Friday, December 2, 2011

Carol Burnett has 25 Emmys for her legendary work on her show for eleven years. She is the original that started the question and answer with the audience that was used in many shows of other entertainers. She did that so the audience would be able to get to know her before she put on costumes and became a funny character. She is known for what she does best. On stage, getting laughs and in films she puts smiles on faces all over America.
Her new book is called “This Time Together Laughter and Reflection.” The book tells stories from her years in Hollywood. Carol was the star of “The Carol Burnett Show” from 1967-1978. We all grew up watching her because her show provided us with comedy sketches, songs and dance routines. Her career began in theater in New York in the 1950’s.
As a live show, they were always getting out of character bursting into laughter. Every time Tim Conway was in a sketch, the other actors could not stop laughing. In her book she reveals that Tim would make changes when live that were not rehearsed and hilarious. Tim also had a goal to get another star of the show Harvey Korman to laugh no matter what in a sketch. Harvey was always laughing.
Women and laughter was scarce years ago but there were other legends too. People like Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers were the female icons of comics. They all had to fight to get to the top of their game. Men were not used to listening to women at work then. Lucille Ball was constantly having to add stuff to her lines to make her show funnier. She told Carol, soon they put an S at the end of my name.
Carol had a rough childhood. She was raised by her grandmother who was married six times. Even when she died at age 81 she had a 40 year old boyfriend who was a jazz musician. Once Carol tried to move a lamp in her apartment and her grandmother told her, “Don’t move that lamp. That is my love lamp!” Both of her parents were alcoholics.
She is also known for her court case against “The National Enquirer” which set a precedent that is used for many other famous people who are slandered by the press. Carol sued the publication and won. Burnett successfully sued the National Enquirer for libel in 1981. The publication printed that she was drunk and spilling drinks on people in a restaurant. Famous people like Henry Kissinger. Coming from her background, she did not want her fans to get that impression of her and besides, the story was false.
The lawsuit continued for 5 years that she relentlessly pursued. The case went to a jury trial that decided it was “a reckless disregard for the truth.” Her proof even included a memo from the Enquirer offices that read, “Kissinger and Burnett were at the same restaurant. What can we make of this?” That memo sealed the deal for Carol.
Having performed in comedies as well as dramas, she reveals in the book that she prefers performing in comedies over dramas. She appeared in films with Walter Matthau and Robert Altman. She also appeared in a recurring role on the sitcom as Helen Hunt’s mom in “Mad About You” in the 90’s. She hated it because with all the retakes for a sitcom, a taping could go on for 6 hours for a show that would be aired for 20 minutes minus commercials. Her live show with all the costume changes would only last 2 hours and it was a lot of fun.
In 2006, Burnett played Marcia Cross’s step mom on “Desperate Housewives.” In 2009 she made a guest appearance on “Law & Order, Special Victims Unit.” You will never see a show like her show on TV again because it is expensive to produce. She had a 28 piece live orchestra, 12 dancers, 2 major guest stars a week, and 55 costumes made by the designer Bob Mackie every week. There were other variety live shows going on in that era as well. Shows like Flip Wilson, The Smother’s Brothers and The Sonny & Cher Show.
A reality show is some cameras in a house with unscripted dialogue no writers and no costumes and pretty much no talent and the weirdo’s being filmed are rich for doing nothing. And, this junk is most of the “entertainment” we get to see today. Too bad we have to think of real talented entertainers as things of our past.

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