- Ed Sullivan
name = Ed Sullivan
birthname = Edward Vincent Sullivan
birthdate = birth date|1901|9|28|mf=y
New York City, New York
deathdate = death date and age|1974|10|13|1901|9|28
New York City, New York
yearsactive = 1948 - 1972
spouse = Sylvia Weinstein (m. 1930-1973)
goldenglobeawards = Best TV Show
Toast of the Town"
Edward Vincent "Ed" Sullivan (
September 28, 1901– October 13, 1974) was an American entertainment writerand televisionhost, best known as the presenter of a popular TV variety showcalled " The Ed Sullivan Show" that was at its height of popularity in the 1950s and 1960s.
A former boxer, Sullivan began his media work as a newspaper
sportswriter. When Walter Winchell, one of the original gossip columnists and the most powerful entertainment reporter of his day, left the newspaper for the Hearst syndicate, Sullivan took over as theater columnist for "The New York Graphic"Yagoda, Ben (1981), "The True Story of Bernarr Macfadden," "American Heritage" 33(1), December, 1981; reference used for this article was the online version,cite web|url=http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1981/1/1981_1_22.shtml|title=The True Story of Bernarr Macfadden: Lives and Loves of the Father of the Confession Magazine|author=Ben Yagoda|publisher=American Heritage|date=December, 1981|accessdate=2006-12-13] and later for "The New York Daily News". His column concentrated on Broadway shows and gossip, as Winchell's had and, like Winchell, he also did show business news broadcasts on radio. Sullivan soon became a powerful starmaker in the entertainment world himself, becoming one of Winchell's main rivals, setting the El Morocconightclub in New York as his unofficial headquarters against Winchell's seat of power at the nearby Stork Club. Sullivan continued writing for "The News" throughout his broadcasting career and his popularity long outlived that of Winchell.
In 1948, the CBS network hired Sullivan to do a weekly Sunday night TV
variety show, "Toast of the Town", which later became " The Ed Sullivan Show". Debuting in June 1948, the show was broadcast from CBS Studio 50, at 1697 Broadway (at 53rd Street) in New York City, which in 1967 was renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater(and is now the home of " The Late Show with David Letterman").
Reacting to the Cold War fervor of the time, Ed Sullivan worked closely with Theodore Kirkpatrick of the anti-communist "Counterattack" newsletter. Sullivan would check with Kirkpatrick if a potential guest had some "explaining to do" about his politics. Sullivan wrote in his
June 21, 1950New York Daily News Column that "Kirkpatrick has sat in my living room on several occasions and listened attentively to performers eager to secure a certification of loyalty." (Reference: Tube of Plenty, Eric Barnouw, Oxford University Press, 1990)
Sullivan himself had little acting ability; his mannerisms on camera were somewhat awkward and often caricatured by comedians who called him "Old Stone Face," owing to his deadpan delivery. Columnist
Harriet Van Hornealleged that "he got where he is not by having a personality, but by having "no" personality."
Somehow, Sullivan still seemed to fit the show; he appeared to the audience as an average guy who brought the great acts of show business to their home televisions. ("He will last," comedian and frequent guest Alan King was quoted as saying, "as long as someone else has talent.") Sullivan had a healthy sense of humor about himself and permitted—even encouraged—impersonators such as
John Byner, Frank Gorshin, Rich Littleand especially Will Jordanto imitate him on his show. Johnny Carsonalso did a fair impression. The impressionists exaggerated his stiffness, raised shoulders, and nasal tenor phrasing, along with some of his commonly used introductions, such as "And now, right here on our stage..." and "For all you youngsters out there..." and "...really big shoe..." Will Jordan portrayed Sullivan in the films " I Wanna Hold Your Hand", " The Buddy Holly Story", "The Doors", " Mr. Saturday Night", " Down With Love", and in the 1979 TV movie "Elvis".Fact|date=August 2007
In the 1950s and 1960s, Sullivan was a respected starmaker because of the number of performers that became household names after appearing on the show. He had a knack for identifying and promoting top talent and paid a great deal of money to secure that talent for his show.
African Americantalent. He paid for the funeral of dancer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson out of his own pocket. He also defied pressure to exclude African American musicians from appearing on his show. In 1969, Sullivan presented the Jackson 5with their first single " I Want You Back", which ousted B. J. Thomas's "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" from the top spot of Billboard's pop charts.
At the end of the debut episode of "
The Flying Nun", the convent receives a telephone call from "Mr. Sullivan" who wishes to speak to Sister Bertrille. Assuming that it's a priest, Reverend Mother gives Bertrille the phone. After addressing the person on the other end, Bertrille shouts "Ed Sullivan!"
There was another side to Sullivan: he could be very quick to take offense if he felt he had been crossed, and could hold a grudge for a long time. This could unfortunately be seen as a part of his TV personality.
Jackie Mason, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, and The Doorsbecame intimately familiar with Sullivan's negative side.
November 20, 1955, Bo Diddley was asked by Sullivan to sing Tennessee Ernie Ford's hit "Sixteen Tons." Come air time, Diddley sang his #2 hit song "Bo Diddley." He was banned from the show. Jackie Masonwas banned from the series in 1962. During Mason's monologue Sullivan, off camera, gestured that Mason should wrap things up, as a breaking news story was developing. The nervous Mason told the audience, "I'm getting two fingers here!" and made his own frantic hand gesture: "Two fingers for you!" Videotapes of the incident are inconclusive as to whether Mason's upswept hand was intended to be an indecent gesture, but Sullivan's body language immediately afterward made it clear that he was convinced of it, despite Mason's panic-stricken denials later. [CBS special, "The Very Best of the Ed Sullivan Show"] Sullivan later invited Mason back for a return engagement, but the notoriety of the "finger" incident lingered with the studio audience.
The Doors were banned in 1967 after they were asked to remove the lyric "Girl, we couldn't get much higher" from their song "
Light My Fire" (CBS censors believed that it was too overt a reference to drug use) but sang the song with the lyrics intact.
January 26, 1958, for their second appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show", Buddy Holly and the Cricketswere scheduled to perform two songs. Sullivan wanted the band to substitute a different song for his record hit "Oh Boy!", which he felt was too raucous. Holly had already told his hometown friends in Texas that he would be singing "Oh Boy!" for them, and told Sullivan as much. During the afternoon the Crickets were summoned to rehearsal on short notice, but only Holly was in their dressing room. When asked where the others were, Holly replied, "I don't know. No telling." Sullivan then turned to Holly and said "I guess The Crickets are not too excited to be on The Ed Sullivan Show" to which Holly caustically replied "I hope they're damn more excited than I am". Sullivan, already bothered by the choice of songs, was now even angrier. He cut the Crickets' act from two songs to one, and when introducing them mispronounced Holly's name, so it came out vaguely as 'Hollered' or "Holland." In addition, Sullivan saw to it that the microphone for Holly's electric guitar was turned off. Holly tried to compensate by singing as loudly as he could, and repeatedly trying to turn up the volume on his guitar. For the instrumental break he cut loose with a dramatic solo, making clear to the audience that the technical fault wasn't his. The band went down so well that Sullivan was forced to invite them back for a third appearance. Holly got on the phone and told Sullivan he didn't have enough money. Film of the performance survives. Photographs also survive of Holly and Sullivan that day with Sullivan looking angry and Holly either smirking at or ignoring Sullivan.
The Byrdsperformed on December 12, 1965, David Crosbygot into a shouting match with the show's director. They were never asked to return. [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2105166789756539416&q=the+ed+sullivan+show+byrds&ei=e2NwSLuhCYSSrgLNvPylBw&hl=en]
Rolling Stoneswere a different story; they were told pretty much to change the chorus of " Let's Spend the Night Together" to "Let's Spend Some Time Together." Lead singer Mick Jaggercomplied, but deliberately called attention to this censorship by rolling his eyes and mugging when he uttered the new words. [The video of this performance can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uewUcr-BYo] Moe Howardof the Three Stoogesrecalled in 1975 that Sullivan had a memory problem of sorts: "Ed was a very nice man, but for a showman, quite forgetful. On our first appearance, he introduced us as the Three Ritz Brothers. He got out of it by adding, "who look more like the Three Stooges to me." [Howard, Moe. (1977, rev. 1979) "Moe Howard and the Three Stooges", p. 165; Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0-8065-0723-1]
Unlike many shows of the time, Sullivan asked that musical acts perform their music live, rather than lip-synching to their recordings. Some of these performances have recently been issued on CD. [www.amazon.com]
The act that appeared most frequently through the show's run was the Canadian comedy duo of
Wayne & Shuster, making a total of 67 appearances between 1958 and 1969.
In 1961, Sullivan was asked by
CBSto fill in for an ailing Red Skeltonon " The Red Skelton Show". He performed some of Skelton's characters successfully. One character was renamed "Eddie the Freeloader" (normally "Freddie the Freeloader").
In August of 1956, Sullivan was injured in an automobile accident that occurred near his country home in
Southbury, Connecticut. Sullivan had to take a medical leave from the show, missing the September 8appearance of Elvis Presley(something he earlier had stated never would happen). Charles Laughtonwound up introducing Presley on the Sullivan hour. On a later Presley appearance, Sullivan made amends by telling his audience, "This is a real decent, fine boy.")
Sullivan's failure to scoop the TV industry with Presley made him determined to get the next big sensation first. In 1964, he achieved that with the first live American appearance of
The Beatles, on February 9, 1964, the most-watched program in TV history to that point, and remains one of the most-watched programs of all time. The Beatles appeared several more times on the Sullivan show; Sullivan struck up such a rapport with the Beatles that he agreed to introduce them at their momentious Shea Stadiumconcert on August 15, 1965. Heavily promoted as having a "cleaner" image than the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five made 13 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, more than any other UK group.
In the fall of 1965, CBS began televising the weekly programs in RCA's compatible-color process. (Compatible color was developed in the early 1950s and commercially deployed in 1954 to allow colorcasts to be received on monochrome and color sets. CBS had developed a failed color television system that involved a revolving color wheel. The CBS system would have been incompatible with monochrome television sets. Until 1965, CBS rarely did colorcasts. Then, for competitive reasons, it adopted the system that NBC had employed in its widely colorcast schedule to sell RCA color television sets.) Although the Sullivan show was seen live in the Central and Eastern time zones, it was taped for airing in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. Fortunately, most of the taped programs (as well as some early
kinescopes) have been preserved, and excerpts have been released on home video.
At a time when television had not yet embraced
country and westernmusic, Sullivan was adamant about featuring Nashvilleperformers on his program. This insistence paved the way for shows such as " Hee Haw" and variety shows hosted by country singers like Johnny Cashand Glen Campbell.
By 1971, the show was no longer in television's top 20. New CBS executives, who wanted to attract younger viewers, canceled the show along with virtually all of the network's oldest shows. Sullivan was so upset and angry that he refused to do a final show, although he did return to CBS for several TV specials and a 25th-anniversary show in 1973. One year later, the man known as "Old Stone Face" died October 13th, 1974 of
esophageal cancerat age 73 at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital, coincidentally on a Sunday night. His funeral was attended by 3,000 at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New Yorkon a cold, rainy day. Sullivan is interred in a crypt at the Ferncliff Cemeteryin Hartsdale, New York.
Sullivan was married to the former Sylvia Weinstein from
April 28, 1930, until her death on March 16, 1973. They had one daughter, Betty Sullivan (who married the Sullivan show's producer, Bob Precht). Sullivan was in the habit of calling Sylvia after every program to get her immediate critique.
Sullivan has a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fameat 6101 Hollywood Blvd.
Notable guests on "Ed Sullivan Show"
Sonny & Cher
Nat King Cole
Joe E. Lewis
*The Three Stooges
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Buddy Hollyand The Crickets
The Jackson 5
The Rolling Stones
Jack E. Leonard
Jerry Lee Lewis
* [http://www.philsilversshow.homestead.com/EdSullivan.html Ed Sullivan appearance on the Phil Silvers Show]
* [http://www.maguireonline.com/sullivanprologue.php Overview of Ed Sullivan's life]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1001 Ed Sullivan] at
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.