Alba, Ben 1957-
Alba, Ben 1957-
PERSONAL: Born 1957. Education: DePaul University, B.S.; Loyola University (Chicago, IL), J.D.
ADDRESSES: Office— College of Law, DePaul University, 25 E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Loyola University School of Law, Chicago, IL, instructor; William J. Sneckenberg & Associates (now Sneckenberg, Thompson & Brody), Chicago, attorney; DePaul University College of Law, Chicago, legal writing instructor and director of the bar passage program.
Inventing Late Night: Steve Allen and the Original Tonight Show, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Ben Alba is an attorney who studies the life and talent of one of the most versatile television entertainers of all time in Inventing Late Night: Steve Allen and the Original Tonight Show. In 1954 Allen brought to the small screen a format that entranced a nation and featured entertainers such as Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Steve Lawrence, Groucho Marx, Bud Abbott, and Lou Costello. His regulars included Don Knotts, Tom Poston, Louis Nye, Bill Dana, and his wife, actress Jayne Meadows. It was a program that replaced the test pattern and expanded viewing hours so that other shows soon followed. Comedy was a big part of the show, as was music. Allen, a pianist, performed and also invited jazz greats, including Buddy Rich and Thelonious Monk, and others such as classical pianist Van Cliburn and composer Leonard Bernstein. His comedy skits included his “Question Man,” in which he provided the question to an answer, and “Meeting of the Minds,” in which historical figures engaged in spirited discussions. Allen’s use of visuals have been imitated by many comedians and talk show hosts ever since.
In a Weekly Standard review of Inventing Late Night, Stefan Kanfer wrote: “Looking back, Allen observed, ‘I seem to have stumbled in at the right time in history, where a man who owns a combination of fairly mediocre abilities and wears a clean shirt can do well in a particular medium. A hundred years ago, I’d probably have been an unsuccessful writer.’ This modesty was both legitimate and false. He might well have failed in the creative arts a century before. But his abilities were far from commonplace. . .. As Ben Alba indicates in this lively hagiography, Allen drove himself hard, and never settled for the safe mediocrity of network programming.”
In a Daily Variety review, Steven Gaydos noted that the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the network that aired the show, destroyed most of the kinescopes of the original programs. Therefore, he noted: “This is one more reason to look into Alba’s merry tribute and get the feel of what latenight was like in more innocent times, when the brilliant Mr. Allen was having a blast ‘inventing’ on the fly what has become a multibillion-dollar industry.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, October 1, 2005, Mike Tribby, review of Inventing Late Night: Steve Allen and the Original Tonight Show, p. 13.
Daily Variety, November 17, 2005, Steven Gaydos, review of Inventing Late Night, p. A12.
Weekly Standard, December 5, 2005, Stefan Kanfer, review of Inventing Late Night.
DePaul University College of Law Web site, http://www.law.depaul.edu/ (February 2, 2007), brief biography.