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Friends and Family Remember Television Great Steve Allen

Aired January 2, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, family and friends remember an entertainment giant, Steve Allen, creator, first host of "The Tonight Show," a legend for 50 years. Here to share memories, tears, and laughs, Steve Allen's widow, actress and comedian Jayne Meadows; their son, Bill Allen; and Steve's friends, Tom Smothers -- he and his brother, Dickie, were regulars on the "Steve Allen Show"; comedy great Carl Reiner; singer and "Tonight Show" regular Andy Williams; and the always hilarious Tim Conway, a regular on the old "Steve Allen Show." And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
What a panel we have for you tonight, and what a tribute to a great man, the late Steve Allen. Hard to believe that he died on October 30 in the year 2000. He was a very young 78, and he left behind an incredible personal and professional legacy. The night after his death, we did a special program, a tribute to him that included a wonderful, touching phone call from his son, Bill, who's with us today.

Jayne, do you still think of him often?

JAYNE MEADOWS, ALLEN'S WIDOW: All the time. It's not just often. And we were very, very close.

KING: He left that kind of place, didn't he?


KING: Steve cast a giant shadow.

MEADOWS: Yes, he did.

KING: Andy, how did you first meet Steve Allen?

ANDY WILLIAMS, REGULAR ON "THE TONIGHT SHOW" WITH STEVE ALLEN I first met Steve in New York City, when he was looking for -- when he was starting "The Tonight Show" on NBC, on the national show. And he had Steve and Eydie, and he wanted two other singers. And Bill Harback (ph) was a friend of mine, and I saw him on the street. He said, Why don't you audition for "The Steve Allen Show"? So I did. I sang a couple of songs, and he hired me.

I don't know what I would be doing now if it weren't for Steve.

KING: Carl, how far do you go back?

CARL REINER, FRIEND AND FREQUENT GUEST ON ALLEN'S SHOWS: I go back -- he invited me to be on the show. He was a host, just as you are.

KING: This was "The Tonight Show" or the first show?

REINER: "The Tonight Show," yes. And when I heard him on radio and I'd seen him before -- never met him before, but admired him. And I was right about him. He seemed like a nice man...


GRACE: ... nice.

KING: He did a morning radio show in Los Angeles.

REINER: Yes. I remember him doing that.

KING: Tom Smothers, how do you go back?

TOM SMOTHERS, HE AND BROTHER DICK REGULARS ON "THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW": It was about two years after -- two years after we started in the business. We started in 1959. I ran into him in, I think it was 1960, '61, when he had the show, and we were doing a lot of guest spots. And he invited us on the show, and we did two or three spots, and then he put us on with regulars with Tom Conway -- at the time, it was Tom.


STEVE ALLEN: I'm so glad -- so glad that all of you agree with my opinion of these young fellows. I thought they were just marvelous. They're certainly a great asset to our show. In fact, I decided after seeing them rehearse this afternoon that they're such a good asset to our show, that it would be a very good idea if we kept them around all year. Do you like that idea?


SMOTHERS: And he collected comedians and musicians and singers, and he loved music and he loved people who were funny.

KING: You'll be seeing a lot of clips here tonight with an infectious laugh.


KING: You were Tom Conway?


KING: Tom Conway was George Sanders's brother?

CONWAY: That's correct. Yes.

KING: He was an actor.

CONWAY: That's correct. KING: You took his name?

CONWAY: Well, no, I had it originally. Well, my original name was Betty. We had some problems with...


CONWAY: ... had to get rid of that. But I came out here as Tom Conway, and you couldn't have two people in the union...

KING: With the same name.

CONWAY: ... with the same name, so...

KING: And he had it first.

CONWAY: Steve Allen actually changed my name. He changed it...

KING: He told me that.

CONWAY: Yes. Well, he said, Why don't you just dot the "O"?


CONWAY: And I did, and that -- and it turned into Tim.

KING: How did you meet Steve?

CONWAY: I was working in Cleveland. I had talked a station into my directing a show and another fellow being the talent. He had no talent. I had never directed. And the show was so bad that it got to be kind of an inside thing. We'd show a movie, and we couldn't figure out how to end the movie. So we had no endings to movies all week. And then on Friday, we'd show the endings.


CONWAY: And Rose Marie, from "The Dick Van Dyke Show," came through, and she was doing some promotion work. She thought that was hysterical. And she said, Steve, you got to see this. He saw that, and he dragged me out of Cleveland, made me come to this town.


CONWAY: I'm going to attempt to break this board right in half.

STEVE ALLEN: With your hand?

CONWAY: ... with the sharp part of my hand.


CONWAY: A quick, sharp blow to show the effectiveness of karate. Now, just hold it. You won't get hurt.

STEVE ALLEN: All right. CONWAY: Just hold it.

STEVE ALLEN: I'll watch it.

CONWAY: You ready?

STEVE ALLEN: I'm sorry, Mr. Hereford (ph). I...

CONWAY: I must have had the wrong side. I'll be right back, Steve.

STEVE ALLEN: Oh. All right. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Hereford is going to show us in just a second or two now how he actually can break a -- he's going...


KING: What kind of dad was he, Bill?

BILL ALLEN, SON OF STEVE ALLEN AND JAYNE MEADOWS: He was an incredible dad, you know?

KING: You're looking like him more every day, by the way.


ALLEN: Well, thank you. I take that as a great compliment. Through all the years that he was doing film and television and touring around the country, he made sure he was a dad first. He gave up show opportunities to coach me in Little League. He would drag me along when he was traveling. I would be the road manager of his tours. It was just terrific.

KING: And as I remember -- did he pass away at your house?

ALLEN: He did. Yes. He had come over with one of his grandchildren, Michael, to visit my three children, his three other grandchildren, on the night before Halloween, to help them carve pumpkins.

KING: October 30.

ALLEN: Had a little traffic accident earlier in the day that had caused some heart problems, and...

KING: Did the accident relate to the death?

ALLEN: Oh, yes.


ALLEN: Oh, yes.

MEADOWS: He was dead 20 minutes after he was hit by the car. And typical of Steve -- he was the dearest, sweetest man. He was hit by a man backing into him, breaking off his ribs that pierced his heart. Twenty minutes later, he died. And when he got out of the car, he said to the man, What some people will do to get my autograph.


ALLEN: True story!

KING: Andy, what did he mean to you, as a performer?.

WILLIAMS: Well, I learned a great deal from him. You know, I was -- I was new to television. I had done a little bit of it, but I didn't really understand it very much. And I learned how to -- I learned a little bit about timing from him. I learned -- didn't learn a lot about music him, although he played -- he played great piano and he wrote wonderful songs.

KING: About 7,430 songs.


KING: He wrote a song a day.

WILLIAMS: And so -- so I -- because of being on his show, I got a record contract. And the first album I made was songs by Steve Allen, "Andy Williams Sings Steve Allen." And so I got a chance to sing a lot of his songs during the -- you know, during the years I was on the show. He was -- he was great. He was a wonderful song writer.

KING: Yes.

WILLIAMS: And as everybody knows, he was a brilliant guy anyway, you know, in many other phases.

KING: He wrote one of my favorite songs: "You're walking along a street or you're at a party or you're alone and then you suddenly dig. You're looking in someone's eyes. You suddenly realize this could be the start of something big."

WILLIAMS: "This could be the start of something big."

KING: We'll be right back with our panel, as we pay tribute to the late Steve Allen. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with our tribute to Steve Allen.

You were going to tell me, Jayne, how he dreamed "This Could Be the Start of Something Big"?

MEADOWS: Oh, yes. He dreamed the music and the lyrics. But then Steve would get up almost every night, Larry, in the middle of the night, and I would hear him in the living room at the piano.


STEVE ALLEN: I dreamed the first main theme, up to the bridge, and dreamed the first seven or eight lines of the lyric and, thank goodness, remembered them when I woke up, and wrote them down.

KING: Steve had the hit, right, Steve and...

STEVE ALLEN: Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme had the first big hit. Still the best record of that song ever done.

MEADOWS: And Count Basie. Didn't...

STEVE ALLEN: And he had a fine one, too.

MEADOWS: He had a fine one.


MEADOWS: And he couldn't read music. He had never had a lesson in his life. He was a very poor boy. They didn't have a piano, of course, and he would go down the street in Chicago to Richard Kiley (ph), you know, the actor, his best friend, to his house to play his piano.

KING: "The Man of La Mancha."

MEADOWS: Yes. Exactly. And Steve taught himself to play by ear. He played for years in one key, and once he wrote a song, he would put it on a tape. And then a man would come in, take the tape, write it out, bring back the music, but Steve couldn't read it.

KING: And he wrote how many books?

MEADOWS: Fifty-four published books, right, Bill?

ALLEN: And 9,000...

KING: He wrote mysteries...

ALLEN: ... was the final number of songs. You joke about 7,400...

KING: Nine thousand?


ALLEN: It's just over 9,000 songs. We've been literally counting the tapes, the lead sheets, the arrangements.

CONWAY: And we'd like to sing all of them now.


KING: Tom, what did he mean for comics?

SMOTHERS: On that last year with Tim Conway and ourselves, there was more comics on that show. There were so many, they couldn't utilize them all. Sometimes it was just someone's hand would come up to a box.


SMOTHERS: And that'd be a comic. All week, he'd -- that's -- he adored comedy. You know, when I -- whenever I talked to him, I always felt he was a little distracted because I think of -- and getting up and writing songs at night, and he always had that tape recorder. No matter what happened, he'd take it out and make a note for himself.

KING: Yes.

SMOTHERS: He loved musicians and he loved comics. And Dickie and I were just starting out. We had no skills, really. We don't have any skills now, but...


SMOTHERS: ... but we're better at it. But we were put into all these scripts and all these different sketches. And I remember one most distinctly about going up to this -- he said, It's very funny. Go out and check it -- we'd be standing in a lighthouse. He says, Go out and check and see if it's -- how thick the fog is. We come back, I said, It's thick as pea soup.


SMOTHERS: It's as thick as pea soup, all right. But it don't taste like Mama used to make.


KING: Do you remember "Meeting of the Minds," Carl, when he did, he would have famous people gathered together and he hosted it?

REINER: She was one of the "Meeting of the Minds." That was -- only a brilliant man could conceive of that and then get the material together that would make it work.

KING: He would have Jefferson and Lincoln and Shakespeare.

REINER: And what did you play? You played a couple of them.

MEADOWS: I played them all, practically. The first one I played was Cleopatra. And I did Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, Susan B. Anthony...


MEADOWS: ... United States Constitution finally became the law of the land. Women had the vote.


KING: And he took your name for his sportscaster, right?

ALLEN: Big Bill Allen.

KING: Big Bill Allen. ALLEN: Absolutely right.

KING: With that crazy laugh and...

ALLEN: Uncontrollable laugh.


STEVE ALLEN: Well, what's new in sports? I'll tell you what's new. The 1958 ouch baseball season's getting underway with the annual...


KING: When he was a disk jockey in the early career in Phoenix, he made one of the most famous announcements in radio history. Sports fans, the final score in the game between Harvard and William and Mary: Harvard 14, William 12, Mary 6.


KING: You must have cracked him up, Conway.

CONWAY: Absolutely.

KING: You must have put him on the floor.

CONWAY: I was very fortunate in that...

KING: You put dead people on the floor.


REINER: Well, at his memorial service, he cracked us up.


KING: I heard about that. I couldn't make it.

CONWAY: Well, I was disappointed in the memorial service. I thought it was a pilot and...


CONWAY: ... nothing came of it. And you know, so I'm still out of work.

KING: You must have had them on the floor.


CONWAY: And then God said, Let there be noise. And God created Jayne. And Jayne sat by a brook, babbling. And she said unto the Lord, Give me a man, a man that I can share life with, a man who will bring music into my life. And God created Mel Torme. And Jayne said, No, somebody that I can share my life with and have a family. And God created Steve Allen. And Jayne said unto the Lord, Let me see Mel again.


KING: He never seemed 78.


ALLEN: He was eternally young.


KING: He was eternally 52. He was going to be 52 if he was a 100.

MEADOWS: Well, and his work was very, very -- almost like college. You know, it was very youthful.

ALLEN: The last performance he gave the night before he died was at a college. He was huge with college audiences throughout his whole life.

KING: I saw him do nightclub. I saw him to just a musical act in a nightclub in Washington. He did so many -- then he wrote that famous book in which he so angry at television today.

MEADOWS: The last book.

KING: Yes. Which was a departure for him because he was a total believer in freedom of speech.

ALLEN: Absolutely.

MEADOWS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KING: Very angry about television...


ALLEN: ... Lenny Bruce on television, put Jack Kerouac on television. But when he put them on television, he'd talk to them about the fact that they were on prime-time television and families were watching and please choose their words wisely, and both of them did. They were great performances. His concern was when people came on television nowadays and didn't choose their words.


STEVE ALLEN: I'm glad to have about eight seconds here to express my complete disgust at the degree to which filth and sleaze and vulgarity and every kind of offensive language is now dominant in our culture. There's always been a place for the dirty joke and, Damn it, when I hit my thumb with a hammer. That's human nature. That's not what they're doing. They're resorting to sleaze in the most vile way for commercial purposes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: He also, Carl, was one of the first peaceniks. He was opposed to the A-bomb...


KING: ... in 19 -- when I first met him in the '60s, he was opposed to our dropping it.


KING: He was opposed to any testing of it or the use of it.


STEVE ALLEN: I was taking the position of moral theologians that it's morally impermissible to burn alive hundreds of millions of innocent civilians, so...

KING: It's funny that that was considered radical...

STEVE ALLEN: Yes. Oh, we can't burn people? Oh, shucks. Gosh. I was going to sizzle thousands of them.


REINER: He was what we consider today a liberal.

KING: Oh, yes.

REINER: Yes. And...

KING: Except maybe in the area of his discourse on television.

REINER: Exactly. Exactly.

KING: Conservatives would have supported him.

REINER: But in the behavior of man to man and country to country, he was a liberal. But I must say something about him. He was not only a great fan of comedy, he always put his money where his mouth was. He was the guy responsible for the "2,000-Year-Old Man" getting out to the public.

KING: You're kidding?

REINER: At a party, an A-list party, what they call...


STEVE ALLEN: Two of the guests at the party were Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. And late in the evening, Mel and Carl did a comedy routine that broke all of us up. I told them that they ought to make a record of it. They did, and it's one of the big hits of the year. And they're now making records like it at every hand's turn. This is the latest one on the Capitol label. You might want to pick it up. We hope to have them with us frequently during the year. (END VIDEO CLIP)

REINER: Steve Allen came up and said, Look, I'll get you a studio. You record it. You take the album, you edit it any way you want it. Throw it away, if you want. I'll pay for everything. And we said to him, You want to be our partner? He said, No, no. I just want this to get out to the world.


REINER: The 2,000-year-old man. Sir, I am applauding you because you have lived this long.

MEL BROOKS: Hello, there!

REINER: Won't you sit down?

BROOKS: How are you? Nice to see you.

REINER: Nice to see you.

BROOKS: How old are you?

REINER: Well, I'm just 39.

BROOKS: Yes. Punk! All right.


KING: I was a disk jockey. When I put the needle down -- A plane has just landed at Kennedy Airport. A man has landed purported to be 2,000 years old, and we're going to get a first interview with him. Are you 2,000? I'm not yet. I'll be 2,000 October 11.


KING: We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.

REINER: Wow! Not only does he know songs...


KING: Not yet!


REINER: But let's get back to Shakespeare.


REINER: He's just -- he was reputed the great writer that he -- he wrote great works.

BROOKS: All good ideas, yes.

REINER: Thirty-seven of the greatest plays ever written. BROOKS: Thirty-eight.

REINER: Thirty-eight?

BROOKS: Thirty-eight.

REINER: Only thirty-seven are listed.

BROOKS: Well, one bombed.



KING: We're back with Jayne Meadows, Andy Williams, Tim Conway, Tom Smothers, Carl Reiner and Bill Allen, our tribute to Steve Allen.

Do you think, Andy, truthfully, he was fully appreciated, or was he too multi-talented?

GRACE: I just think he made a mistake, possibly, in not staying with "The Tonight Show" format a little bit longer. He was -- he was really the best at doing that, I think. He started everybody else...

KING: Yes.

WILLIAMS: ... in the business of doing late-time talk shows.

KING: Why did he give it up, Jayne?

MEADOWS: Because he was offered prime-time opposite Ed Sullivan -- more money, more prestige.

ALLEN: And the audience was six times larger in prime-time...


ALLEN: ... is really why he gave it up. But I think Andy's right. He created so much of the format.

KING: He created late-time. Late-night.

ALLEN: Not only late-night, really, did he create the whole format that is seen today on "The Tonight Show" and Letterman and Conan...

KING: Back to the question for all of you...

ALLEN: ... but the specific routines.

KING: Do you think he is underappreciated historically? For example, he just gets in now to the Hall of Fame. Come on!


MEADOWS: Well, no, no. No, no. The Academy Hall of Fame he got in the second year. It was the Broadcasters in New York that just inducted him.

KING: Come on! Should have been longer.

MEADOWS: Well, we have a feeling why that...

KING: And that is?

MEADOWS: ... it took so long.

REINER: Oh, tell us!


MEADOWS: Well, Steve spoke out about things and...

KING: Spoke out against a lot of things in broadcasting.

REINER: Oh, yes. Right, right, right.


CONWAY: Steve also brought kind of what Sid Caesar also brought to television, in that you could do silly things. I mean, Louis Nye (ph) playing meat, you know, the character that Don Knotts came up with.


DON KNOTTS: My name is D.D. Morrison, and I'm a bodyguard for Vice President Nixon.

ALLEN: Well, it's nice to have you here, Mr. D.D. -- but by the way, what's the D.D. for?

KNOTTS: Duck, Dick!

ALLEN: My goodness. Nixon's bodyguard. That's a very responsible job. Tell me, sir, does that make you nervous?



CONWAY: I mean, all of the wonderful characters, they didn't have to have comedy lines. I mean, you just had to see that face on television, and it was funny.

KING: Tom, do you think he's underappreciated?

SMOTHERS: I didn't realize how passionate he was about fairness, about free speech, about equality. He hated nationalism.

KING: Yes.

SMOTHERS: Just by our chance are were born here or there. And he was -- his voice was -- he punctuated with silliness, and he still had this -- this view. And I didn't realize it until when Dickie and I were on in the late '60s and had our own show and had our censorship problems, did I realized what a profound thinker and passionate man he was -- a member of SANE and all those -- SANE -- and we never talked about those things because I wasn't aware of it until I became passionately involved, and I looked back and I said, Gosh, I wish we had some conversations then because he is an exceptional man and it takes a lot -- sometimes an exceptional audience to understand his -- his profundity -- I mean, how good he was at what he did and how -- across the board, how talented he was.

KING: Well put. Carl, wouldn't you say he was extraordinarily hip, to use the vernacular.

REINER: Oh, he was Mr. Hip himself.

KING: Yes.

REINER: When you think about his television show, the things he started on his nighttime show and his "Tonight Show," they still exist. They exist in Letterman. They exist in Leno, going out and talking to the people, the crazy things, dropping things that Letterman does off a building, getting into tanks.


ALLEN: I don't want to go in!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more time one more time. Go!


MEADOWS: After Steve was doing the Sunday show, he got a call from Universal to star in "The Benny Goodman Story." And he did all three at once. We moved to California. And he would get up in the morning. He would be at Universal at 5:00 or 6:00 or whatever it was. And they gave him an office. And they would come over and rehearse during his lunch hour, the Sunday show, and then he'd come back to the Ambassador Hotel, and every night, he would shoot live "The Tonight Show."

KING: So he did "The Tonight Show," the Sunday show and the Benny Goodman show simultaneously.


KING: The Benny Goodman movie.

MEADOWS: And he...

REINER: And he lasted 78 years. When you think of the amount of things he did in those 78 years, it'd be 200 years with any other person.


KING: We'll be right back with more of our tribute to Steve Allen right after this.



STEVE ALLEN: Truly one of the most popular love poems ever written is in this collection. But I don't really have to find it, because I think almost everyone remembers at least the start of it.

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "... the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight for the ends of being an ideal grace. I love thee with the breadth of smiles, tears, of all my life. And if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death."

ALLEN: I shall but love thee better after death.


KING: Welcome bark to LARRY KING LIVE, our tribute to Steve Allen. Let's reintroduce the panel.

They are his widow, Jayne Meadows, the wife of the late Steve Allen. They were married back in 1954 on July 31. He passed away, October 30, 2000.

Andy Williams in Branson, Missouri, singer, regular performer on "The Tonight Show" with Steve and did an album showcasing songs composed by Steve Allen.

In Los Angeles, Tim, the one and only, Conway. Entertainer, actor, was a regular on the Steve Allen show.

In Santa Rosa, California, Tom Smothers, part of the Smothers Brothers team, comic musician. They were regulars on "The Steve Allen Show."

In Los Angeles is Carl Reiner, the brilliant Carl Reiner. Veteran comedy writer, performer, was a guest on the Allen show and in 2003, was recipient of the Steve Allen Pioneer of Comedy Award at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival.

And finally Bill Allen, then son of Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows.

I have one honor that I count high in my career, I followed him as abbot of the Friars Club in California.

ALLEN: Absolutely.

KING: I am a current abbot. I succeeded Steve Allen as abbot.

MEADOWS: Steve succeeded Milton Berle, who was his babysitter when Steve's parents were onstage in Vaudeville.

KING: Berle succeeded Sinatra. Not bad company.

MEADOWS: I would say.

KING: Goes back a way.

You said that your parents never held back from each other, that night you called in. They were all totally open with each other. They were what they were.

ALLEN: Totally honest. And not only were they incredibly loving and open about it, Dad would write a poem every holiday excuse he got to my mother. There's really books worth of beautiful love letters and poems to her.

KING: Well, Tim, do you consider Steve, when you think of him, do you think comedian, writer? What do you think?

CONWAY: What I think is in the stable of people that he created, really, and he took -- and I was one of them, thank goodness.

MEADOWS: No. He didn't create you.

CONWAY: Well, he didn't create me, but he...

MEADOWS: You know what he would have said?

CONWAY: ... he sure dragged me out of...

MEADOWS: He would have said, no one can create talent. No one can make a star. It is the public and your talent that makes a star. All he did was introduce you.

CONWAY: Put me in the spotlight.

MEADOWS: And was proud to do it.

KING: There's a lot to be said to be introducer, though.


CONWAY: Then, of all people in that stable, you know, all of us are of the same personality. I mean, who enjoys life more than Carl? Than all of us, really? I mean, if you look at all -- Tommy Smothers, Dicky, you know, all of us, Jonathan Winters, down through the list, I mean, I can't imagine how many people he -- Steve and Eydie.

All of those people seemed to have the same personality. They enjoy life. They really, they are fun loving. They really are not mean people or mean spirited. I mean, that's the kind of people that he surrounded himself with.

KING: Good point. Andy, he was great fun to be around, wasn't he?

WILLIAMS: He was wonderful to be around. I was a little bit like Tommy, though. I was in awe of him, and I found it difficult to talk to him, because I didn't have anything that I thought was important enough to talk to him about. Because he was always either writing something down or playing the piano or thinking. So, you know, unless you were a comic, you know, it was hard.

REINER: You know what I remember? I remember going to very large parties and very, very often, and I would look around and standing in the corner would be Steve Allen. And that's -- there I knew -- then I knew where I was supposed to be, because I was uncomfortable at these parties, too.

KING: He was not comfortable?

REINER: No. We were viewers. I would stand next to him and we would -- that's why I got to know him. Because we had the same feeling about what are we doing here? Let's talk to each other.

And then I do remember I would say something -- he would put it down. "I have to remember that," you know.

He lived his life twice. Once while living it and the other time when he transcribed it and listened to it again. He had his whole life is on tape.


KING: Back with more with Jayne and Andy and Tim, Tom, Carl and Al (ph) on this special tribute to the late Steve Allen. Don't go away.


SAMMY DAVIS JR., SINGER (singing): Do you know when he began to play for me I could have danced. I could have danced. I could have danced, danced, danced, danced all night.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then I have all the earmuffs...

STEVE ALLEN: No, no, no. Earmarks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the earmarks of an earmuff.





STEVE ALLEN: Earmarks of an actress. An actress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An actress, you say? Of course, I'm not a regular mattress.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not a regular actress and if I make any mistakes, look them over.

STEVE ALLEN: Overlook them. Now, you're going to do it over here. That's fine. Here's another angle down there. Now...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll turn around, then.

STEVE ALLEN: That's all right.


KING: Do you think it odd of someone so much in the public eye as Steve Allen, but all of the panel have been discussing during the break how shy he was. How shy, Jayne?

MEADOWS: Painfully. People don't know it. Phil Silvers once said, "Steve, you are the only performer I know more comfortable on stage than in a living room." And we would go to parties because I'm gregarious.

KING: No kidding?

MEADOWS: And I love to talk. And I love to talk, Tim and Carl. And I want to see and meet everybody. We would go to the parties. Steve would go right to the piano.

And if they didn't have a piano, he'd go to the bookcase, take out a book. Sit there, reading the book. Maybe not even very interested in the book. It was like a cover up.

ALLEN: Well, remember how shy he was when he met you?

MEADOWS: Painfully shy. When he met me, by accident, I had just done my first "I've Got a Secret" program. And Audrey said, meet me at the restaurant.

KING: Your sister, Audrey?

MEADOWS: My sister Audrey.


STEVE ALLEN: I had an appointment to meet a friend. Remember the singer Bob Carol?

KING: I remember Bob Carol. STEVE ALLEN: Yes, had hit records in the '50s. For dinner. And Bob had planned to meet Audrey, and Audrey had planned to meet Jayne. It was the first night that Jayne did what would turn out to be a seven-year job as one of the featured panelists on "I've Got a Secret." And quite by chance, we all ended up in the same restaurant.

KING: The first night of "I've Got a Secret"?

MEADOWS: The first night. I am so impressed that you remember all the details.

STEVE ALLEN: It's all I remember. Everything else...

MEADOWS: I'm usually the one who tells how we met.

KING: And then what happened at the restaurant?

MEADOWS: Well, actually, I surprised him. I had said to Audrey, "No, I'll be too nervous." You know, doing my first show. And I was so excited, because they asked me to sign a seven-year contract and I went over to tell her and, you know, the gang.

And after I had been there about 15 minutes, in walked a tall, dark, handsome man who looked a little like my father.

KING: Was it you? Was it...

MEADOWS: Listen, I'm going to tell you. This is the truth. I took one look, and I'm nearsighted. I took one look at him as he entered the door, and I thought, "Oh, my gosh." I knew who he was.

STEVE ALLEN: Even though she's gentile, she does say, "Oy" now and then.

MEADOWS: I said, if that man is not married, he's going to be some day and to me.


MEADOWS: Now, I, madly in love, at that moment, he sat next to me in the chair was introduced and never said one word to me all night long.

And when it came time to leave, I was so hurt, I did the most dreadful thing. I said, "Mr. Allen, you are either the rudest man I have ever met in my life or the shyest." And he turned crimson.

REINER: He was the shyest.

MEADOWS: I thought, "Dear God, what have I said?"

REINER: Oh, no.

MEADOWS: And then he went over to Audrey and he said, "Let's go over to Schofts (ph) and have some dessert and bring your sister."

KING: How do you explain that, Carl? You've been around -- people who are shy.

REINER: Who was it who said that all performers, this guy included, is much more comfortable, much more comfortable on the stage.

No. That's why I gravitated to this man. I'm shy, too. And I can't play piano, and I can't read. So I don't know how to...

KING: Tommy Smothers, are you shy?

SMOTHERS: I'm more shy off -- I'm more comfortable on stage.

I was so proud to be -- along with Tim and I know he's the same way -- so early in our career to be touched by Steve and picked to be on his show and so well presented. It was such a such kick for us and also the main start of our career.


STEVE ALLEN: Could you guys give me a little -- give me a hand with the lead-in into the next commercial. Could you do that?


STEVE ALLEN (singing): I think you're grand I think you're swell. Now here's a word from Uriel (ph). Sing on.

SMOTHERS: Another hit song by Steve Allen.

STEVE ALLEN: Now get out of here.


KING: That's a great word, Tommy. He presented you well.

CONWAY: That's great. You know something? Steve could get you to do anything, you know? I mean, he really could. You know, we -- And I feel the same way, too, now that everybody's really kind of said it.

It was difficult to talk to Steve because I had stopped reading in 1957, so I had nothing to say to the man. "Hi. How are you doing."

We would sit at parties together, you know, and I had nothing to say to him. And so I'd say, "I'm going to go in the kitchen and try to put frozen steaks in my pants." And he's go, "OK. Here's the idea." Then you would come up with you -- He could talk to you into doing anything.

My first show, they said, get -- we'd been out to this, like, Seaworld thing and he says, "Here's the idea. You get in the tank with this porpoise, and he'll come up and he'll pull you over to the side."

I went, "Yes." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE ALLEN: Wait a minute. There's our friend, Doug Hereford (ph). Say, Doug. I was wondering -- say, Doug? Somebody throw him life preserver. Throw him a life preserver, somebody. Get over there.


CONWAY: Then we see a guard with a gun like this on the side. I said, "Excuse me. Are these dangerous?"

He said, "No, unless they come too fast at you." He said, "I'm here to kind of take care of that."

And I'm going, "OK, Steve, ready?"

"Yes." Into the tank. You know?

But he could get you to -- It wasn't get you to do anything. You just enjoyed him.

ALLEN: I think he literally put Andy Williams in a tank to see...

KING: Did he, Andy?

ALLEN: ... underwater singing.

WILLIAMS: I was supposed to go down in this cell, you know. Over your head. And I was going to sing "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Down in there with a turtle, a big giant turtle, a squid and a little shark.

And the guys, you know, the guys took a break. You know? A break. And so that means everybody takes five minutes off and goes, including the guy that's pushing the -- I mean, the air down to me.

I thought, "My God, I'm going to die down here."

And also, there's only, you had to learn to take that helmet off or you'd break your neck turning.

Anyway, when I got up, I was so frozen, they kept piling rugs on me and I went to the hospital for about three days, I was so frozen. I had caught pneumonia. I'd do anything for him.

KING: He used to do -- He used to do...

WILLIAMS: You know...

KING: Yes. I'm sorry. Go ahead, Andy.

WILLIAMS: Used to be, you know, the sketch where the guy, the bear would be up there and the gorilla or something and a window across from the studio and that bear was, you know, and then they'd throw out some body. You know? Like a dummy. I was that guy. Either one, either the dummy or the bear.

KING: Some nights on television, he would actually read letters to the editor in the "New York Daily News," where they wrote the craziest letters...


KING: ... and he would read them with all their anger.


STEVE ALLEN: First one is from Manhattan. Mad-hattan, yes.

MILTON BERLE: Mad-hatten.

STEVE ALLEN: Yes. It is, "Now that Hollywood about to produce a broadcast with a bald headed woman in the cast..."


STEVE ALLEN: ... "that 250,000 bald headed women in this country are probably discarding their wigs as a new fad." Never heard of such a thing.


STEVE ALLEN: It says, "I hereby declare that no bald headed woman, with or without transformation, will ever be permitted to enter my house."

BERLE: Right, right , right, right!


STEVE ALLEN: Signed Yul Brynner.


KING: Some nights, he would just recite rock 'n' roll lyrics.

CONWAY: Right. Yes.

KING: The silly ones. All he did was go -- "Sha boom sha boom. Ya da ta, ya da ta, ya da ta."


KING: "Hello, hello again. Sha boom. And hoping we meet again."

And we'll be back with our remaining moments on this tribute to Steve Allen, right after this.


STEVE ALLEN: Who put the bump in the bump ba-bump ba-bump? Who put the ram in the ramalama ding dong? Who put the bop in the bop she bop she bop? Who put the dip in the dip de dip de dip?

Who was that man? I'd like to shake his hand. He made my baby fall in love with me.





STEVE ALLEN: Oh, that's sickening.

And this goes, oh, all over America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holler gravy train.

STEVE ALLEN: What? Holler gravy train? Gravy train! Why would I...


KING: We're back with our remaining moments with our outstanding panel, discussing an outstanding figure in the history of American broadcasting and entertainment, the late Steve Allen.

You were mentioning something about a joke and President Kennedy? Bill?


ALLEN: Oh, yes. The Question Man was a great routine in the old show. A lot of people, younger generation knows it as the Carnak (ph) routine, which Johnny did.

KING: Carson really took that from him. No knock on Johnny, but...

ALLEN: No. Gave him credit, just as Jay does for "Jay Walking." He's been really gracious about the great things they've done with his original routine.


TOM POSTON, COMEDIAN: It was only a few short weeks ago that we introduced the Question Man to the nation. But even in that short period of time, he has managed to creep into the hearts of America.

And now, I'd like to have you meet this creep, the Question Man.

A listener from Montana sends in this interesting answer. Vanguard one, Jupiter two. The question, please?

STEVE ALLEN: What was the final score in the Vanguard/Jupiter game. I think we have time for no more, or one more.

POSTON: Just one more. Butterfield 8, 3,000. Question, please?

STEVE ALLEN: How many hamburgers did Butterfield eat?


ALLEN: President Kennedy's favorite joke, he told Peter Lawford, was from that show, where one night Tom Poston read the answer to Steve. The answer was, "Chicken Teriyaki."

And the question Steve divined was, "Name the oldest living kamikaze pilot."

KING: That's funny. He was first funny, wasn't he?

REINER: He was. I was just saying...

MEADOWS: And quick.

REINER: We're talking about what a perfect man he was. He had one Achilles' heel.

KING: What was that?

REINER: He thought -- he came over one day, and he was laughing so hard. He came up with this thing he thought was hysterical. And he told it to me, and I thought he was kidding me. And he was really laughing.

He thought the names of Italian food for people was hilarious. He called Chicken Cacciatore...


REINER: ... and Lamb Marinara. And he'd laugh and I'd look at him. And I said, "Thank goodness he's not perfect. He's got something I can criticize."

And I told him, I says, "Except for that, you're the most brilliant man. How could you think..."

"You don't think that's funny?"

KING: Tommy, he was a risk taker, was he not?

SMOTHERS: Yes, he was. I thought that maybe, that he did some silly, silly things. Very broad, very broad comedy.

KING: Yes.


STEVE ALLEN: Don't worry, molly. Here I come. I'm off to the rescue! Human tea bag time. Here we go.



SMOTHERS: He had this great humanity, a concern for the human condition, and yet, that was not -- he wasn't haranguing you with it, but you were aware of it. I was so conscious of how he cared about people and the condition of the human kind and the inequities that happened in the world.

He thought about these things a lot and yet he would come out and say the stupidest things; he'd do the broadest things. And underneath, there was almost a wonderful deep concern for the human condition.

ALLEN: My mother counseled him about the potential effect on his success.

MEADOWS: Yes. Because he and Marlon Brando, we came home from a party one night late. And it was Marlon on the phone said, "Steve, will you go up with me to stop Governor Brown with the Carl Chessman (ph) case?"

KING: You mean, executing him?

MEADOWS: Yes, yes. And he said, "By the way, do you know Shirley MacLaine?"

And Steve said, "Yes. She's a friend of Jayne's," and Shirley just lived down the street.

And I called her, and of course, Shirley was like Steve and Marlon, she'd do anything. Now, this is like 3 a.m. in the morning. Next day, the three of them go up there at 9.

KING: To try to prevent the execution?

MEADOWS: And I said, "Darling, please, please, my parents did all -- they were missionaries. They did all kinds of dangerous things. But you are going to hurt your ratings."

And he said, "Jayne, I care much more about the ratings of mankind than I do about the ratings of my television show."

CONWAY: Oh, boy.

ALLEN: That really summed up who he was.

KING: How's he going to be remembered, Carl?

REINER: Just the way we're remembering him now. And as a matter of fact, it may be a good idea to do a testimonial like this to him every year. Because he was the beginner of so many things that exist today. He'll be remembered as a thoughtful, deep thinking, funny man. And he'd be very proud of the fact when I saw Mr. Smothers, he'd say, "Look what Mr. Smothers turned into, a bright, wonderfully thinking man." He knew at the time, but he was the father of all these wonderful people.

KING: And Andy, always was a great broadcaster, right? A great broadcaster.

WILLIAMS: He was terrific. He was funny. He was funny when -- before funny was funny.


STEVE ALLEN: Good evening. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, please. You may call me by the name, the other bull fighters given me.

STEVE ALLEN: And what might that be?



KING: It is great.

Tim, how will you remember him?

CONWAY: I remember Steve -- because of Steve, I still have my right arm.

I was on a show one night, and they were talking. They had a crocodile there and the guy said, you know, "Here's how you tell a crocodile. It's because he has a mouth open like this and you can't see around it with your eyes. But if you put your hand in there."

And Steve said, "Do you want to do that, Tim?"

But as the guy did it, the crocodile went -- and the guy said, "Oh, Dave, you want to get a 2-by-4 and get this thing?" And they carried him with his arm like that, you know. So I still have my arm.

KING: Good way to end the show.

Thank you all very much, Jayne Meadows, Andy Williams, Tim Conway, Tom Smothers, Carl Reiner and Bill Allen. It was my great pleasure to be here just to listen to these wonderful stories about a wonderful guy, Steve Allen.

Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Good night.


STEVE ALLEN (singing): That dazzling April moon. MEADOWS (singing): There was not that night and the month was June.

STEVE ALLEN (singing): That's right. That's right.

MEADOWS (singing): It warms my heart to know that you remember still the way you do.

STEVE ALLEN (singing): Oh, yes. I remember it well.

MEADOWS (singing): I remember it well.



KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN. And always remember Stevarino. Good night.


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