But Allen’s showbiz career truly took off when he joined forces with crooner Steve Rossi in 1957. Their old-fashioned act would typically see Rossi belt out a song before playing the straight man to Allen’s various comic creations. These included a befuddled golfer, a punch-drunk boxer and an incompetent doctor. Allen would always open with his popular catchphrase, “Hello dere!”
And this humorous hook became famous nationally as the pair became firm favorites on the TV-chat-show circuit. As the 1960s rolled round, Allen and Rossi racked up many appearances on entertainment shows hosted by the likes of Perry Como, Johnny Carson and Dean Martin. In fact, the duo guested on The Ed Sullivan Show an astonishing 44 times. It is a testament to their popularity that the show’s producers chose them to follow The Beatles on the program on each of their two appearances. On the first occasion, Allen won over the screaming crowd by saying, “I’m Ringo’s mother!”
Notwithstanding any dubious parenthood claims, Allen and Rossi also popped up on several game shows of the era, including Password, Match Game and I’ve Got a Secret. But questions were asked when the double act hit the big screen together in spy spoof The Last of the Secret Agents? in 1966. Sadly, the movie bombed with both critics and audiences alike, with The New York Times damning it as a “vehicle made of plywood and cheesecloth.” Allen and Rossi, perhaps realizing their limitations, amicably split up just two years later.