Well loved for his frizzy hair, bug eyes and zany sense of humor, comedian Marty Allen was a regular small-screen fixture from the early 1960s onwards. In fact, thanks to his one-time ubiquity on the box, the “Hello dere!” funny man was once hailed the Darling of Daytime Television. But he was equally loved for his work in the clubs, and that love was reciprocated in full. Indeed, Allen was still cracking gags right up to the end.
Morton David Alpern first said “Hello dere!” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 23, 1922. Born to Jewish parents of East-European extraction, Allen graduated from the city’s Taylor Allderdice High School. But soon he was off to Europe himself, serving as a U.S. Army Air Corps sergeant in World War II. It was while stationed in Italy that Allen received his first acclaim. The serviceman was awarded a Soldier’s Medal for bravery after heroically intervening when a fire broke out as an airplane refueled. Allen saved several men’s lives when he drove a fuel truck safely away from the scene and then returned to roll out the flames with his body.
Allen’s road to stardom began when the hero returned home and decided to hit the stage. He forged a comedy act with Mitch DeWood as his straight man. The duo delighted audiences with song and dance as well as impressions and gags throughout the 1950s. Allen and DeWood saw their name in lights at many prestigious clubs and theaters, including the Copacabana in New York and Monte Carlo in Miami Beach. They also opened for various big names, such as Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan, before calling time on the partnership.