Notable deaths

Steve Rossi,
comedian

Steve Rossi, one half of the prolific comedy duo Allen & Rossi, which became a favorite of “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other TV variety shows, died June 22 in Las Vegas. He was 82.

The cause was cancer of the esophagus, said Michael Flores, a friend.

Mr. Rossi and Marty Allen appeared regularly on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” and “The Merv Griffin Show.” They toured comedy clubs nationwide and headlined shows at major Las Vegas casinos in the 1960s. They also starred in a movie, the spy parody “The Last of the Secret Agents?” (1966), and appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show multiple times with The Beatles.

After Mr. Rossi and Allen broke up in 1968, Mr. Rossi formed a new comedy partnership with Slappy White, an African American. They released a comedy album, “I Found Me a White Man, You Find Yourself One!,” before parting company. In more recent years, Mr. Rossi was a guest on Howard Stern’s radio show.

Mr. Rossi was born Joseph Charles Michael Tafarella in the Bronx. Early in his career, he played straight man in a nightclub act with Mae West.

Felix Dennis,
publisher

Felix Dennis, a flamboyant publisher who co-edited the 1960s underground magazine Oz and went on to build a magazine empire, died June 22 at his home in Dorsington, England. He was 67.

The cause was cancer, his office announced.

Mr. Dennis came to prominence as a defendant in the 1971 trial of Oz for “conspiracy to corrupt public morals.” Mr. Dennis and his two co-defendants were charged after asking high school students to put together an issue of the magazine; it included an obscene depiction of children’s character Rupert Bear.

It became a cause celebre, with the “Oz Three” drawing support from celebrities including John Lennon.

Defended by lawyer and novelist John Mortimer, creator of fictional barrister “Rumpole of the Bailey,” they were acquitted of conspiracy but sentenced to jail for lesser offenses. They were eventually acquitted on appeal.

Mr. Dennis went on to run his own magazine firm, launching it with Kung-Fu Monthly, at the height of Bruce Lee’s popularity. Dennis Publishing went on to publish some of Britain’s first computer magazines and produce titles including men’s magazine Maxim and news digest The Week.

Mr. Dennis, who once claimed to have spent $100 million on “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” became a prolific poet in later life.

Jimmy C. Newman,
Grand Ole Opry performer

Jimmy C. Newman, a Grand Ole Opry performer known for mixing Cajun and country music, died June 21 in Nashville. He was 86.

Opry publicist Jessie Schmidt confirmed the death but did not disclose the cause.

Mr. Newman’s first Top 10 country hit, “Cry, Cry, Darling,” came out in 1954. That same year he joined Shreveport-based radio show “The Louisiana Hayride,” where he performed alongside Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley and others.

He joined the Opry in 1956, after notching five straight Top 10 records, including “Seasons of My Heart.” In 1957, Mr. Newman earned his highest-charting record with “A Fallen Star,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard country chart and No. 23 on the pop chart.

Mr. Newman also offered a boost to a teenage Dolly Parton by allowing her to take part of his “Friday Night Opry” stage time in 1959 so that she could make her debut on the show.

Originally from Louisiana, Mr. Newman added the “C’’ to his stage name in the early 1960s, saying that it stood for “Cajun.” The French Acadian-sounding “Alligator Man” hit the Top 40 in 1962, and Mr. Newman recognized that a Cajun-country blend would set him apart and honor his roots.

Although never a chart dynamo, Mr. Newman was a steadily entertaining personality for 60 years and a cultural ambassador for southeastern Louisiana.

— From news services

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