Oldie but a Goodie

Steve Allen, the creator and first host of the Tonight Show, is still swinging at 76 -- and on September 17, he brings his act to Houston.

Allen was multimedia before the word had been invented. Sometimes called "one of the last great jazz musicians," he is also the author of 52 books, a playwright, a jazz pianist, a composer and a comedian. In one of his first film roles, Allen starred as Benny Goodman in The Benny Goodman Story. He wrote the lyrics for "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," "Picnic," "Impossible," "Gravy Waltz" and the Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters' hit "South Rampart Street Parade." And on the tube, he interviewed the likes of Errol Garner and Hoagy Carmichael.

On Thursday, Allen headlines the Today's Vision for Literacy Awards, which benefit the nonprofit Houston READ Commission. It's a good cause, and the recipients of the awards are surely good people -- but Allen's jazz and comedy will be the audience's sweet reward for sitting through the ceremony.

-- Russell Contreras

The Today's Vision for Literacy Awards take place September 17 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the Galleria. Reception begins at 6 p.m.; dinner and the main event, 79 p.m. Tickets $50. For reservations and information, call (281) 893-2971.

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Russell Contreras