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Portland Hoffa in 1940.
January 25, 1905
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
|Died||December 25, 1990
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Actress, comedian, dancer|
|Spouse(s)||Fred Allen (1927-1956; his death)
Joe Rines (1959-1986; his death)
Portland Hoffa (January 25, 1905, Portland, Oregon – December 25, 1990, Los Angeles, California) was an American comedian, 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.
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 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).
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. 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.
- DeLong, Thomas A. (1996). Radio Stars: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953 Performers, 1920 through 1960. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-2834-2. Pp. 131-132.
- Van Raalte, Joseph (January 11, 1930). "Bo Broadway". The Evening Independent. Ohio, Massillon. Central Press. p. 4. Retrieved June 7, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Laurie, Joe, Jr. Vaudeville: From the Honky-tonks to the Palace. New York: Henry Holt, 1953. p. 21.
- Fred Allen, Much Ado About Me (Boston: Little, Brown, 1956).
- Frank Buxton and Bill Owen, The Big Broadcast: 1920–1950 (New York: Flare Books/Avon, 1972).
- Portland Hoffa obituary, nytimes.com; accessed October 3, 2015.