Live Web cast March 31, 2000, 1 p.m. ET
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Comedian, author and composer Steve Allen has spent more than 50 years in show business, but may still be best known as the founding host of The Tonight Show.
How Times Have Changed: Vulgarity in Entertainment Today
In 1953, Allen developed a late-night comedy program for the local NBC affiliate in New York City. The Tonight Show quickly went national. Three hosts and nearly 50 years later, Tonight remains on the air in much the same form, the longest-running entertainment show in television history.
Today, Allen is pouring some his considerable energy into a campaign to clean up the medium that made him a legend. Allen is the honorary chairman of the Parents Television Council, established in 1995 to promote "family-friendly" programming. The PTC battles against gratuitous violence, sex and obscene language on television.
The entertainer recently lent his name and face to a nationwide advertising campaign urging concerned parents to hit the networks where it counts -- in the pocketbook. In the ad, Allen says, "TV is leading children down a moral sewer." But, he tells parents, "you and I can end it... by reaching the TV sponsors whose ad dollars make it possible."
After getting his show-business start in radio, Allen worked his way into television in the 1950's. He made a name for himself as an ad-lib comedian, and in addition to Tonight has hosted several incarnations of The Steve Allen Show.
In addition to his success on the tube, Allen is a prolific author and composer. He has written dozens of books and thousands of songs. But his first love is comedy, and he literally grew up with laughter: His parents were the renowned vaudeville comedy team Montrose and Allen. Milton Berle once called his mother, Belle Montrose, "the funniest woman in vaudeville."
Steve Allen has four sons and 12 grandchildren. He lives in California with his wife, actress Jayne Meadows.
Related Web Sites
Parents TV Council
Steve Allen Online