Steve Rossi: Straight man in the duo of Allen & Rossi, stalwarts of US television talk shows and the comedy circuit

 

Steve Rossi was one half of the prolific comedy duo Allen & Rossi, which became a favourite of The Ed Sullivan Show and other American variety shows. His friend of 40 years, Michael Flores, who was manager of the Silver Nugget casino, said: "I met every major entertainer in the country through Stevie, and I'm going to miss him."

Born Joseph Tafarella in New York, he was discovered by Mae West, who saw him playing the lead in The Student Prince in Los Angeles. He sang in her Las Vegas show, though she changed his name so it didn't compete with her shorter name on the sign outside the Sahara Hotel, where they were playing.

Allen & Rossi formed in 1957 – Rossi was the straight man – and went on to appear regularly on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Merv Griffin Show. They toured comedy clubs and headlined shows at Las Vegas casinos in the 1960s, until they split up in 1968. They appeared on Ed Sullivan's show 44 times, including several times with The Beatles.

"Everyone remembers those shows with The Beatles, and they were great, but we appeared on all the shows," Marty Allen said. "There wasn't a talk show on TV that didn't want Allen & Rossi." After the pair split, Rossi formed an interracial duo with Slappy White; they released an album, I Found Me a White Man – You Find Yourself One!, and were hired by National Overseas Airways to provide live onboard entertainment.

Rossi and Allen reunited several times, releasing a film in 1974, and touring in the mid-1980s and again the early 1990s. In 2012 Rossi published his bestselling The World's Dirtiest Joke Book from 1978 as an ebook.

ERIC LAW

Joseph Charles Michael Tafarella (Steve Rossi), comedian: born New York 25 May 1932; married (one son, one daughter); died Las Vegas 22 June 2014.

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