Monday, April 19, 2010


A lot of people are lonesome tonight.

It's the 19th of April, and thousands of people died today. They left behind loved ones who grieve, feel numbness or sadness, or a sense of ennui or just the emptiness of realizing that death is inevitable. For some of us, the feelings are slightly relieved by thinking of all the love and humor that was part of that loved one's life, and the fullness of that life, and the many people who were the better for it.

I think about that in connection with my uncle, who passed away this morning.

And I think about it again, having heard of the passing of Ira Stadlen yesterday, who was better known among fans of oddball humor and kiddie shows and cartoon voices as Allen Swift. Baron Barracuda, Odie Colognie, Tooter Turtle, Simon Bar-Sinister, Clint Clobber, even Howdy Doody at one time...all characters voiced by Allen Swift.

Allen Swift (January 16, 1924 – April 18, 2010) used his multiple voices on everything from "The Howdy Doody Show" and "Diver Dan" puppet programs to "Underdog" and "King Leonardo" cartoons. Like the genius Paul Frees, he was also very busy as an announcer/actor in hundreds of TV commercials. Swift was a kiddie show host on TV (as "Captain" Allen Swift, purveyor of Popeye cartoons). He voiced latter-day Tom and Jerry cartoons and was a legend for the his voice work on "Mad Monster Party." He voiced some of those Mad magazine cardboard novelty singles, the "Popeye's Favorite Sea Shanties" album for RCA Camden, and such 45 rpm oddities as "Johnny Podres Has a Halo" (about the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who won "dem bums" a World Series in 1955) and "Are You Lonesome Tonight," a sick humor Elvis Presley goof that takes loneliness to a hilarious sobbing extreme.

In other words, if you've had the kind of life of an Allen Swift, it's hard not to think of him without a smile, and remember some of the outrageous things he did.

If you're thinking "Stadlen…Stadlen…why do I know that last name," it's probably because of Ira's son…the comedian and actor Lewis J. Stadlen, who first gained fame in the comedy world with a perfect Groucho Marx imitation. Well, this entry says "Hello, I must be going…" to the great Allen Swift, who named himself after two comedy greats: Fred Allen and Jonathan Swift.

"Are you lonesome tonight?" Do you need a bit of weirdness to shake off grim reality? Need a laugh? Your download is below.
ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT - a bizarre novelty 45 by the late great ALLEN SWIFT Listen on line or download. No pop-ups, porn ads or wait time. Goodbye Allen. So long Uncle Howard.


CAS-Counseling said...

Ira Stadlen (AKA Allen Swift) is my Dad and was the greatest father a girl could have! One note on this song...I knew only my Dad's version as a kid and once, on my way home from school, I stopped into the old record store in the 42nd street subway station. I asked if they had "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and when they said yes and brought it to me, I asked if they had the original - Allen Swift's version. (I also thought my Dad really was Popeye because he held the door on the subway door open once so that my sister and I had time to catch up with him!) What a wonderful life!

Karate Boogaloo said...

Thanks for the post. Allen was a close friend of an uncle of mine who would stay with the Swifts whenever he came to New York. He was a really nice man, and I feel lucky to have hung out with him a couple of times.