Talking to Marty Allen is a little like stepping into a time machine, back to those cool Rat Pack days of yesteryear, and even earlier. In terms of keeping an energetic career going well into advanced years, the 92-year-old comic is up there in the rare terrain of Betty White. He not only still frequently plays gigs with wife of 30 years Karon Kate Blackwell, now he’s tub-thumping his “Hello Dere!” autobiography.
I wondered how someone so, well, mature could possibly recall the minutia of events dating back decades — dancing in the White House with Betty Ford, making friends with Joan Crawford, performing with former partner Steve Rossi on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on the same bill as The Beatles? Has he kept a journal all this time? “Oh, I remember, honey,” he assures, his voice imbued with schmoozy Las Vegas charm. “I even remember you.”
I’m not sure how to take that, but no matter. It’s interesting to think of Marty, with his googly-eyed expressions and untamed wilderness of upward-shooting hair, talking to the Fab Four backstage on that pop culture history-making night on the Sullivan show.
“Steve and I had done so many of those — someone asked me, ‘How many “Ed Sullivan Shows” did you do?’ and I said, ‘We did more than Ed Sullivan,'” he says. Ba-dum-bum! Marty recalls Sullivan telling him and Rossi, ‘You’re going to be on with The Beatles, and I went nuts because I had a hunch, when I saw them, that they were going to be the biggest thing that ever happened in show business. They were very nice; they were very courteous. They had no idea who Steve and I were. At the time I had that wild, crazy afro haircut, you know. John Lennon was tuning up and getting ready, and I said, ‘John.’ He said ‘Yes.’ I said ‘A lot of people mistake me for you.’ And he started laughing.
“A lot of little girls were trying to get in. It was the same studio where David Letterman is now. Backstage when we came in there had to be 1,000 girls screaming.”
Marty notes, “In writing the book, I remembered so many things. There’s sadness as well as happiness.”
So now that he’s completed his memoir, is there anything else on his show business bucket list?
“I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” he replies. “Karon and I enjoy doing these shows, working, and now that I’ve got the book. … Hey, just to keep going. It’s a good feeling.”