The Kindness of Strangers – A Personal Memory of Marty Allen’s Generosity

Posted: February 14, 2018 in New Post

Today I read that Marty Allen, one half of the 1960s comedy team of Allen and Rossi, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 95. I am sure that most who read this blog – assuming ANYONE reads this blog – would be too young to know of Mr Allen.  But in the 60s, the team of Allen and Rossi graced the stages of many variety shows, not the least of which was The Ed Sullivan Show. Their humour was very popular if not as sophisticated as Seinfeld or SNL, but they made us laugh, and that is always a good thing. But the purpose of my writing today is not to rehash the career of long-forgotten comedians. You can Google their names if you are interested in TV trivia. You see, Marty Allen and his partner, Steve Rossi occupy a special memory from my childhood.

First, some background. Growing up my parents had a special connection the Congregation of the Passion order of Catholic priests. My uncle belonged to the order, as did my mother’s high school classmate, Fr. Joseph Guzinski.  Fr. Guzinski remained very close to my mom through the years and became a missionary on the small island of Jamaica. There, he laboured among the poor and struggled to build a church and bring food and medical care to the forgotten people in the mountains of that resort island. There was desperate poverty but Fr. Dunstan brought hope everywhere he went. My parents supported him with fund drives, medical supplies, and sponsorships. One was a Chinese-Jamaican exchange student who lived with my family when she attended Marywood College here in Scranton.  Fr. Dunstan was very good at spotting talent and Violet received his first scholarship and my first childhood crush. Alas, at 11 years old, the best I could hope for was to be her little brother.

 

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Fr. Dunstan and me

 

 

Fr. Dunstan was also good at promoting his causes and two of his most faithful partners in his missionary work was the comedy team of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi.  Through their popularity and generosity, they helped fund father’s many projects to alleviate the poverty in the mountains of Jamaica. Fr. Dunstan had an ear for music as well as academic excellence, and two of his children from the mission had talent that he insisted needed a boost. Regretfully, I no longer remember their names, but one played the concert piano and the other had the voice of an angel.

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Fr. Dunstan and his talented proteges

So Fr. Dunstan asked Allen and Rossi to help them out any way they could. What they came up with was better than anyone could have hoped for: A spot on the Ed Sullivan Show, the same studio where the greatest acts of their age appeared. Through their contacts in the industry, Allen and Rossi made these two poor Jamaican young men’s dream come true. They appeared on American TV on the biggest variety show at the time. I only met the young men briefly at my home as they were on the way to New York for the show, accompanied by my parents and Fr. Dunstan. That Sunday night, they met Allen and Rossi at the theatre and I watched at home as our “hometown” talent became stars for the night.  And all this was made possible through the kindness of two celebrities who shared their good fortune with the less fortunate.

Fr. Dunstan passed away in 2016. My parents have also left me with only their memories. So today, when I read Marty Allen’s obituary in the New York Times, I shed a few tears. Some for my lost childhood, and some for the kindness of this wonderful stranger.

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Allen and Rossi

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