

Allen also enjoyed success solo and with singer Steve Rossi as a music-comedy team. It was during one of their appearances that Allen came up with his “Hello Dere!” catchphrase, which became as familiar to fans as his wild mop of hair.

His career started modestly in his native Pittsburgh, Allen recalled.

“I came up the hard way. I played little clubs, little bars. Anywhere three or four people came in and had a meeting, I did my comedy,” he said.

Among the highlights: repeated appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” including the 1964 episode with The Beatles; opening for Sinatra at the Sands hotel in Las Vegas; and meeting and ribbing stars including Elvis Presley and Richard Burton.

“Stop stealing my act,” Allen told the young Presley.

When Burton asked if Allen, whose credits include TV series, game shows and movies, had ever considered doing Shakespeare, the comic’s comeback: “I don’t do old material.”

He’s proud that he always worked “clean” and stayed away from insult humor, which he says isn’t in his nature.

His self-published autobiography, “Hello Dere!” reflects that: He has only nice things to say about fellow entertainers and others. The book recounts his World War II service, which included a Soldier’s Medal for valor, and his marriage to his first wife, Lorraine “Frenchy” Allen, who died in 1976. He and Blackwell married in 1984 and appear regularly onstage.

Allen credits his longevity to his attitude — “I enjoy life” — and his work.

“I think the fact I can make people laugh and entertain them, maybe that helps me feel good and keep going,” he said.

Lynn Elber, Associated Press

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