Marty Allen and Wife
Jan. 01, 1998
LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Think of it, if you will, as Beauty and the Beast, Las Vegas style.
There's zany Marty Allen sporting a hairdo that would make Don King flinch, with legs that were ugly even in their heyday and outrageously dressed under his frazzled, frizzy top.
Then there's Karon Kate Blackwell, a dazzling, statuesque blonde and his wife of 13 years.
When on stage, he flings out rapid-fire one-liners reminiscent of the days when he was one of television's favorite comics. She possesses a powerhouse voice and plays the piano with the gusto of James Brown.
Meet Las Vegas' version of the Odd Couple.
Allen, the comic who made ``Hello Dere'' household words, hasn't changed from the days when he performed with Nat ``King'' Cole and Sarah Vaughan, and later with singer-straightman Steve Rossi.
He's still playing a host of forlorn characters whose bells were rung once too often:
_Punch-drunk boxer Rocky Allen, staggering on stage wearing earmuffs ``in case they want me to fight Mike Tyson.''
_Football player Crazy Legs Allen: ``Our team is not too bright. When we heard we were going to be on Monday Night Football, the whole team stayed home to watch the game.''
_Hapless soul cursed with a cheating wife: ``I asked the cab driver to take me where the action was. He took me to my house.''
One highlight of their 90-minute show comes when Blackwell belts out ``Hey Big Spender'' from the show ``Sweet Charity'' and Allen cavorts on stage in a short skirt and high heels.
Allen met Blackwell in Los Angeles 15 years ago, where she was playing piano and writing music at a local club after working with the likes of Burl Ives and Wayne Newton, appearing on television with Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin.
Allen and former partner Rossi had split amicably after years as a duo. Blackwell encouraged them to get back together.
``I'd had a career and had gotten out of the business,'' she recounted.
When Allen and Rossi teamed up again, Blackwell found herself back on stage.
``I was their travel agent, conductor, opening act, booking agent, and worked the show with them,'' she said in an interview.
The rejuvenated career with her zany husband was an extension of childhood dreams.
``I can't remember there ever being a time I didn't want to do this,'' she said, recounting early years in Ellisville, Miss., playing the family's upright piano. ``I'd turn and talk to the right wall, like I was performing and it was my audience.''
The team of Allen, Rossi and Blackwell performed at the Vegas World Hotel, now the Stratosphere, under a ``lifetime'' contract that lasted four years. The trio later reached a confidential settlement.
Allen and Blackwell are currently performing at the Westward Ho Hotel-Casino to enthusiastic crowds and have a series of upcoming one-nighters in Florida.
Allen shuns the profanity common among many of today's comedians.
``My routines don't include any dirty words,'' he said. ``I'm doing the type of comedy that is not around today. It's in the spirit of Red Skelton.
``Profanity may be the street talk today, but it's not necessary. You can have a clean, funny show without dirty language.''
Allen and Blackwell live in Las Vegas, where they keep their professional and private lives separate.
Allen, who declined to give their ages, said his career was rejuvenated when he came up with the idea of Blackwell playing an attractive sidekick who feeds him straight lines from which to launch his dour-faced, rapid-fire responses.
``We have great chemistry,'' Allen said. ``I'm free-wheeling. I can go into any type of situation, and she's able to cope with it. If I get too far out, she brings me back.''