Portland Hoffa (Portland Hoffa)

Portland Hoffa

Portland Hoffa (January 25, 1905, Portland, Oregon – December 25, 1990, Los Angeles, California) was an American comedienne, actress, and dancer. As with most of her siblings, including sister Lebanon and brother Harlem, she was named for the city where she was born. She is remembered best as the stage and radio partner of her first husband, Fred Allen. Allen hosted several highly successful network radio shows in the 1930s and 1940s, in which Hoffa often participated. A veteran of vaudeville and Broadway-level stage productions, Portland Hoffa met Allen while performing in The Passing Show in 1922 and joined him in his vaudeville routines (centered on his clever jokes spun off his weakness as a juggler). The couple married before Allen began his long-running radio work in 1932. Because Allen was a devout Roman Catholic Hoffa took instruction in the Catholic faith prior to the marriage. Portland Hoffa became familiar for her high-pitched voice, her brief routines involving jokes bounced off or from her mother, and, later, strolling Allen’s Alley with her husband, after asking him what his question of the week for the Alley denizens would be. Although Hoffa performed under her real name on her husband’s show, the character she portrayed as “Portland Hoffa” in the radio broadcasts was not Allen’s wife; instead, she depicted an enthusiastic girl of indeterminate age, around thirteen years old. One of Allen’s sponsors loathed the character played by Hoffa, and kept urging Allen to drop her from the show. Allen ignored these requests for as long as he could, then finally — in an angry outburst at a sales meeting — told the executive that the broadcasts were bearable only due to Hoffa’s presence, and that if she were removed from the program then Allen would quit.

Allen’s declining health was the main reason why he ceased hosting his own show after 1949, but Portland Hoffa often joined him as a semi-regular on Tallulah Bankhead’s radio variety show, The Big Show (1950–52). She also appeared as the “mystery guest” on one episode of television’s What’s My Line, on which Allen had become a panelist from 1954 until his death in early 1956. Hoffa and Allen had also appeared in such films as Is Everybody Listening? (1947) and the Jack Benny vehicle Buck Benny Rides Again (1940). Portland Hoffa remarried in 1959, to bandleader Joe Rines, later an advertising executive. Hoffa and Rines lived long enough to celebrate a silver wedding anniversary, allowing Hoffa an unusual second such anniversary in one lifetime.[citation needed] In 1965, she rounded up a large volume of her first husband’s correspondence to be edited into Fred Allen’s Letters. Rines died in 1986. Hoffa has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Twice widowed and childless, Hoffa died of natural causes in 1990, aged 85.

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Born

  • January, 25, 1905
  • USA
  • Portland, Oregon

Died

  • December, 25, 1990
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • natural causes

Cemetery

  • Gate of Heaven Cemetery
  • Hawthorne, New York
  • USA

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