Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mae West: Steve Rossi Dies

MAE WEST invited a handsome young Italian American to perform with her — — and she renamed him Steve Rossi.
• • Las Vegas Sun reporter John Katsilometes was the first to mark the passing of the legendary entertainer: Steve Rossi died just before 2 p.m. today (Sunday) at a Las Vegas hospice at age 82. He had suffered from cancer in his lungs, esophagus and liver. Family and friends, including his wife of 11 years, Karma, surrounded him at the time of his passing. Tentative plans are for a memorial service at Palm Eastern Mortuary on Friday.
• • Source: Las Vegas Sun; published on Sunday, 22 June 2014.
• • Associated Press added this detail: LAS VEGAS (AP) — Steve Rossi, one half of the prolific comedy duo Allen and Rossi, which became a favorite of "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other TV variety shows, has died at age 82.
• • Associated Press continued:  His friend of 40 years, Michael Flores told The Associated Press on Sunday that he visited the pal who introduced him to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in hospice care Friday, and he was weak from cancer of the esophagus that had spread but wasn't in any pain.
• • The information below is based upon our extensive interview about ten years ago with Mr. Rossi.  This material was published and our text and the photo (given to us by Mr. Rossi) are © copyrighted. Be courteous and do not steal it; kindly ask for permission to reprint it first.
• • Steve Rossi [25 May 1932 — 22 June 2014] • •
• • Joseph Charles Tafarella was born on 25 May 1932 in New York, NY.
• • He's been on center stage since he was nine. Born on Third Avenue and East 111th Street in Manhattan's East Harlem section, he was most influenced by his father's success in the entertainment business. "We owned a book printed in 1929 that listed Santi Tafarella as the world's greatest cornet player," he proudly recalls. "Papa was also an experienced musical arranger and notator." During the Depression, NBC Radio in California hired Santi Tafarella, who immediately moved his family to North Hollywood and got his son enrolled in the prestigious Robert Mitchell Boy Choir School. Touring with them, the youngster learned to serenade God in seven languages including Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.
• • While his father toiled away, making beautiful music with NBC, Catherine Bianco Tafarella was busy driving her son to auditions. At 12 years old, he harmonized with Hollywood's version of a priest — — Bing Crosby — — in Going My Way (1944); at 14, he sang in The Jolson Story (1946). This was an auspicious beginning: both pictures scored at the Academy Awards and more roles in movie musicals followed.
• • Much as he loved being onscreen, he had a yearning for higher learning. In 1949, Santi Tafarella's son entered Loyola University on a scholarship, majoring in communication arts and theater. Couple of years later, he was playing the lead in The Vagabond King for the Civic Light Opera Company in Los Angeles when he caught the eye of a Hollywood icon.
• • Mae West, clad in furs and jewels, came up to see him backstage with her manager Jerry Franks. "I told her I was a student at a Catholic university. Mae West said, 'I don't give a damn. You're a terrific singer and you've got a great body and a great face. I want you to be the leading man in my show, and I'll sign you up with my agency, William Morris.'" The 60-year-old actress ushered him into her new Las Vegas extravaganza that would feature modern gladiators: Mr. Universe, Mr. America, Mr. World, and other musclemen. "Though several of these bodybuilders were gay," he chuckles, "Mae West slept with them all!"
• • Continue reading about Mae West and Steve Rossi in tomorrow's blog.
• • Source:   © 2014 The Mae West Blog
• • On Friday, 25 June 1926 • •
• • It was on Friday, 25 June 1926 that Mae West appeared with Al Jolson — — as well as Houdini and other entertainers (such as George M. Cohan, Fanny Brice, the Marx Brothers, Ann Pennington, Hazel Dawn, Eddie Foy, etc.) — — at the Polo Grounds on West 155th Street in Manhattan's Washington Heights area. The fundraiser was for the benefit of the United Jewish Campaign.
• • Overheard in Hollywood • •
• • Meanwhile under the Shubert aegis, Mae West continues to tour in "Come On Up."
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Where do I write my screenplays? Usually in bed. Like Mark Twain. He wrote good stuff, too. Besides, it keeps me in the mood."  
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article in a California newspaper mentioned Mae West.
• • "Mae West Accused of Filching Air Skit" (Associated Press Leased Wire)
• • LOS ANGELES, June 21 — The Garden of Eden radio skit, back In December, 1937, which got Mae West ruled off the air had an aftermath in federal court today. Judge Harry Hollzer had under advisement a $10,000 copyright infringement suit brought by Joan Storm Dezendorf against Miss West, the National Broadcasting Co., and others.
• • Miss Dezendorf, Hollywood writer, charges part of the skit was taken from her copyrighted play "Love and Applesauce."
• • Miss West is in New York, but her lawyers contended the actress had never heard of the play. "
• • Source: Associated Press article rpt in The Bakersfield Californian; published on Wednesday, 21 June 1939  
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started nine years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2943rd blog post. Unlike many blogs, which draw upon reprinted content from a newspaper or a magazine and/ or summaries, links, or photos, the mainstay of this blog is its fresh material focused on the life and career of Mae West, herself an American original.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:

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• • Mae West in 1953

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