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L E’s Stories – “One of America’s Most Cherished Entertainers Is A True San Antonio Rose” – The Story of Carol Burnett

Is there any person in America who grew up watching television from 1967 to 1978….who hasn’t watched the Carol Burnett Show more than once?….as I kinda doubt it….for this was the program that really started Carol Burnett on her path to becoming one of America’s most  cherished entertainers of all time….and was the catalyst for catapulting her on a career that is still alive and well as 2021 has just come into view.  There is absolutely no question that the tall red-headed gal from San Antonio, Texas….along with fellow red-head entertainment icon, Lucille Ball….set the gold standard for TV variety and comedy by a female…..which was unique in the fact that TV variety and comedy was reserved for the men during their tenure on “the boob tube”…..for to say that these two women were “the female pathfinders” of network TV….who both became simply beloved by their fans unlike any other women on television….and for that fact alone is why I am dedicating this story to Carol Burnett…..one of America’s most cherished entertainers and a true San Antonio rose.                                                                                                                         

Entertainment – 2003 – The Kennedy Center Honors Carol Burnett – With Julie Andrews, Chita Rivera, Elaine Stritch + Tim Conway

Carol Burnett is an American actress, comedian, singer and writer…. whose career spans seven decades of television…..as she is best known for her groundbreaking comedy variety show, The Carol Burnett Show….which originally aired on CBS…..as one of the first of its kind to be hosted by a woman.  She has achieved success on stage, television and film in varying genres….which includes dramatic and comedic roles.  She has also appeared on various talk shows and as a panelist on game shows….plus, she would later have several daughters joining her in variety of American television series and films….while she is the mother of actress Carrie Hamilton and Erin Hamilton, a singer.                                                                                        

Music & Entertainment – 1969 – Dolly Parton + Carol Burnett – “No One Picks Like A Nashville Picker Picks”                                                                                                                                                                            

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Burnett moved with her grandmother to Hollywood….where she attended Hollywood High School….and she eventually studied theater and musical comedy at UCLA.  Later she performed in nightclubs in New York City….and had a breakout success on Broadway in 1959 in Once Upon a Mattress….for which she received a Tony Award nomination.  She soon made her television debut….while regularly appearing on The Garry Moore Show for the next three years….and won her first Emmy Award in 1962.  Burnett had her television special debut in 1963 when she starred as Calamity Jane in the Dallas State Fair Musicals production of Calamity Jane on CBS…..and that is when she moved to Los Angeles and began an 11-year run as star of The Carol Burnett Show on CBS television from 1967 to 1978.  With its vaudeville roots, The Carol Burnett Show was a variety show that combined comedy sketches with song and dance. The comedy sketches included film parodies and character pieces. Burnett created many memorable characters during the show’s run…. and both she and the show won numerous Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.

 

Comedy & Entertainment – 1967 – The Carol Burnett Show – 1st Show – With Jim Nabors

During and after her variety show, Burnett appeared in many television and film projects…..as her film roles include Pete ‘n’ Tillie in 1972….The Front Page in 1974….The Four Seasons in 1981….Annie in 1982…. Noises Off in 1992….and Horton Hears a Who! in 2008.  On television, she has appeared in other sketch shows….with dramatic roles in 6 Rms Riv Vu in 1974 and Friendly Fire in 1979….and in various well-regarded guest roles, such as in Mad About You, for which she won an Emmy Award…..plus, in specials with Julie Andrews, Dolly Parton, Beverly Sills, and others.  She returned to the Broadway stage in 1995 in Moon Over Buffalo….for which she was again nominated for a Tony Award.                                                        

Drama & Entertainment – 1997 – Stage Performance – “Moon Over Broadway” With Carol Burnett

Burnett has written and narrated several memoirs….while earning Grammy nominations for almost all of them…..along with a win for In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Comedy & Entertainment – 1967 To 1979 – Special – Best Carol Burnett Show Bloopers

In 2005, she was recognized as “one of America’s most cherished entertainers” and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom “for enhancing the lives of millions of Americans and for her extraordinary contributions to American entertainment.” by President George W. Bush.  In 2013, Burnett was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  In 2019, the Golden Globes named an award after her for career achievement in television….which is called the Carol Burnett Award….and Burnett received its 1st award.

 

Comedy – 1972 – The Carol Burnett Show – With Robin Williams In “The Funeral”                                                         

After spending her first year in New York working as a hat-check girl and failing to land acting jobs, Burnett, along with other girls living at the Rehearsal Club….which was a boarding house for women seriously pursuing an acting career….as they put on The Rehearsal Club Revue  on March 3, 1955….as they mailed invitations to agents….who showed up along with stars like Celeste Holm and Marlene Dietrich….and this opened doors for several of the girls.  She was cast in a minor role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show in 1955.  She played the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program….which was the role that led to her starring role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom Stanley from 1956–57.

 

Comedy & Entertainment – 1964 – TV Show “What’s My Line” – With Panelist Buddy Hackett + Special Guest Carol Burnett

After Stanley, Burnett found herself unemployed for a short time…..but she eventually bounced back a few months later as a highly popular performer on the New York circuit of cabarets and night clubs….of which she was most notable for a hit parody number called “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles” (Dulles was Secretary of State at the time)…..when in 1957, she performed this number on both The Tonight Show, hosted by Jack Paar, and The Ed Sullivan Show.  Dulles was asked about her on Meet the Press and joked, “I never discuss matters of the heart in public.”                                                                                

Music – 1964 – Broadway Show “Once Upon A Mattress” With Carol Burnett Singing – “Shy”                                                                     

She also worked as a regular on one of television’s earliest game shows, Pantomime Quiz, during this time. In 1957, just as she was achieving her first small successes, her mother died.   In October 1960, Burnett debuted at New York’s Blue Angel Supper Club….where she was discovered by scouts for The Jack Paar Show and The Ed Sullivan Show.                                                                                                                        

Comedy & Music – 1958 – The Jack Paar Show – With Guest Comedian Carol Burnett

Burnett’s first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical Once Upon a Mattress….for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. The same year, she became a regular player on The Garry Moore Show, a job that lasted until 1962.  She won an Emmy Award that year for her “Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series” on the show….where she portrayed a number of characters, most memorably the put-upon cleaning woman who later became her signature alter-ego.  With her success on the Moore Show, Burnett finally rose to headliner status and appeared in the special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall in 1962…. while co-starring with her friend Julie Andrews.  The show was produced by Bob Banner, directed by Joe Hamilton, and written by Mike Nichols and Ken Welch.  Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music…..and Burnett won an Emmy for her performance.  She also guest-starred on a number of shows during this time, including The Twilight Zone episode “Cavender Is Coming”.                                              

Comedy – 1961 – The Gary Moore Show – Comedy Skit With Guests Jerry Lewis + Carol Burnett

In 1964, Burnett starred in the Broadway musical Fade Out – Fade In….but was forced to withdraw after sustaining a neck injury in a taxi accident…..as she returned to the show later….but withdrew again to participate in a variety show, The Entertainers, opposite Caterina Valente and Bob Newhart…..when the producers of Fade Out – Fade In sued the actress for breach of contract after her absences from the popular show caused its failure….but the suit was later dropped….and The Entertainers ran for only one season.                                                                                                                                                                              

Music & Comedy – 1962 – Live At Carnegie Hall – Julie Andrews + Carol Burnett Sing – “The History of Musical Comedies In America”

Around the same time, she became good friends with Jim Nabors, who was enjoying great success with his series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C…..and as a result of their close friendship, she played a recurring role on Nabors’ show as a tough corporal, later gunnery sergeant (starting with the episode “Corporal Carol”).  Later, Nabors was her 1st guest on her variety show each season, as she considered him to be her good-luck charm.                                                                                                                                                                         

Music & Comedy – 1978 – TV Show “Gomer Pyle” – With Carol Burnett + Jim Nabors Singing A Medley Of Songs

In 1959, Lucille Ball became a friend and mentor to Burnett. After having guested on Burnett’s highly successful CBS-TV special Carol + 2….and having the younger performer reciprocate by appearing on The Lucy Show….as it was rumored that Ball offered Burnett a chance to star on her own sitcom….but in truth Burnett was offered and declined to appear in Here’s Agnes by CBS executives.  The two women remained close friends until Ball’s death in 1989…..as Ball sent flowers every year on Burnett’s birthday…..and when Burnett awoke on the day of her 56th birthday in 1989, she discovered via the morning news that Ball had died….and later that afternoon, flowers arrived at Burnett’s house with a note reading, “Happy Birthday, Kid. Love, Lucy.”                                                                                                                         

Comedy – 1974 – The Carol Burnett Show – With Lucille Ball + Carol Burnett Staring In “As The Stomach Turns”                                                                                                                                                                                       

In 1967, CBS offered to put Burnett in a weekly comedy series called Here’s Agnes…..however, she had a stipulation in her ten-year contract with CBS that said she had five years from the date The Garry Moore Show ended to “push the button” on hosting thirty one-hour episodes of a music/comedy variety show….and as a result, the hour-long Carol Burnett Show was born and debuted in September 1967….. which over the 11 year tenure of the show while garnering 23 Emmy Awards and winning or being nominated for multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Awards every season it was on the air.  Its ensemble cast included Tim Conway (who was a guest player until the ninth season), Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and the teenaged Vicki Lawrence….whom Burnett discovered and mentored.  The network initially did not want her to do a variety show because it believed only men could be successful at variety….but her contract required that it give her one season of whatever kind of show she wanted to make….and she chose to carry on the tradition of past variety show successes.

 

Comedy – 1973 – The Carol Burnett Show – With Tim Conway’s “Elephants”                                                                    

A true variety show, The Carol Burnett Show struck a chord with viewers. Among other things, it parodied films (Went with the Wind! for Gone with the Wind), television (As the Stomach Turns for the soap opera As the World Turns) and commercials…..plus, musical numbers were also a frequent feature.  Burnett and her team struck gold with the original sketch “The Family”….which eventually was spun off into the television show Mama’s Family, starring Vicki Lawrence.                                                                                    

Music & Entertainment – 1970 – The Carol Burnett Show – Tribute To The Beatles “Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”                                                                                                                                                                   

She opened most shows with an impromptu question-and-answer session with the audience, lasting a few minutes, during which she often demonstrated her ability to humorously ad lib.  On numerous occasions, she obliged when asked to perform her trademark Tarzan yell.  She ended each show by tugging on her left ear….which was a message to her grandmother…..as this was done to let her know that she was doing well and that she loved her.  During the show’s run, her grandmother died….when on an Intimate Portrait episode about Burnett, she tearfully recalled her grandmother’s last moments…. “She said to my husband Joe from her hospital bed ‘Joe, you see that spider up there?’ There was no spider, but Joe said he did anyhow. She said ‘Every few minutes a big spider jumps on that little spider and they go at it like rabbits!!’…..and then she died….“there’s laughter in everything!”   She continued the tradition of tugging her ear. The show ceased production in 1978.  Four post-script episodes were produced and aired on ABC during the summer of 1979 under the title, Carol Burnett & Company basically using the same format….with the exception of Harvey Korman and Lyle Waggoner,….and the same supporting cast.  Beginning in 1977, the comedy sketches of her series were edited into half-hour episodes for syndication entitled Carol Burnett and Friends…..which for many years proved to be extremely popular in syndication….then in January 2015 they began airing on MeTV.

 

Comedy – 1977 – Carol Burnett & Friends Show – With Guest Tommy Smothers in “The Family Visits The Hospital”                                                                                                                                                                             

The show’s enduring popularity surprised many when a 2001 retrospective containing outtakes and discussions with the cast….and a tribute to Bob Mackie…..drew in 30 million viewers….which topped the Emmy Awards….as well as all but the final game of that year’s World Series.  Her Grammy-winning memoir In Such Good Company is about the show….as Burnett tells about how it was developed….with anecdotes about improvisations, the cast, crew, and guests.                                                                               

Comedy – 1967 to 1979 – The Carol Burnett Show – “The Best Ever Crack-Ups”                                                                      

Burnett starred in a few films while her variety show was running….to include Pete ‘n’ Tillie in 1972….then she was nominated for an Emmy in 1974 for her role in the drama 6 Rms Riv Vu.  After her show ended, she assumed a number of roles that departed from comedy…..when she appeared in several dramatic roles….with most notably being in the television movie Friendly Fire.  She appeared as Beatrice O’Reilly in the film Life of The Party: The Story of Beatrice…..which was a story about a woman fighting her alcoholism.  Her other film work includes  Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons in 1981…..John Huston’s Annie in 1982….and Peter Bogdanovich’s Noises Off in 1992.                                                                                                                

Music & Comedy – 1982 – Movie Scene From “Annie” – With Carol Burnett Singing “Little Girls”                                   

In 2008, she had her 2nd role as an animated character in the film Horton Hears a Who!….while her 1st was in The Trumpet of the Swan in 2001….then in 2012, she had another voice role in The Secret World of Arrietty….which was followed in 2019……as she voiced a talking chair, named Chairol Burnett, in Toy Story 4…..for one thing is for sure, Carol Burnett had a very distinctive voice that was easily recognizable even when attached to an animated character.                                                                                                                                                                                              

Comedy & Entertainment – 2018 – Conan On TBS Show – With Guest Carol Burnett – “I Was Told Comedy Was A Man’s Game”                                                                                                                                                            

Carol Burnett was the 1st celebrity to appear on the children’s series Sesame Street on that series’ 1st episode on November 10, 1969.  She also made occasional returns to the stage in the 1970’s and 1980’s…. when in 1974, she appeared at the Muny Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri, in I Do! I Do! with Rock Hudson….and eleven years later, she took the supporting role of Carlotta Campion in the 1985 concert performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.  She made frequent appearances as a panelist on the game show Password….which was an association she maintained until the early 1980’s (in fact, Mark Goodson awarded her his Silver Password All-Stars Award for best celebrity player…..while she’s also credited with coming up with the title Password Plus….when it was originally planned to be titled Password ’79.                                              

Comedy – 1989 – The Muppet Show – With Guest Carol Burnett

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, she made several attempts at starting a new variety program…..plus, she also appeared briefly on The Carol Burnett Show’s “The Family” sketches spin-off, Mama’s Family, as her stormy character, Eunice Higgins.  She played the matriarch in the cult comedy miniseries Fresno….which parodied the prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest.  She returned to TV in the mid-1990’s as a supporting character on the sitcom Mad About You….while playing Theresa Stemple, the mother of main character Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt)…. for which she won another Emmy Award.  In 1995, after an absence of 30 years, she was back on Broadway in Moon Over Buffalo….for which she was nominated for a Tony Award….and then four years later, she appeared in the Broadway revue Putting It Together.  In 2014, Burnett joined two-time Tony Award Winner, Brian Dennehy, on Broadway in A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters.                                                                                                                                                       

Comedy – 1972 – The Carol Burnett Show Sketch – “Cinderella Gets It On” – With The Pointer Sisters

Burnett had long been a fan of the soap opera All My Children….and realized a dream when Agnes Nixon created the role of Verla Grubbs for her in 1983…..when Burnett played the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford (Louis Edmonds)….which caused trouble for her stepmother Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford (Ruth Warrick).  She made occasional appearances on the soap opera in each decade thereafter. She hosted a 25th-anniversary special about the show in 1995….and made a brief cameo appearance as Verla Grubbs on the January 5, 2005, episode which celebrated the show’s 35th anniversary.   She reprised her role as Grubbs in September 2011 as part of the series’ finale.                                                                                                      

Comedy – 1975 – The Carol Burnett Show Sketch – “Mrs Wiggins Car Problems” – With Tim Conway

She also starred in television films such as Seasons of the Heart in 1994….and then she returned in 2005 to star in a different role as Queen Aggravain in the movie version of Once Upon a Mattress.  Also, she guest-starred in season two of Desperate Housewives as Bree’s stepmother, Elanor Mason.  In 2009, she made a guest appearance on the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit…..for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. In November 2010, she guest-starred on an episode of Glee as the mother of cheer leading coach Sue Sylvester.  She has made a recurring role, traditionally on Thanksgiving-themed episodes, of Hawaii Five-0 as Steve McGarrett’s Aunt Debbie since 2013, until Aunt Deb died from cancer in the January 15, 2016 episode.                                                                      

Music & Entertainment – 2013 – Hawaii Five O Episode “Annie Gets Your Gun” – Carol Burnett Sings “I Got The Sun In The Morning And The Moon At Night”                                                                                                           

In the 2010’s, aside from the occasional guest starring role on a television show, Burnett has mostly stayed away from the spotlight, receiving honorary awards for her groundbreaking work in comedy….. when in 2013 she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center……as those who were there to honor Burnett included her longtime friends and collaborators Julie Andrews, Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway….as well as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rashida Jones, and Martin Short.                                                                                                                                                                                        

Music & Entertainment – 2013 – The Kennedy Centers Honors Carol Burnett – “With Gowns Made Just For Carol”                                                                                                                                                                                      

In 2017, CBS aired The Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Special. The event featured Burnett with original cast members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, costume designer Bob Mackie…..and special guests included Jim Carrey, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Colbert, Harry Connick Jr., Bill Hader, Jay Leno, Jane Lynch, Bernadette Peters, Maya Rudolph, and Martin Short.   Burnett spoke about the adversity she endured, saying “They said it was a man’s game — Sid Caesar, Dean Martin, Milton Berle — because it hadn’t been done. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done.”                                                                                           

Comedy – 1977 – The Carol Burnett Show Sketch – “The Butler And The Maid”                                                          

In 2019, the Golden Globes created an award in Burnett’s name, the Carol Burnett Award, for career achievement in television.  Burnett was also announced as the 1st recipient of the award.  The Hollywood Foreign Press said in a statement “For more than 50 years, comedy trailblazer Carol Burnett has been breaking barriers while making us laugh”.   Steve Carell presented the award to Burnett.                                             

Comedy – 1967 To 1978 – Special – The Carol Burnett Show Presents – “My Personal Best – Love Carol”                                                                            

Any way you cut the pie, Carol Burnett has been entertaining millions and millions of folks with her ability to make people laugh….while touching their hearts with good wholesome entertainment that has carried her adoring fans throughout most of their lives….and the fact remains that there are very few folks that you can say that about.  Carol Burnett has done so much more than span the test of time….for she has made the journey so much more enjoyable….and for this we salute Carol Burnett as one of America’s most cherished entertainers ….cuz we thank her for teaching us that there is laughter in everything.                                        

Comedy – 1978 – The Carol Burnett Show Presents – “The Royal Family” – As Carol Cracks Up

 

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