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Multitalented Steve Allen Dies in Encino, CaliforniaAired October 31, 2000 - 2:28 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Our other breaking story of this hour is the reported death of Steve Allen who was a comic, among other things; but a very prolific man in show business with a rather lengthy career. He has died out in Encino.
And we have on the line with us, Dick Clark, a friend of Steve Allen.
And Dick, your reaction to this?
DICK CLARK, FRIEND OF STEVE ALLEN: Lou, pardon me, I'm terribly shocked because Steve was not only one of my idols, he was my neighbor in Encino for many years. He was a social friend, a business friend -- I just can't express the loss. He was an incredibly talented man.
WATERS: Not only talented, but prolific.
CLARK: Oh, I mean he wrote, literally, thousands of songs, so many books -- I mean, he was -- on television, when I looked at him, I would say to myself, I've stolen from him as everybody has who's a talker on television.
He had an extraordinary technique of making you feel warm and communicating with you. He used to carry a tape recorder around with him to get on tape his ideas because his mind just wouldn't stop. It was overflowing with a variety of subjects -- phenomenal man.
WATERS: I remember when I was just starting out in radio in Minneapolis, Steve Allen came to do something special. He was in the B studio and I had the opportunity to sit in and just listen to him rap and I was astonished. I almost got out of the business.
CLARK: Well, it's either that our it inspires you to go higher.
The thing with -- I did a talk show with him once. I mean, he did a variety of them -- I mean he was the man on "The Tonight Show" that, literally, started that whole phenomenon.
But he would get off on a subject that might have to do with Greek mythology, so he would make you understand it. He had a magnificent mind.
He was a kind gentle, warm, man. He -- I -- he would be embarrassed for me now, Lou, because I can't put into words the way I felt about this man. I loved him.
WATERS: He was extraordinary, to be sure. Dick Clark, thanks so much for joining us. We have -- also have on the line Art Linkletter -- Mr. Linkletter.
ART LINKLETTER, FRIEND OF STEVE ALLEN: Hello there.
WATERS: Your reaction to the death of your friend.
LINKLETTER: Like everyone else: unbelieving and shocked. I've known him for almost 60 years. I was doing the "House Party" on CBS when he came out to KNX as a disk jockey. And he used to ask me if I would mind if I would -- if he would come over to my audience and he'd watch how I did my interviews, because he thought he would like to go in that direction. And I said, "Of course not."
And I felt very flattered by it. And, of course, since then, his career has proved that he is one of the great renaissance figures of today: whether it's music or writing or talking. And he has causes. Only this morning, I opened the "L.A. Times," and there's a full page with his picture on it -- great big page begging people to write to sponsors, to cleanup television, and talking about the filth and the sex and the violence and the profanity and everybody else that persuaded his favorite medium.
And now to hear that he has passed away -- he has been a great force -- and joined me in the Center on Aging at UCLA on many projects to talk about getting old successfully. I'm just eight years older than him. But it certainly, at my age, gives me pause for thought. I'm not going to be buying any five-day deodorant pads.
WATERS: Yes, I spoke to him at his home out in Los Angeles not too many years ago -- about three or four years ago -- about the subject of aging in America, and his views on love and sex and disease and the like. And I believe he had his own bout with cancer at the time. And he accepted that as another direction to go in.
LINKLETTER: Yes. He was helpful for anybody in any kind of a cause, whether it was Alzheimer's, or whether it is Center on Aging, of which I was president for many years here, and got him to be very much interested in that -- and a very informal, wonderful man. I remember the PBS series he did on great moments in history, which could have been written by a philosopher, archaeologist, historian, sociologist -- had everything in it about the people of the last thousand years.
And I can't believe we are losing him.
WATERS: You are so right about him being a renaissance man. I'm sure there are many young folks who, even now, are surprised that, when they watch David Letterman go out on the street with a camera, or when they saw Johnny Carson's answer-man bit, that it was Steve Allen who did all of this.
LINKLETTER: Sure he did. Sure he did. I started in radio in 1933. So I had the jump on almost anybody you know or have seen, and was one of the first to do the man-in-the-street shows, which spread out as a new kind of entertainment. But Steve's music ability is something that -- people don't how many songs he's written: beautiful, popular songs. And he was a guy that amazed me, because he could be a total extrovert: pie-in-the-face, ribald, broad comedy.
And he was basically an introvert. He would rather be by himself in a room: writing, composing or reading. But he made the switch over and successfully blended something that I thought was impossible.
WATERS: We had the interview on with him just a few moments ago, where he thanked the universe for allowing him to accomplish as much as he has accomplished in his life. That is Steve Allen, isn't it?
LINKLETTER: That is Steve. And we're going to miss him. I am so sorry for his wife. She must be shocked. Did they say what caused his death?
WATERS: No, I haven't heard that yet. But I know that he -- didn't he have some -- was it prostate cancer?
LINKLETTER: I don't know. I don't know -- as far as I knew. When we talked, we never talked about his health. And he always looked well.
LINKLETTER: And I am just about to set out tomorrow on another lecture tour for several thousand miles in a few days. At 88, I feel blessed that I am able to do all of these things that he and I used to comment on the fact that we could go right on right to the end, which he has done.
WATERS: Keep on keeping on. And, Art Linkletter, thanks so much.
LINKLETTER: Delighted that you called.
WATERS: Ed McMahon is on the phone.
Ed, hello. Is Ed...
ED MCMAHON, FRIEND OF STEVE ALLEN: Quite an incredible man that we have lost.
WATERS: It certainly is. What are your particular memories of the man who was the first "Tonight Show" host?
MCMAHON: Well, of course, you know, I was one of those guys who really watched every night of the Steve Allen "Tonight Show." It was the end of my day. And I loved it. And I never dreamed that I would ever be involved in the show. So I had like a primer on how to do -- you know, watching him and watching him do the sketches, and how he felt about the family. And then Johnny, when he took over, he had that same direction of having a family.
You know, we had -- we would do sketches with Doc and Tommy Newsom, and use Fred de Cordova and things. And so it was like a further extension of that. But Allen invented all this. He is the one that started all this. And it was just quite of a thing to watch him. You know, when he would come on the show as a guest with Johnny, at the break, he would be dictating into one of those little hand recorders.
MCMAHON: He was always doing something. He was always writing a book, always a piece of music, or something came up in a conversation would springboard in his mind: Hey, that's a great idea to write something about that, you know?
WATERS: Yes. I was mentioning to Art Linkletter, I did an interview at his home. And during the interview, he stopped twice to talk into that little recorder about something that he had just thought of.
MCMAHON: Oh, yes. Well, -- and Johnny used to kid him. You know, when he introducing him, he said -- you know, he would say a thing like: Steve Allen was going to come out five minutes ago, and we didn't know we were going to have this other thing going in. In the five minutes, he probably wrote three books.
MCMAHON: You know, that would be a line that Johnny would throw out, you know.
WATERS: It's just amazing. How -- what do you make of Linkletter's that Steve Allen was an introverted man, and he did all this extroverted...
MCMAHON: To cover that up. A lot of people in our business are like that. And that's probably a good appraisal of Allen, because he was so crazy. When he used to do the show, you know, he would put that hat on like he was a member of the press tag. And all of a sudden, he was that guy, you know.
I remember he used to read the papers. He would get the "Daily News" or the "Post" or something, and he would read something. And he would do, you know - but he would be crazy. He would be wild. And a lot of guys that are introverted, when they pull out of that, they go a little overboard. And he did. But he was such an intelligent man, that is what made him so prolific with writing -- everything he wrote. I mean, he never stopped writing things.
WATERS: Do you happen to know about his health in these last
MCMAHON: I know nothing about it. We were supposed to see them a couple of weeks ago. And we couldn't go. They invited us to one of those, you know, black-tie affairs. And my wife, you know, she became very close to Jayne. And we would see them every year at a friend of ours birthday party. And we would always be singing at the piano. Steve would be playing.
That was yearly thing we did every year. So we would see them. And then we would see them occasionally socially. But we -- they -- we just communicated with them about three weeks ago. And we had to leave town and we couldn't go. But I didn't know anything about any ill health problems.
WATERS: I -- he struck me as the kind of man that -- well, of course, we all know that he kept on keeping on all of his protects, and probably didn't dwell on the fact that he even may have been sick.
MCMAHON: No, he may have covered that up quite well. You know, lately, he has been on kind of an event to try to, you know, lift up the morality of our business: you know, the broadcasting business. He was very upset of what had happened in certain radio shows and television things. So he would take out those full-page ads. And you may have seen the -- he had it in "USA Today" or something like that.
He was a very concerned citizen about what was going on in the world.
WATERS: He certainly was. And we will all miss him and his talent. Ed McMahon, thanks.
MCMAHON: Lou, thank you. Bye bye.
WATERS: Dick Clark, Art Linkletter, Ed McMahon, all reacting to the death of comedian, actor, musician, artist: Steve Allen.
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