Hoffa and Fred Allen met while on the road with The Passing Show of 1922, and started going together while the show was under extended engagement in Chicago. After the show closed Fred went back on the road in Vaudeville. When he returned to New York in the winter of 1927 he found that Portland had been taking instruction to become a Roman Catholic. Says Fred, “The next thing I know I had bought the ring, and Father Leonard was marrying Mary Portland and me at the Actor’s Chapel.”
The first thing a Vaudevillian does after getting married is write his wife into the act. Not only does this allow them to be together on the road, but if he had been a solo performer, he could now demand more money as a Double Act.
However Vaudeville was dying when Portland and Fred Allen hit the road together. So they began to investigate a new form of entertainment; now known as old time radio. Fred was determined to perform with his wife, but on the air Portland sounded nothing like herself. A character had to be invented for her, which Fred described as “a small e-flat Frankenstein monster.” Through most of their radio shows Portland’s character would join Fred at the mic as a comic foil for Fred after his monologue. When the Allen’s Alley segment was introduced it would be Portland who would ask Mr. Allen what his question of the week would be.
Portland Hoffa is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in Radio. Her star is at 1640 Vine St.