Half of comedy duo Allen and Rossi
Steve Rossi, 82, one half of the prolific comedy duo Allen and Rossi, which became a favorite of "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other TV variety shows, died Sunday in hospice care in Las Vegas. He had cancer of the esophagus that had spread, said his longtime friend Michael Flores.
At their peak, Marty Allen and Rossi were as famous as any entertainment partnership in the country. They teamed in 1957, with Rossi's cool, handsome and composed disposition a hilariously jarring contrast to Allen's goofy and wild-haired presentation.
The duo appeared regularly on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson," "The Merv Griffin Show," "The Mike Douglas Show," "Dinah," "The Dean Martin Show" and "The Perry Como Show." They were guests on Ed Sullivan's show at least two dozen times, including appearances with the Beatles.
They also toured comedy clubs nationwide and headlined shows at major Las Vegas casinos in the 1960s until they split up in 1968.
"We had a lot of great years together," Allen told the Las Vegas Sun on Sunday. "He was a wonderful straight man, he was a wonderful talent and a wonderful man."
After their breakup, Rossi had a short partnership with comedian Joe E. Ross before joining Slappy White for a pioneering interracial comedy act in 1969. Rossi went on to appear again as Allen and Rossi, with comic Bernie Allen, during a run at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas in the 1970s, and would periodically reunite with Marty Allen for nightclub performances.
He was born Joseph Charles Michael Tafarella on May 25, 1932, in New York City, where his father was a cornet player. The family moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s and he attended what is now Loyola Marymount University. Trained as a singer with the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir, he appeared in films and performed with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera before being discovered by Mae West. She recruited him for her burlesque act and persuaded him to take a shortened stage name.
Flamboyant British publisher
Felix Dennis, 67, a flamboyant publisher who co-edited the 1960s underground magazine Oz and went on to build a British magazine empire, died of cancer Sunday at home in Dorsington, central England, his office said.
An enthusiastic participant in the 1960s counterculture, Dennis came to prominence as a defendant in the 1971 trial of Oz for "conspiracy to corrupt public morals."
Dennis and his two co-defendants were charged after asking high school students to put together an issue of the magazine; it included an obscene depiction of children's character Rupert Bear.
The incident became a cause celebre, with the "Oz Three" drawing support from celebrities including John Lennon.
Defended by lawyer and novelist John Mortimer, creator of fictional barrister "Rumpole of the Bailey," they were acquitted of conspiracy but sentenced to jail for lesser offenses. They were eventually acquitted on appeal.
Dennis went on to run his own magazine firm, launching it with Kung-Fu Monthly, at the height of Bruce Lee's popularity. Dennis Publishing went on to publish some of Britain's first computer magazines and produce titles including men's magazine Maxim and news digest The Week.
Dennis, who once claimed to have spent $100 million on "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll," became a prolific poet in later life.
Born May 27, 1947, in Kingston upon Thames, England, Dennis played in R&B bands in the 1960s and briefly attended art school before joining the staff of Oz.
Jimmy C. Newman
Opry member known for Cajun music
Jimmy C. Newman, 86, a Grand Ole Opry member known for mixing Cajun and country music, died in Nashville on Saturday after a brief illness, according to Opry publicist Jessie Schmidt.
Newman had his first top 10 country hit, "Cry, Cry, Darling," in 1954. That same year he joined "The Louisiana Hayride," a Shreveport,La.-based radio show, where he performed alongside Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley and others.
He joined the Opry in 1956, after notching five straight top 10 records, including "Seasons of My Heart." In 1957, Newman earned his highest-charting record with "A Fallen Star," which reached No. 2 on the Billboard country chart and No. 23 on the pop chart.
Newman also offered a boost to a teenage Dolly Parton by allowing her to take part of his "Friday Night Opry" stage time in 1959 so that she could make her debut on the show.
Originally from Louisiana, Newman added the "C" to his stage name in the early 1960s, saying that it stood for "Cajun." The French Acadian-sounding "Alligator Man" hit the top 40 in 1962, and Newman recognized that a Cajun-country blend would set him apart and honor his roots. He took pride in being considered the first Cajun artist to join the Opry.
Newman was a steadily entertaining personality for 60 years, a cultural ambassador for southeastern Louisiana and a smiling, engaging performer to the end. His final Opry performance with his band, Cajun Country, was on June 6.
Times staff and wire reports