Tinsel, Tap, and Real Comedic Talent

As you might presume, a visit with my mother often includes talking about things we don’t see or have anymore, the good old days. NOT that my mother lives in the past, far from it, she’s modern in every way shape and form, but she does miss good music, real talent on the stage and screen, and real tinsel on the Christmas trees.

The conversation yesterday started with Steve Allen, who in my mind was the Original Talk Show host and brilliant comic timing and king of the one-liners. His brain was killer sharp, ad-libbing like no other to follow him, although Johnny Carson came awfully close.


Steve Allen’s Show would never be allowed to air today – his Man on the Street skits mocked everyone and while I realize Jimmy Kimmel does a version of this skit on his show, it’s nothing like the old Allen version.

Allen was probably most famous for his contagious laugh – there’s no way any human being can stay mad or in a bad mood hearing this laughter. It’s real too…. I think Allen cracked himself up all the time.

His Sport Roundup skits were utterly hysterical – here’s the only one I can find on YT.

There’s very little out there in public domain of old Steve Allen show footage – one or two, but not lots which must mean the family owns the rights and keeps the tapes in a vault somewhere or else they are at a museum. I’d love to know where, then track it all down, spend a day or a week or even a full year doing nothing but watching old Steve Allen tapes.

Then there’s tap dancing, not just any tap dancing, but tap dancing by black brother groups. And by brother I don’t mean today’s meaning brotha, I mean brother as in sibling.

The Nicholas Brothers. Wow, just wow

And the equally wow, just wow Berry Brothers.

Where did tap dancing go? Why are there no black tap dancers today? Do blacks see these troupes racist today? Golly, I sure as heck don’t. This was talent, pure and simple, men doing what they knew how to do, and making money for their talent. If that’s racist, damn, I am really confused.

And then there’s tinsel. Long ago, Swanton sent me a link to a thread called Our Life in Old Pictures – plastic baby diapers, ear piercing with a needle (I did this in college), the transistor radio (who of us didn’t own one??) and real deal tinsel, the thing I miss the most.




It’s Friday – the week flew by and so has time in general. This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of 9-11. I can remember as if it were yesterday, where I was, to whom I spoke to first, what we were worried about, family in the city trying to get out, friends who died in the Towers, fear of flying, worry for war. God Bless America folks. And have a great weekend.

7 thoughts on “Tinsel, Tap, and Real Comedic Talent

  1. I saw the show Maurice Hines did this year in NYC. He had great clips and photos of his whole life and his brother Gregory– tapped their whole lives and the show had 2 current young brother from DC Manzri Brothers.

    The Show “Shuffle Along” was choreographed by Savion Glover, one of the current BEST tap dancers and promoters. Audra MacDonald danced while 5 mos. pregnant in the show!. Ben Vereen did a show in Stamford a few months back and he’s still doing a few steps, even after David Foster hit him with a car, he lived. he dances. Nigel Lythgoe on So You Think You can Dance is a bit promoter of Tap and it’s his favorite dance form.

    1. The Hines Brothers were superb. My sister and BIL were angels to a Broadway show starring Gregory Hines called Comin’ Uptown. They thought they’d make a fortune. The show lasted less than one month. 😁 He was talented but it was not a talent in 1979 that brought people to see the show.

      I saw Savion Glover perform too and I realize there ARE tap dancers today but it’s a lost art form in the sense that too few people are interested in seeing tap dancers. I think it’s an amazing skill and I adore seeing tap dancers but still long gone are the days when it was the norm. Every star of the 30s and 40s knew how to tap. Today, not so much. It’s like how Steve Allen was a true Renaissance Man. He did it all. Few stars today are that deeply skilled.

      Great clip. Thanks!!

    1. And how’s your bird??

      Frank Zappa was a guest on Steve Allen in 1963 where Zappa played music from parts of a bicycle. At the end of the segment Zappa plugs his new song, How’s Your Bird, the line of which you quoted.
      I can’t find any original footage of Zappa singing the tune.

  2. Steve Allen wrote a lot of books. His mysteries were entertaining and clever with Jayne Meadows as the main character. Fun to read.

    1. He did it all. I do remember he and Jayne fought against obscenity in media. I don’t know if it was a religious based decision or a moral conviction that made them make it a cause. I believe they were very conservative.

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