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Billy Ingram

Las Vegas Legends

How Las Vegas Comedian Marty Allen
Almost Cost Me My Foot

by Billy Ingram

"They [The Beatles] had no idea who we were. I walked over to John Lennon and said, 'John, a lot of people mistake me for you.' He laughed. I had the Zulu haircut. There's a great photo of them playing with my hair." — Marty Allen

The first superstar I ever met was Andy Williams who bounced me on his knee at The Plantation Supper Club on High Point Road, or so my parents reminded me ad infinitum, I was 2-years old at the time. 10 years passed before I met another celebrity… and I'll wear the scar from that encounter until my dying day.

Early one Saturday morning in 1968, I found myself peddling up Northwood to Greensboro's newest Winn-Dixie at (what is now) 1616 Battleground, a large retail center today fronted by Main & Taylor and Huntington Learning Center. The reason? On hand to greet the fine folks entering the home of "The Beef People" that day, Winn-Dixie had booked Las Vegas comedy headliners Allen & Rossi. No idea why, maybe they were playing the Plantation because the store's grand opening had occurred months earlier.

Even though Allen & Rossi's blunt force attempts at laughter largely left me cold, I still wanted to roll my grapes over 2 real Tinsel Town TV stars. Comedian Marty Allen & singer Steve Rossi blended their 2 disparate acts in 1957, not-so-coincidentally a year after the incredibly lucrative Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis nightclub act busted up. As a result, Allen & Rossi became the most successful of a multitude of Martin & Lewis imitators that chased that improbable dream of sold out club dates and marquee dominance. Like Deano, Steve Rossi was a handsome, statuesque Italian crooner ("Al Di La") plagued with a befuddled-looking, bushy-headed nincompoop, Marty Allen, with his own lame catch phrase: "Hello Dere!"

A mainstay of The Ed Sullivan Show, Allen & Rossi were on the broadcast the night The Beatles made their American debut. Infiltrating some 700 talk and variety shows in the sixties, they were perhaps best known for the summer of '66 big screen flop The Last of the Secret Agents?, a lethargic James Bond spoof where Nancy Sinatra languished as the movie's femme foil. That film was directed by a true legend - a guy I had the pleasure to collaborate with years later - Norman Abbott (The Munsters, Sanford & Son).

In one of mankind's greatest leaps in technology until the impending moon landing, when Winn-Dixie customers at this location stepped on a rubber mat at the entrance those heavy, metal-framed doors whooshed open automatically. Land o'Goshin, I don't believe anyone 'round here had ever witnessed such a mechanical marvel, at least I hadn't. When those doors swung open with no effort for the little old lady in front of me she stopped, looked skyward then whispered, "Thank you Jesus." (I may be wrong, Big Bear at Lawndale could have been first with the automatic doors but bear with me.)

As I approached the famous comedy team meandering by WD's meat display, Allen spun around unexpectedly, crushing the big toe on my left foot under the heel of his impeccably shined black patent leather shoes, the kind gangsters wore in the movies but were rarely observed around these parts. As I cried out in pain Allen sneered, looked over at his partner muttering under his breath, "Can you believe people walk around barefoot in a grocery store? What kind of hick town is this?!?"

In all fairness, it really wasn't that unusual for kids to wander around everywhere in bare feet back then, before signs stating, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" began popping up. I probably wasn't wearing a shirt either.

Peddling painfully home, I showed the injured toe to my dad who said it was fine. A week later socks began sticking to that scabbed-over appendage but my parents assured me everything would be okay. When red vines began creeping up my leg, I once again asked if this was still in the vein of what they considered normal. Dad, who had served in the Army (quite literally, he was a Mess Sergeant), recognized immediately a serious infection was underway. We secured an emergency appointment with a podiatrist who told us in no uncertain terms, "Obviously the foot will have to go but we might be able to save the leg." I told the doc, "Oh, heck no! That's not gonna happen."

That podiatrist proffered what admittedly was a long-shot solution, there may be a chance to save my foot by soaking it in scalding water and Epson Salts pretty much every waking hour. The Doc operated on my big toe, carving away the worst of it as well as half of the toenail in the process, then wrapped that melange in so much gauze I had to cut an opening out of the tip of my left Topsider to accommodate the bulk.

Returning to Mendenhall Junior High (Home of the Mustangs!) on Monday, teachers were sympathetic to my plight until limping into Coach Loflin's gym class. Perpetually clad in a grey polyester polo shirt with the requisite whistle around his neck, Loflin was a pretty decent guy, sterling I suspect, but had this annoying habit of bestowing demeaning nicknames on classmates who weren't athletically inclined; his chosen epithet for me was 'Stick' (I was skinny, sue me). That wasn't so bad, there was one kid he referred to as 'Chigger.'

Spying me leaning on crutches upon entering his inner sanctorum, "Everybody gather around!" Loflin bellowed then whistled, "Stick is trying to get out of gym class with some dumb stunt or another." So sure I was faking, he instructed everyone in the gymnasium to assemble around me, even the girls dressed out in their faded blue bloomers, as Coach knelt down and began unbraiding that bulbous bandage.

As yellow hues that Panteen still hasn't replicated slowly emerged Loflin glared up at me and said, "You're good Stick but I'm on to you!" He continued unraveling until coming close to the bloody red center of my tootsie pop — then he began re-raveling.

Mere months after rubbing elbows and toes with the rubes at Winn-Dixie, Allen & Rossi split up suddenly. Exiled to a kitchen high chair mornings and evenings before and after school, I dunked my digits in that scorching Epson Salt brew for a month or so before getting the podiatrist's all-clear.

One would have to employ the Hubble Telescope to detect what is today a minute defect on the toe of what many forensic pathologists consider to be a flawless physique. That minor imperfection none-the-less serves as a daily reminder to steer clear of two-bit gagsters wearing mobbed up footwear.

- -

Of the 6 books published by Billy Ingram thus far, 2 are (mostly) about Greensboro history — Hamburger² and Eye on GSO — both breezy summer reads.





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Stuff you might not find at other web sites - Vegas Legends collects obscure stories about the greatest entertainers of all time! With rare performances from the casino showrooms and from the world of Television.

Frank Sinatra

Dean Martin

Sammy Davis Jr Story

Dean Martin Live in Las Vegas

Frank Sinatra
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Las Vegas in 1977

John Oliver: Las Vegas Is the Worst Place on Earth!

Jerry Vale

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George Burns

Don Rickles' Last Carson Appearance

Joan Rivers vs Johnny Carson

Angie Dickinson

Remembering Bobby Darin

Who Killed Elvis?

Viva Las Vegas!

Sammy Davis, Jr.

Las Vegas1967


Las Vegas in the 1950s

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Lola Falana

Don Rickles

Don Rickles' Last Show

Don Rickles vs Merv Griffin

Sonny & Cher

The Supremes

Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows

Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

Louis Prima

Pat Cooper

Johnny Carson

Mort Lindsey


TV's The Las Vegas Show

Red Buttons

Ernest Borgnine on Frank & Dean

Harlan Ellison vs Frank Sinatra

Demond Wilson on The Dean Martin Roasts, Las Vegas, and Walking Out on Sanford & Son

Liberace, Frank Sinatra, and Jackie Gleason Attempted an Intervention on Elvis in Las Vegas

What Las Vegas Looked Like Under Lockdown

Sammy Davis Jr.'s Home Was Looted!

Very Revealing Interview with Sammy Davis Jr.

Las Vegas in the 1940s

Frank Sinatra's Last Major Interview

Portrait of Frank Sinatra in 1959
Frank Sinatra in
Monte Carlo 1959

Drummer Hal Blaine on Recording with The Rat Pack

Marty Allen Almost Cost Me My Foot!

Home Movies of Las Vegas During The Strip's Golden Age

Donny & Marie Are Calling It Quits

Totie Fields

Sinatra's First Palm Springs Home

Phyllis Diller: An Appreciation

Steve Allen

Rich Little

Betty White on Don Rickles

Totie Fields

Sinatra's First Palm Springs Home

Phyllis Diller: An Appreciation

Steve Allen

Rich Little

Betty White on Don Rickles

Elvis' Background Singers

Wayne Newton

George Carlin

Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme

Redd Foxx

Las Vegas & The Mob

Henny Youngman

Rodney Dangerfield

How Las Vegas Has Changed Since the 1970s

How Las Vegas Has Changed Since the 1960s

More on How Las Vegas Has Changed Over the Years

Vegas Fashion

Joan Rivers

Las Vegas Postcards

TV's The Magician and Las Vegas

BONUS: Garry Shandling in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Legends

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