Monday, February 19, 2018


Nancy Sinatra, who sings the theme song and appears in "Last of the Secret Agents," says it's "My favorite of my movies because it's zany and silly and goofy. Mary Allen and Steve Rossi were really one of the funniest comedy teams of the time." 

    Marty Allen, who died a few days ago at 95, wasn’t “The Last of the Secret Agents,” (maybe Mike Myers as "Austin Powers" will be), but he was probably the last of the corny, harmless, family-oriented comedians. It was rooted in a childlike sense of fun; he'd say "the darndest things" for a quick laugh. Filling the nightclub gap left by Martin and Lewis, the goofy comic and his Italian singer/partner Steve Rossi had a simple gimmick: interview Marty and let him say just about anything. 

     "Hello Dere" (his happy catch-phrase) was a gold album in 1962, and loaded with "lay it in their laps" gags. "Hello dere, my name is Christopher Columbus." "Where were you born?" "On Columbus Day!" "What are you famous for?" "I'm a great lover!" "What do you mean by that?" "Ever hear of the nights of Columbus?" "Who did you make love to?" "Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria." "Those are ships." "It wasn't easy."

    As dopey as it may seem, adults were paying to drink and smoke and listen to that stuff. It seemed like kid-oriented comedy albums to me. I had all the albums by this new generation of comedy teams which included Rowan and Martin,  The Smothers Brothers, and with various straight men, Bill Dana as Jose Jimenez. 

      Comedy mirrors its times, and audiences no longer wanted sharp, bitter “sick” humor ala Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman and Lenny Bruce. Marty and Steve were welcomed (along with Stiller and Meara) on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and right into his 90's Marty never lacked for people asking him what was it like to be on the show that introduced The Beatles to America. It was a big selling point for his self-published book. 

    One thing nightclub comedy teams couldn’t seem to do was transfer to film. It didn’t work for Noonan and Marshall (who made “The Rookie” co-starring Julie Newmar) or Rowan and Martin (who made “The Maltese Bippy” co-starring Julie Newmar.) Allen & Rossi tried to cash in on the secret agent craze (without co-starring Julie Newmar, but with Nancy Sinatra). It was a little too silly and a little too late. (“Get Smart” had been running on TV for several years. Why pay for more?) Still, there are those who remember it with fondness (like Nancy Sinatra). 

    When the team split, Marty found plenty of work as an actor and as a wiseguy on the quiz show “The Hollywood Squares.” When Steve Rossi couldn’t do much with other partners (black Slappy White, aging Joe E. Ross, and even a Marty look-alike, Bernie Allen), the team reunited. They played Vegas-friendly venues, with Marty’s wife doing some singing as well. When Steve slowed down, Marty and his wife Karon kept right on going. Last Christmas, he told his fans on Facebook that his broken hip was nothing serious and that rehab was not going to take too long. But to borrow a line from the cynical comedian Brother Theodore, the bad hospitals let you die and the good hospitals kill you. Marty passed away at 95, from pneumonia. He was the last of the comedians from a golden age of silly. 

Nancy Sinatra - Last of the Secret Agents - listen online or download. No egocentric password, no Bulgarian/Croatian spyware

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