Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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Allen & Rossi

From 1954 until 1969, Marty Allen and Steve Rossi were one of the nation's top comedy teams.

When Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up, Allen and Rossi became the uncrowned kings of comedy teams, making 40 appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," including the legendary night the Beatles made their debut in the United States. They also produced comedy albums and appeared in concerts worldwide.

After they parted company - as friends, they say - they went their separate ways until 1990, when they reunited for a four-year engagement at Bob Stupak's Vegas World, which later became the Stratosphere. Karon Kate Blackwell, Allen's wife and co-star, performed backup duties.

Allen is now 84. Rossi is 74. Both have been Las Vegas residents for many years. Their paths cross occasionally, but each keeps a busy schedule. And though they lead separate lives, they will forever be connected by their history and by at least one trait they have in common - an all-consuming urge to entertain.

At 84, comedian Marty Allen and his wife, Karon Kate Blackwell, are cruising through life.

"We've been traveling like crazy," said Allen, whose Brillo-like head of hair looks as if he just stuck his finger in a light socket.

"We just signed a deal with the Royal Caribbean (Cruise Line) to be its headline attraction."

They spend most of their time on ships, sailing from port to port in the Caribbean and the South Seas.

"We've been everywhere," said Allen, a longtime Las Vegas resident.

He and Blackwell have been a team for more than 20 years.

She sings, plays the piano and is straight man in the comedy act.

"Karon is a triple threat," Allen said. "Her singing is phenomenal. She plays piano like Jerry Lee Lewis and she's a great straight lady. We're like Mike Nichols and Elaine May or Burns and Allen - the act is dynamic."

And clean.

"Perfect for families coming aboard," Allen said.

The couple return to their home in Las Vegas every chance they get.

"We're just constantly on the move, always busy," Allen said. "We come back, I put the tuxedo in the cleaners and we go out again.

"I tell people we've sailed on every ship except the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria."

They will take some time this month to headline a New Year's Eve show at the Gold Coast.

"We love the Gold Coast," Allen said. "We played there a long time, it's a great room."

When they aren't performing, which is rare, they keep busy with a variety of projects.

Blackwell, a native of Mississippi, will release a new CD - "Mississippi Stardust" - early next year.

"The money she gets for the CDs she sells on the ships goes to Child Haven, here in Las Vegas," Allen said, referring to the county-run facility for children from troubled homes. "She's done that for years."

Allen has made hunting and fishing videos.

They are in preliminary talks with producers to do a version of "The Benny Hill Show," the burlesquelike British revue that aired from 1969 to 1989.

"We just started talking about it," Allen said. "They think the idea is good - the way Karon and I play, just add some characters like Benny Hill had.

"They saw us perform on the ship, said it would be a natural for us to do a Benny Hill-type show. But it's just in the early stages. If it happens, it happens."

Allen has given no thought to quitting.

"I enjoy what I'm doing," he said. "I love people. It's the greatest feeling in the world to have somebody come up and say, 'Hey, we had a really good time. The act was phenomenal.' "

"This is a pilot for A&E," Steve Rossi said in welcoming guests one night to his latest entertainment venture, a comedy revue at the Slanted Clam Tavern, 3713 W. Sahara Ave.

The Clam is at the former location of the Venetian Ristorante, a landmark restaurant once favored by celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

"We're calling the revue 'Laughs Vegas,' " said Rossi, 74 and still finding ways to entertain fans. "It's an all-comedy show, but it's not just stand-up. We'll have magic acts. Parodies. Lots of stuff."

Even if the pilot doesn't sell, Rossi says, he will be at the Clam at 9 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month, hosting and doing his act.

"We're trying to make this a late-night hangout," he said.

There is no cover charge or drink minimum for the show, which is held in the restaurant part of the Clam.

The star of the show's debut was Sandy Hackett, with Rossi largely performing as a straight man for the son of the late comedian Buddy Hackett.

Rossi and Hackett have performed together from time to time over the years. Rossi envisions them as a team.

"We're America's next comedy team," he said. "There are no comedy teams anymore, so Sandy and I have a shot. We have the chemistry. Sandy is a great ad-libber."

On opening night Hackett was brilliant, ad-libbing his way through a routine that didn't appear to have been rehearsed. He talked about his deteriorating marriage. About the pressed-board flooring. About the cocktail waitress' cleavage. About making it big in Vegas - at the Slanted Clam.

Rossi would perform at the Clam more frequently, but he's one of the stars of a musical in Palm Desert, Calif., near Palm Springs.

The musical - "Senior Class, A Revue of The Golden Years" - is on hiatus until Dec. 28, when it will resume and continue through the end of April with performances Thursdays through Sundays at the Cinemas Palme d'Or theater.

"That's why I'm only here at the Slanted Clam on Wednesdays," he said. "We don't have a show in Palm Desert on that day."

This is Rossi's third year with the production, which has a cast that also includes Gary Collins, Mary Ann Mobley, Ronnie Schell and Ruta Lee.

"I do most of the singing and comedy in the show," Rossi said.

When he isn't onstage in Palm Desert or performing in a nightclub, Rossi sometimes appears in low-budget, independent films, the most recent being "Death Ranch." He signed up to appear in a sequel to the horror film.

He also has written a couple of books that will be coming out soon - "Stand-up Comedy for Wannabe Comedians" and "Howard Stern's Exposed Not So Private Parts."

"I was Stern's manager for five years," Rossi said. "I started his career."

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