Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 | 4:40 p.m.
John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone talk to comedian Steve Rossi, who was on the Ed Sullivan Show 43 times, including three times with the Beatles.
You think you know a guy, then without warning, he pulls out a spot-on impression of Ed Sullivan.
Steve Rossi performed such an impersonation this week as he remembered appearing alongside his performing partner, Marty Allen, on “The Ed Sullivan Show” during The Beatles’ first sweep through the U.S. in February 1964. The anniversary of the band’s debut appearance is Sunday, and at 8 that nigh,t CBS is airing an all-star tribute to the band’s first appearance with Sullivan (27 artists from The Beatles-Cirque du Soleil “Love” at the Mirage are joining the show for a spin through “Here Comes the Sun” with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Pharrell Williams, Brad Paisley and a host of other performers).
One of the biggest comedy acts in the country at the time of The Beatles’ arrival, Allen & Rossi appeared on the band’s first and second “Sullivan” shows in 1964, which aired from New York on Feb. 9 and Miami on Feb. 16. More than a year later, on Aug. 14, 1965, Allen & Rossi were again featured during an appearance by The Beatles, who were always given a generous complement of time on the show and sang six songs that night (including the debut of “Yesterday”).
Still a Las Vegas resident, Rossi shared his memories of those days with my radio co-host Tricia McCrone during this week’s episode of “Kats With the Dish,” which airs 7 p.m. Friday on KUNV 91.5-FM “The Source.”
On performing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” with The Beatles 50 years ago:
I knew how big they were, but they were really in awe of us because we had already done 15 appearances and were comedy stars of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” along with Alan King and, at that time, Jackie Mason.
On his interaction with the band:
I spoke to John (Lennon) and to Paul (McCartney), and John had a terrific sense of humor. He was not in awe of me, but the other three were saying, “Mr. Rossi, it is so marvelous. What a feeling to meet you personally. You are so well known all over the English-speaking world.” Then I jokingly said, “I’m glad you recognize that because we truly are the stars of this show, whether you want to believe it or not. That’s why 76 million people were tuning in. Until you guys came on the show, we used to have about 9 million.” But they were fans.
On the response of the thousands of young fans outside NBC studios:
The first show, there were over 25,000 teenage girls around the block of the studio. We all were driven there in limos, with security and police. They were throwing pictures and love notes into the cars, including nude pictures. They thought that our limos were part of The Beatles limos, so they were throwing them in, and I’m looking at them and saying, “What the hell is happening?"
We were supposed to do a dress rehearsal, like we always did, but Ed Sullivan said, “We are not going to do a dress rehearsal with the audience because those girls will go nuts, and they’ll screw it up.” We actually did the dress rehearsal without the girls, but when we did the show with the girls in the audience, forget about it.
On trying to perform comedy in the face of hundreds of screaming fans inside the theater:
Ed Sullivan said, “Now, Steve, we want you to sing a beautiful ballad right before you bring Marty on.” I said, “Just bring me on right after the commercial.” He said, “No, I’m going to bring you on right after (The Beatles) because I want you guys to get all the exposure you can.” I said, “Yeah, but we’ll probably bomb. These kids won’t know who in the hell we are. They are not going to laugh.”
I told Marty to come up with something funny when he walked out. He walked out with a Beatles wig on and said, “Hello, dere! I’m Ringo’s mother.” Once we did that, the routine worked. He won them over. It was incredibly successful.