Born Boxing Day, 1921 in New York City; Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen. Husband of actor Jayne Meadows, a frequent collaborator over the years; brother-in-law of Audrey Meadows, the most famous of all the Alice Kramdens. A renaissance man, a pretty decent jazz pianist (mainly swing and bop), a composer (of thousands of songs and pieces of music, including the theme music for his TV shows), a monologist, comedian, actor (often playing himself in films and TV), author (from mystery novels to thoughtful non-fiction), producer, and host of anything from The Tonight Show (1953-1957), to Jazz Scene USA (circa 1960), to his "What if?" PBS panel discussion program Meeting of Minds in the 70s and 80s.

Allen used his skills as a wacky radio DJ to literally invent the late-night talk show - NBC's Sylvester "Pat" Weaver may have invented the Tonight Show shell, but the content came from Allen, his writers, and troupe of actors; David Letterman acknowledges the influence, having borrowed much of his on-air mien, but pretty much every late-night show has used Allen's template.

He became a pretty big celebrity via the show, which was, back then, 105 minutes long (with the first 15 minutes mainly seen in New York); he won the title role in The Benny Goodman Story, and learned enough clarinet to look like a credible film Benny. NBC gave him a second show, a variety show to compete with CBS' all-conquering Ed Sullivan Show. The double duty forced Allen to cut back on his late-night duties, handing the reins over to a series of part-time substitute hosts, including Ernie Kovacs, who along with Jack Paar, was his choice for successor to the Tonight throne. NBC, after dropping the ball for a few months, eventually chose Paar to be the permanent replacement, and he would go on to be an even larger figure than Allen during his reign. Johnny Carson would, in time, eclipse them both.

The troupe of regulars on Allen's shows - Don Knotts, Louis Nye, Don Adams, Tom Poston, Steve and Eydie, Foster Brooks, among others - would go on to make successful careers for themselves in Hollywood and on the club circuit. And people who wouldn't get a foot in the door of the green room on modern-day shows, e.g. Lenny Bruce and Jack Kerouac, found themselves welcome on Allen's stage.

He's a staunch defender of the old school ways, and the most charming of all cultural conservatives, probably because he's really open-minded and liberal at heart.

When you see Dave do Stupid Pet Tricks, or take "questions" from the audience, or toss televisions off a roof, think of Steve. And when you cringe at some talent-on-loan-from-the-hype-machine celebrity or some sub-Dice "vomic", Steve is probably cringing with you. Raise your glass to him, mes frères, mes soeurs. Or I'll break out my Glock and busta cap in yo @$$!

SUPPLEMENTAL: Steve Allen died October 30th, 2000, after an almost frightening life during which he wrote 43 published books, wrote over four thousand songs, and starred in over a dozen television programs. He basically invented the style of The Tonight Show, which is still going strong today under host Jay Leno.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 once did a host segment during which Joel Hodgson had invented the "Steve-O-Meter," which beeped whenever it was held near something Steve Allen had already thought of. Nothing could be found that did not set it off, including the Steve-O-Meter itself. That sounds about right. In fact, up in Really Smart Person Heaven right about now Steve is probably giving God tips on how to improve the efficiency of his angel workforce.

So, it's time for the (freshly invented) traditional Everything memorial phrase:

Farewell, Steve Allen! Tonight, for you, all the nodes are mourning.

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