Speaker New York was my goal because, well, for a few reasons. One is that's where Broadway was, is. And when I was at UCLA, I was in my sophomore year, I started doing musical comedy there in the musical workshop. And so the first song I ever sang was Adelaide's Lament. And the only reason I was brave enough to do that was because they said, well, she has a cold. So you don't have sound good. And so I love that. I loved hearing the laughs. I love music. And my first album that I bought with my hard earned money being an I charrette part time was the new faces of 1952. And I learned all of the songs on that. And we did some of them in class at UCLA. And so New York was my goal. Also in those days, more so than now, you kind of had to be beautiful to to be in the movies and the movies didn't wonderly only that the movies didn't appeal to me because from what I understood, it just kind of had to sit around or wait a lot. And whereas theater, once that curtain goes up, you're there.
Speaker You're on. Curtain comes down. You take the ball and you go. So theater was always the goal, not film or theater was the goal, not film or tell or television. I loved the response. It was instant gratification. When you got a laugh and it was also instant depression when you didn't. But you knew where you stood.
Speaker And just to hear the laughs was I mean, it was pretty good.
Speaker How were you able to go to New York?
Speaker I bet there were three things that happened in my life that were maybe two.
Speaker The first being we couldn't afford for me to go to UCLA and I wanted to go to UCLA after I graduated Hollywood High and my grandmother who was raising me. So we don't have we don't have the money. We were on relief for which was welfare and the tuition was forty two dollars a semester. So we didn't have it. Our rent was thirty dollars a month in this one room we had. But I saw myself on campus. I didn't know how I was going to get there. I just knew. And was it. I was wishing for it or dear God please. Or this or that. What I just said, no, I'll be there.
Speaker I just know it's gonna happen. Didn't know how well, we had a one room apartment in this building in Hollywood and we were right on the lobby and the door would open up. And in the morning I would check the little lamb pigeon hole letter holders and to see if we had an envelope. And then I'd put my robe on and run out and get the letter. So this one morning there was a letter in our mailbox and I went, I got it, came back and the room opened it up. It had my name typewritten on it.
Speaker It had a three cent stamp, my name address, three cent stamp, which hadn't been cancelled by the post office.
Speaker So somebody had just put a stamp on it, stuck it in there. I opened it up and out actual a fifty dollar bill. To this day, I don't know where that came from because everybody in that we knew couldn't afford that. We sure couldn't. And that was my ticket to UCLA. The second thing that happened was I saw myself in New York. I just knew somehow even the guy was making sixty five cents an hour, part time assuring. Seventy five cents. When I moved across the street and gotten into the box office of a second run movie house, the Iris Theater. So I was kind of saving up a little bit, but wasn't adding up too much. And a few of us who were in the opera workshop and musical comedy section were invited to perform at a party by our professor. Kind of a posh do that was happening in San Diego. This one Saturday night, there were nine of us in the class and I'd worked up a scene from Annie Get Your Gun. And we went down there and performed. And the fellow I was going with performed with me. And we did a scene from that. And there were or Dervaes.
Speaker And I remember I was standing at the or DERF table with my purse and I was stealing orders. She don't let this get out of stealing or Durrs to take home to my grandmother. I had like a napkin in there and I was just kind of and some of these are dirty. And there was a tap on my shoulder. Oh, my God. I didn't kick you out. And it was a gentleman in a taxi.
Speaker Everybody was in black tie and then long gowns.
Speaker And so gentleman and his wife introduced himself themselves to me and he said, I really enjoyed your performance. Thank you. And he said, what do you want to do with your life?
Speaker I said, I really want to go to New York and be in musical comedy like Mary Martin and Ethel Merman, you know, March there as well. I'd love to, but I don't have the money I'm saving up. He said, I'll give you the money. It's a Brawner. I'll lend you the money to go to New York on. I thought I'd had a bit too much champagne. He said no. And his wife said, Oh, he's serious. Well, he gave me his card and he said, Call me a week from Monday. And this was a Saturday night and we'll set up something. So I didn't think about it that much. I tried not to, but I did call him a week that Monday.
Speaker And he said, I'll be in my office in a couple of days at nine o'clock. He had an office down in San Diego and I'll lend you the money. So he was going to lend it to Don, who was also my partner. And we borrowed a car and drove down there. And he had a business down there. The gentleman and we got there early. He wasn't in his office yet. And we were called in finally. And I remembered the rug walking across the room looked like it was Vicuna. So it was. And it was almost in slow motion. And there he was behind this huge desk sitting there, and he said that I liked what your kids did. And so I'm going to lend you a thousand dollars each to go to New York. And it's to be paid back in five years. No interest. And these are the stipulations that one you pay me back in five years. Number two, you never tell anybody what my name is. And number three, if you are successful in your chosen profession, you must help others out. And that was it. So we had to we were so stupid, we didn't even have enough money on us to have gone to gone back for gas. So we had to go wait for the bank to open.
Speaker Yeah, you would go to the bank and cash a thousand dollar check and they had to call him to see if it was OK. I was so embarrassed and fined. So there I was there.
Speaker But gas got back to Hollywood where we're live. And I'm walking in with a thousand, not the full thousand a little bit. And we had a Murphy pull down bed that my grandmother slept on. And I walked in and I said, Nanny, look. And I empty the money on Murphy on the bed. She had a hissy fit.
Speaker Oh, my God. What did that? And I explained it to her.
Speaker So do you know what we can do with all this money, you know? And I said I have to use it to go to New York. That's why he gave it to me. And that was June of 54. And in August of 54, I got on a plane and went to New York.
Speaker What did you think? Going to New York. I mean, did you did you were you confident that you would succeed or did you must have been nervous?
Speaker I would imagine I was. It was I was anticipating, but I was also probably one of the most naive human beings who ever was born. I didn't even know where I was going to stay. I had never been any further east in Texas. I had done what I was going to do. I had to cardboard suitcases and clothes and stuff. And I my scrapbook, imitation leather scrapbook, full of nice reviews from college. I was it. And I remember I was looking through The New Yorker magazine on the plane and there was this advertisement for the Algonquin Hotel.
Speaker And I remember reading about the roundtable and I thought, well, I guess I could stay there.
Speaker I got off the plane and I think I took a bus or something into Port Authority and I walked to the Algonquin Hotel asking people how to get to that particular street. And I went in and I checked in and asked for the cheapest room and it was nine dollars a day.
Speaker Oh, my God. That's nine days where we lived, you know, a dollar a day. Oh. Oh, heavens. What am I going to do anyway?
Speaker They put me in there and I unpacked and I called my grandmother and my mother and my kid sister collect to let them know that I had arrived, OK? They started to cry.
Speaker Why don't you come home? Then I started to cry. I was all alone there, didn't know what I was gonna do. And I said, Well, could you give me a few more days here? And I remember it. It started to rain and I love rain. Good things happen to me for some reason. Not floods, I don't mean that. But when it rains. But this was. A hurricaine coming through New York or around New York. And I remember I turned on the radio in the hotel room and it was Hurricane Carol. You can look it up. August 1954 is Hurricane Carol, and I stopped being nervous and I unpacked and I put my clothes on. I'd never had a closet. I always hang my clothes on the bathroom shower, right?
Speaker And so I hung them in the closet and I just looked at that and I thought, that's it. But I hung them on the rack so I'd feel it. Oh. So it rained all night, but I was fine. And then I found in my wallet.
Speaker The name of a girl who had been in college, she was three, four years ahead of me and she had come to New York. She was kind of an American. Julie Andrews shoots one of the most popular girls on campus, sang like a dream. Her name was Eleanor E.B. and she was engaged to one of my best friends in college. And she said, well, if you ever get to New York, you must call me. And I had her number. Didn't know her that well. And I called her the next day and she said, hi.
Speaker No. I remember the phone rang and some young girl. Hello. And I said, hi, I'm calling Eleanor Rigby. Just a minute. Eleanor.
Speaker Eleanor. Eleanor. All these voices were coming and it was the rehearsal club. Which was a boarding house for young ladies interested in theater, and Ellie got on the phone. She said, Where are you? I said, I'm at the Algonquin. She's. Oh, my God.
Speaker What are you doing? You've got to get up here. I'm going to try to get you a bed.
Speaker So that schlepped up to the rehearsal club, which was in the west 50s between 5th and 6th and knocked on the door and came in. And Ellie said, I've got to introduce you to Miss Carlton. She's ah, she was kind of the head lady of the club. It was all very proper.
Speaker And I was interviewed by Miss Carlton.
Speaker She said, well, we do have a bed. It's in the transit room. And there were five beds, cots, zero cots with each one had a dressing table and a big room with these five cots in it, one closet and one bathroom.
Speaker So five women in one room. And I kind of felt at home because I was so small and I moved in there and it was eighteen dollars a week, room and board. So that was terrific. And then I kind of started to have a bit of a family there because there were about twenty five girls in the theater and the rules there were that you had you could have a part time job doing something else or but that you had to be very actively pursuing a career by making the rounds and trying to get an agent and doing stuff, you know. And so the rockets, some of the rockets live there. You know, the rules were no men were allowed above the parlor. There was a nice little parlor with a piano on a television set.
Speaker And I. I just loved it. I fit right in. And the.
Speaker Roommates I had it was kind of it could be a sitcom, even though I was from Hollywood where we lived was a million miles away from Hollywood. So I was the hick. Then there was the one that had been there for a long time, and she was the smart one. Then there was the one who was at the Actors Studio who never bathed. And there was an English girl, Tinker, who was studying Spanish dancing. And then there was the ballerina. And that was Yvonne Craig, who later on became Batgirl. So we had we had quite a group. It really was, you know, this cross section could have been a sitcom.
Speaker So how did you how did you pay your bills and what was the audition process like?
Speaker Well, it was tough. I went to I got a part time job checking hats at Susan Pomers Tea Room restaurant near the time, life, old time, life building. And in fact, I shared it with Joyce, who was the one who kind of knew it all.
Speaker And we average we weren't paid anything. We just got our tip. So I averaged about 30 dollars a week. So with 18 dollars, room and board, I never went hungry because I was fat at the club. But I could also eat it. Susan Palmer's tea room. The trouble was checking hats in a lady's tea room is not too many women check their hats.
Speaker So it would be if they were shopping and had packages and this. But there was an oyster bar downstairs where the men would eat and I would grab the men because they had hooks down there where they can hang their coats. But I would grab some chicken coats or chicken so I would get a coat every so often.
Speaker And then I don't know the crook in me, I guess, because my grandmother was always trying to find a way to make some money when I had a little pair of scissors and I were, you know, the thing that Jahangiri cut, I would cut that and then I would breathe so it with a different color thread so that when the man would come up and get his coat, I said this broke off, but I sold it back for you so I'd get an extra dime instead of twenty five cents, I get thirty five cents.
Speaker So that was the that was the most crooked thing I'd ever done in my life, with the exception of stealing a lipstick when I was eleven from a dime store. But I took it back because I thought they were going to send me up the river. So so I made I lived in my grandmother's, did send me some money for a coat because I never been cold in my life. Texas and California. And all of a sudden November comes and I'm freezing. And she sent me twenty dollars.
Speaker And Joyce, no one of the gals sent me down to Klein's, which was where you could get stuff for no money. And I was able to get a coat for about seventeen dollars. I thought it was great.
Speaker It was this nubby wool black and white number that had high corn buttons and was full. But it was warm, but it was very nubby, as I say, black and white. And I put it on.
Speaker The club Joyce looked at me, she said, looks like unborn linoleum.
Speaker So from then on, I hated the coat, but I had to wear it all winter.
Speaker It kept me warm.
Speaker So were you. What was the audition process?
Speaker I, I would go to certain cattle call auditions where you didn't have to be an equity the union. And of course it was you open your mouth, sing two notes. Thank you. Next. So I thought, well, I'm got to do something to stand out here. So I got.
Speaker Four of us, five of us together, of the girls who actually we weren't built exactly the same way, but we had about the same waistline. And I said, let's buy a community dress that is a bright color that we can borrow from each other to wear to audition. So we would stand out. And so we each put in five dollars and we went to Bloomingdale's with our twenty five dollars and we found this orange number that had a high neck long sleeve so it would hide fat arms and skinny arms. Waistline was a right and cut a little give to it was kind of war or fake well item. And then it had a full skirt which would hide the hips, whatever. So that. And then we would be responsible for what we would sign up, sign it out and say, I'm have a call, I'm going to on Tuesday. So I'm signing for the dress. You wear the dress, then you'd be responsible for having it cleaned and put back for the next person. So I got a few callbacks. The girl in your orange dress, you know. But nothing happened.
Speaker And I remember one night it was raining and I was in the transit room.
Speaker It was a Saturday night. I was all alone. Everybody else was out on a date. And I'm sitting there and I'm looking at the paper in the art section and I see Pajama Game. Directed by George Abbott and the other thing I said to the class at UCLA when my buddies gave me a bon voyage party. What are you going to do when you get to New York? I said, well, I'll be in a Broadway show. And the first one I do will be directed by George Abbott. So I just saw that. I knew that. So I thought, I am starring in The Pajama Game was a wonderful comedian, Eddie for Junior. His dad had been a big star in vaudeville. Eddie Ford Senior and Eddie Ford Junior. And Carol Haney and John Raitt and Janice Page were the stars. And this was the biggest hit on Broadway. So I remember I put on a plastic raincoat and I grabbed some galoshes from the closet, put those on and a scarf and walked down to where John McCain was playing in the rain. And it was about a quarter of 11:00 at night. And I opened the stage door in typical flight from an old movie, the stage manager with a pop, some gray hair, you think?
Speaker Tim Conway or so what you want, Kip. I said it's a getting out of the rain. What do you want? I said, I'm here to see Eddie. He said, you know, Eddie. I said, Well, I'm from California. And the thing was, Eddie Ford Junior had done a movie out there. And one of our neighbors, who was an extra in movies a lot, played a lot of cops. His name was Jack Shea had told me, said, well, you're going to New York. If you ever run to Daddy Foy, give him my best. He's a great guy. So that was my reason.
Speaker So now I hear thunder clap.
Speaker And I thought, wow. And it wasn't it was the audience applauding because it's this huge hit. And then Yei and Bravos and I'm seeing Carol Hainey run by to her dressing room and John Raitt and Joe's page. And here comes Edie Foy. And Pops says, Hey, Eddie, this kid wants to see you standing there looking like the poor man's Anne Baxter from all about Eve.
Speaker You said you can't. What can I do for you? He's got the towel around his neck and he's in a hurry. I said, Oh, Mr. Ford, I know Jack Shea. Jack Shea played a cop in a movie with you and he said, you are a very nice man. And he said that if I ever ran into you, that maybe you could give me some advice. I'm trying to get an agent and I can't get an agent because the agents as well. Let me know when you're in something, but I can't get in on something until I have an agent and I don't know what to do. What can I do? All in one breath. And he said, Well.
Speaker Do you sing? I said loud, I'm loud. Whose? I said, but I can't read music.
Speaker He's all because I was going to see if maybe I could get you an audition for the chorus. But you have to read music. No, I said I can't do that. Can you dance? No, I. I can jitterbug.
Speaker Couldn't you do this. Can you. I couldn't do any of that stuff.
Speaker And he said, well what. What do you want. How. How do you feel now? The thing was that before I couldn't read music, he wasn't a great singer any. He was kind of an eccentric dancer. I said, well, I'm not good enough for the chorus. So I guess I'll have to have a featured role.
Speaker That's what I said.
Speaker And he said he didn't laugh me out of the place at all because maybe he realized she can't do all of this. She might as well try out for the bigger stuff, you know? And he said, OK, where where do you live? And I told him and I said, well, give me your phone number. And so I gave him the rehearsal club number and he actually called the next day and he said, I made the point before you go see my agent, Leicestershire. So I could at last get in to pass the receptionist and to an actual real agent's office.
Speaker So I took my scrapbook and then I went in and he asked me the same questions before I did. And he said, well, unless I can see you in something, which I can't, you know, I said, what should I do?
Speaker He said, I'll go put on your own show.
Speaker I said, OK.
Speaker I was raised going to movies with my grandmother when we could on Mickey and Judy on in the days in the forties and early fifties when everything turned out OK.
Speaker And nothing was impossible. The movies were cynical. So that that was imprinted. So I thought, OK, be like Mickey and Judy. I'll go home to the rehearsal club. And I talked to the girls and I said, girls, we're going to put on our own show. And everybody went, Yay! Let's. And we had a friend who lived across the street who did the lighting. By the name of Ming Cho Lee, who has won several Tonys.
Speaker But he was he did the lighting work, you know, with coffee cans. And he was going to light.
Speaker One of the girls was a piano player and she wrote original songs. What we did was have everybody pitch in a quarter. That was twenty five girls and a quarter for the rehearsal hall. And we would we made up what we were going to do. And then we went to the board of directors of the rehearsal club, which were a bunch of rich, rich ladies who subsidize the club.
Speaker And we showed them the first act that we come up with. And we were going to write the second act if we could get money to hire a hall where we could perform. And they gave us two hundred dollars. And we hired the Carl Fisher Concert Hall and we wrote the second act and we sent out Penny Postcards to every producer, director, agent we could think of. Katharine Cornell, who was a great actress, was a member of the board, signed the invitation, signed the penny postcard, saying, you're always saying, let us know when you're in something.
Speaker Well, these girls are in something. So this postcard is your ticket. Put your money where your mouth is and come see these young girls. We were packed. We did it for two nights and I did. I did a takeoff on Eartha KITT in New Faces where she had done this very sexy song called Monotonous and Toreador Pants and a tight top slithering from one chaise lounge to the other.
Speaker And instead, I did it as this housewife with colors in my hair and a tacky apron.
Speaker And I think probably combat boots, I don't know, with three broken down kitchen chairs singing about my glamorous life and how monotonous it is. And it went over very well. And three of us got ages. The phones were ringing the next day at the club. And so I got a call from a few agents. Then I got one.
Speaker And it's an amazing story. How did you know that early on? What type of material would work for you?
Speaker Because that seems to still fit with the kind of leader I would always had a problem early on with Trump, with being serious. I was embarrassed. I never thought anybody would or could take me seriously. So I wanted to be there first by being goofy and so forth and and making people laugh. Later on, I got over it. But early on it was how how crazy can I be? And, you know, because I was always afraid if I did a dramatic scene, they would laugh. So I never did or I'd rather do the comedy and maybe miss a laugh, but go for it.
Speaker So I got I got a job that summer at a place called Green Mansions in the Adirondacks. And it was such a training ground. We did oh for five hundred dollars for the whole summer for ten weeks. And Sheldon Harnick, Lee Adams, Charles Strauss were all of us. Bob Dishy were all there together. And on Tuesday nights we did a play. On Thursday nights we did an original opera on Friday nights and Saturday nights we did original review and on Sunday nights was a variety show, all new material each week. So it was. Incredible, incredible training. And I him use summer stock like that doesn't exist anymore.
Speaker What did you think? It was literally just from what I learned.
Speaker I learned how to, well, be on time, how to study, how to learn your lines, how quickly, how hopefully how to get laughs.
Speaker It was this was the summer stack place where people would come, Singles' would come and we were just part of the entertainment. Nobody bought a ticket. So if we weren't good, they'd get up and walk out and go into a canoe and neck. And each week we got different.
Speaker Then the buses would come and take people home and then dump the new ones out.
Speaker You know, all the girls were looking for guys and vice versa. So we had to be kind of good to keep them interested in us for a couple of hours.
Speaker The Navy said it was the place where girls went to get married and guys went, yeah, yeah, guys went to do whatever they could.
Speaker And the girls were hoping for a ring that was Tamiment. That was the next year. So that was actually easier because we didn't do as many shows as green mansions. But that's where I met Dean Fuller. And Arty Johnson was the lead comic. Larry Kert. Oh, just wonderful. And Ken and Mitzie Welch wrote and Missy performed. And that was just the best, as I said, the best training you could get. I mean, you have to look, Larry. Kurt was.
Speaker He could look at a piece of paper with a lyric on. It was like, yo, Betty Grable movies or something where she'd go throw it away and do the song. All original, all original.
Speaker And I learned a little bit how to move. I can't dance worth diddly squat, but I. I was I had to move. I had to learn to do some of that. And I and great, great training.
Speaker Call cards on the table. Bunch of us get together and we just throw our credit cards on the table so that it's not one person. So we'll have Dick Martin and his wife, Bob Newhart and his wife, Tim Conway and his wife, us, Phyllis. I mean, it just a whole group. Well, I'm telling you, you have to know the Heimlich maneuver if you're going to eat with those people.
Speaker So just move on just briefly to your TV. Can you just tell me, what was your first TV appearance?
Speaker First TV appearance was that Paul Winchell kiddie TV show on December 17th? Nineteen 5th Defy. I remember that. Well, I went in and auditioned and Paul said, OK, you're going to come on as the Girlfriend of the Dummies book. Now, I played straight, actually. And the first thing I did was sing a song that day. That was my first appearance to Knucklehead Smith, which was one of the dummies. And the song was Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
Speaker And I remember calling my grandmother beforehand to say, man, I've got to be on television. And she said, well, say a lot to me. And I said, I don't think I'm busy. So let me say, hi, nanny. But we worked it out to where I'd pull my ear, which meant, hi, dad.
Speaker So that's that's where that that all started. But that was a first appearance.
Speaker And what reaction did you get from your nanny?
Speaker Your nanny was thrilled, of course, and momma was thrilled. It was when I first left to go to New York. I was not encouraged, you know. In fact, there was there were allusions that there were my sister kids sister came to me while I was packing to go to New York.
Speaker She leveled shoes, baby. Something like that. And I'm putting the thing in the suitcase, and she and Mama, a nanny, had been down the hall discussing this whole thing.
Speaker And Chrissy said to me, Cissy, what's a pipe dream?
Speaker And so I realized, you know, that I think because he didn't want me to go and stand, let me throw that money away. And so that was what they were discussing. That was Carol's pipe dream, you know. But afterwards, they were they were very proud.
Speaker You know, that's actually I mean, that must've taken a lot of courage or determination on your part to go anyway.
Speaker I just knew that that man would not have come into my life if I wasn't meant to do that and go when at least try. So, you know, you can pipe dream that somebody can say it's a pipe dream all you want, but you don't have to necessarily take that to heart. You can go. All right. But that's somebody else's thought.
Speaker It's not mine.
Speaker So after that, after all, what was your first primetime TV?
Speaker My first primetime that I think was when I auditioned for Gary Moore for his morning show. He had a five, five days.
Speaker But across the board morning show, half hour, Monday through Thursday. And then on Fridays, he would do 90 minutes. And that's where he would introduce new people. And I remember Ken Welch and I went in to audition for CBS for his morning show. And Gary was in a booth that was in a studio. And Kenny had written me some material and I performed it. And Gary came out of the booth. He said, I'm gonna book you on next Friday. And so and he said, whenever you get new material, you don't have to show it to me. Just call us up and we'll put you on. And so that's how I met Gary.
Speaker What was that piece?
Speaker The piece was, I think, different types of singers.
Speaker That Kenny had come up with and I had come up with the singer who was a young girl who had never auditioned before, so that Miss Naive.
Speaker And then there was Miss Confidence who came out, and that was Ethel Merman.
Speaker Ya. And another one was. Oh, we did all kinds. When I remember I had the singer who had braces on her teeth. So she lost when she sang. And just different ones, different types of singers.
Speaker And how would you work with. Did you think together Kenny.
Speaker Yes. Can Welch actually. I had auditioned. This was before I went to Green Mansions I had auditioned for. Oh, gosh, maybe it was Leicestershire. I'm trying to think of No. Gus Schirmer. Gus Schirmer.
Speaker And he was an agent and he was hiring people for various places, summer stock. And I came in and auditioned with a number. And Kenny Welch had been the piano player for all of the people auditioning. But I brought my own piano player in. I did a thing that I'd done at the rehearsal club and I didn't get the job. But I walked up to the hall and press the elevator button. And Kenny Welch followed me out and he said he liked what I'd done. And he gave. He said, I'm a coach. And he gave me his card and phone number. And I just put it in my purse. And I thanked him very much. And so that is all I had called Kenny.
Speaker And we started working at material for auditions. And I was at the time then working.
Speaker I was at the club and working at Susan Palmer's tearoom. So I would pay him and quarters and dimes and nickels was ten dollars an hour and I would just come in and throw the money on top of the piano. Ten dollars worth of the coins, you know. And we would work.
Speaker Did you talk about what types of things would work for you? I mean, I got the impression that, you know, sort of looking at the landscape of what was available in musical comedy at the time, you were trying to do something different.
Speaker I don't know that I was trying to do anything different. I just wanted. I mean, Kenny would work on arrangements of songs that already existed, you know, and how I would present myself that there were some wonderful musical comedy songs.
Speaker So if that's what people wanted to hear at an audition, I would have that. But then we started work on some comedic things and got an audition for the Blue Angel nightclub. And I got that job and that's where they had four acts. And each act was twenty minutes or twenty five minutes. And then they would go away and people would order drinks and then the next act would come on and so forth. And you'd do an early show and a midnight show. And so I did that quite, quite a while.
Speaker And then.
Speaker The owner said, you know, I would like to extend you, but you people were coming in again and saying you need some new material. So. This was at the height of the Elvis Presley craze.
Speaker 1957. And Kenny, I want.
Speaker Now, I could pay in real money because I was at the Blue Angel and he said, I have a thought.
Speaker Why don't we?
Speaker Make a play on the fact that there's this Elvis Presley craze and that you're this young girl who isn't crazy about Elvis but is crazy about the then secretary of state, John Foster Dulles.
Speaker I fell on the floor because John Foster Dulles. God rest his soul. I guess was aptly named.
Speaker It was really kind of dull, he wore this hat and he had this coat.
Speaker He never smiled, you know, on very, very serious. He would be the last person in the world. A young girl would flip over. So that's what made the song so funny. And so that was I did that song. We made it our opening number. I made a fool of myself over John Foster dollars. And people were hysterical. And then we got a call from Jack Paar. To do it. And that was an Argus 57. And I went on and it tore tore it up. People were just in power. Loved it then. That was a Tuesday night.
Speaker I got back to the rehearsal club to do the second show and the phones were ringing off the hook and on and on. And one call was from a man named David Waters, who was Mr. Dullest adviser or something.
Speaker And he said, I just saw this. He said. Could you do it again? Mr. Dallas did see it. Would you do it again? I said, sure.
Speaker So he evidently called Jack Paar. So Jack Paar put me on Friday night. So I. Bennett. Tuesday night did it Friday night. Then Ed Sullivan called and I did it Sunday night. So three nights in that week, I did the Dallas number. Now, I was the flavor of the week. You know, it was on. Actually, it was on in the news. And it was even written up by Scotty Reston in an editorial on The New York Times, a tongue in cheek saying, is this girl working for the Republicans or the Democrat or what's going on with the sweetest thing? Is that a week later on Meet the Press, after all the hullabaloo and died down, Mr. Dulles was on. And I'm watching it. And, you know, all these crises and things going on, you they end at the end of the show. The interviewer said. Well, now, on a lighter note, Mr. Dallas, sir, I have to ask you, is there anything. To what's going on between you and this young girl who sings that love song about you? Well, I'm glued to the set and his eyes got kind of twinkly and he had this little grand and he said words to this effect.
Speaker I make it. A policy never to discuss matters of the heart in public.
Speaker Well, from then on, I did love it.
Speaker That was so sweet and funny and funny.
Speaker Did you think at that time you were back to the Blue Angel and you continue to perform? Did you think you had arrived?
Speaker I never thought I had arrived. I'd never have been.
Speaker I guess I have because it's been a long time.
Speaker But I don't think there's anyone.
Speaker Not for me anyway. Any one moment where I would say wife arrived? No, because actually I went south after that. It just not much happened. You know, I. As I say, I was kind of the flavor of the week. And that was a lot of publicity. It was. It was more about the song. And so I was really kind of back to square one. I'm trying to get into Broadway and so forth.
Speaker And it was around that time, was it that you had an appearance on Garry Moore Show and Martha Raye?
Speaker I did this one Sunday. I remember I got a call and from the Garry Moore office, and he was now he had a variety show, a weekly variety show on Tuesday nights. And his guests that week was Martha Raye. And they called and said, Martha can't make. She's got horrible bronchitis. And can you come in and learn the show? What we're gonna do Tuesday night? I only lived a block away, so I ran over there like road. And did the show. I learned the show and did it on Tuesday night. And Gary Moore explained to the audience at the end of the show, he was what a wonderful man he was. And he said, you know, we call Carol. She came over and did this and so forth. And I mean, he the audience was naturally very appreciative because, I mean, he practically willed them into a standing ovation. You know, so I never I was just crying. And as I was leaving the other, there was a phone call for me by the guards desk, and it was Martha. And she had sent me all these roses. They weren't there. And she was to voice was cracking and everything.
Speaker She said, Don't you ever do that again. I'm never gonna get sick again. She was sick.
Speaker You know, Martha later on was a guest quite often on her show.
Speaker And you then became a regular. I'm just wondering.
Speaker Well, actually, what happened was that was in February.
Speaker And so I.
Speaker Once, then kind of not working. And in.
Speaker By then, I had my sister living with me, my kid sister was living with me and I had gotten a chance to audition for Rodgers and Hammerstein for Babes in Arms, which they were going to open in Florida and then bring to New York. And Stanley Prager was directing, and I almost got it. But then they wanted to go with someone who had more of a name, and I lost it. And I remember I cry and my sister said, Cissy, you don't need the old cliche. We always said, one door closes open, I swear. Right after she said that and she was comforting me, the phone rang and it was Bill and Gene Eckert who were producing a little show off Broadway called Once upon a Mattress. And I said, yes. They said, could you come down this afternoon and audition for George Albert?
Speaker I if I was that smug, I was in it.
Speaker All I said was, thank God I didn't get the other one. And this I, I felt I was going to get. And that was that was it. And so I got my first show was directed by George Abbott.
Speaker So that was a third thing. The first was the money for college. The second was the money for New York. And the third was knowing I'd worked for Mr Abbott. And so I got that job. And then it was evidently in the minds of Gary and the producers that maybe they should ask if I would be a regular on their show and that some actress opened in May of fifty nine and they asked me to be a regular and full 59. So that was fabulous. And I doubled. I did Mattress and Gary show until the following June and the script was 25, 26 years old, you know, just eight shows a week. And Gary and it was it was a wonderful time for me. And even though I had not thought about ever doing television, this was different because The Garry Moore Show was a variety show and we did sketches and musical comedy and original pieces. So it was like doing summer stock.
Speaker Every week we had a live body, an audience and so on. Each week we'd come back and it would be new material, which was just the best. And my favorite show before that was watching Sid Caesar on Caesar's Hour. And that was the was brilliant. I never missed that show. Oh, gosh. And so and Garry patterned hits hish. Gary was the most generous man he would there would be Durward Kirby and myself and and Lorne, who were the funny ones, you know, and we'd be sitting around the table on a Monday morning reading the script and Gary might have a line here or there.
Speaker He said, you know, that line would be funnier if we gave it to Durward or should give my line here to Carol for Marion because it would make his show better is what he felt. We had quite a writing staff. Neil Simon was, which we call him Doc Doc Simon and Coleman Jacoby and I mean some really wonderful comedy writers and a Neil Doc Neil wrote Come Blow Your Horn while he was a junior writer on Gary show. Then Gary was his first investor.
Speaker What did you learn from Gary Moore?
Speaker What I learned from Gary Moore is that.
Speaker Well, let me say I knew it, but he solidified it that we get into this business in the first place when we're young because for the most part, because we want to have fun.
Speaker It's come play in the sandbox.
Speaker I don't trust anybody that says I mean it for the fame or I'm in it for the money, because if you have fun and you have what it takes, I guess all of that will come. So it's the it's the work. It's the fun. When I was a little kid and we'd go up on a hill and play Tarzan and Jane or this or that. It was all about playing play, acting and giggling and having a good time.
Speaker And that's exactly the way Gary show was. And that's exactly the way I had always felt. And that's exactly the way I wanted my show to be.
Speaker Did you win your first Emmy?
Speaker I won my first Emmy for The Garry Moore Show. Yes. Well, that was a thrill. That was. Wow. Yeah.
Speaker I've seen that footage. I think the show won.
Speaker Yes. The show won the same year.
Speaker Let's talk a little bit about the mattress. Why do you think it just seems that that room was so perfect for you in some way and it just became kind of your signature role?
Speaker Why do you think that mattress actually had been written for someone else? And Mr Abbott, when they got him to direct, he he didn't want to work with anybody that he had worked with before. No reflection on this performer because she was brilliant. And he said, let's just get all new people. And he was only going to run for six weeks. It was on subscription at the Phoenix Theatre. And so that's when the Eckert's called me. And I went down and I did some of my comedy material and came home. And an hour later they said, you have the part.
Speaker So they kind of changed it a bit from being this would I say tough, but, you know, kind of character to being this little tomboy, because that's kind of what I projected. So that changed. It changed. And I never forget there were some wonderful songs in it. And Mary Rogers and Dean, we're gonna play the score at Mary's House in New York. And this. Would you like to hear it? Marshall Barer, who've written these brilliant lyrics, and I said, oh, here, the score for the four. Yeah. I go there and I'm hearing QAI, which was my opening song. I'm just getting goose bumps. My gosh, they wrote that for me and other wonderful songs and so forth. And that was just I was tearing up. I was so excited. And then they said, well, now tomorrow we're gonna take this to chapel.
Speaker And I said, Oh, and they said, Would you want to come with us? I said, Oh, I'd love to, but I. I don't have a hat.
Speaker See, in those days, if you go to chapel. I thought they were talking about, we're going to go and pray for the success of the show. We're all gonna go to chapel. I've never heard of that. Isn't that wonderful that these Broadway people would go to chapel and pray? And in those days, if you went into a church or chapel, a woman would have to wear a hat. They looked at me like I was from Mars. They were talking about chapel music. Now, Chappell music was spelled differently, and I had never pronounced it. I always thought it was Chapell. So when they said, we're going to go to chapel. Well, opening night in which I don't think I'd ever been so scared as opening night, a mattress, I mean. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And we were weird. We were all rehearsed. We knew it. And the downbeat of the overture just I mean, my heart was right up into my throat. See, when a friend, the Woebegone Princess friend, doesn't come on for the first 20 minutes. So I'm in the wings and I'm seeing everybody, you know, getting their sea legs and how wonderful it was in the audience was with it and laughing so that by the time I came on, I was nervous. But it was a good nervous. It wasn't that paralyzing nervous that I felt in the dressing room before we started. And so I had a good time. I was still excited and scared, but I had a good time. The next night I was more nervous because Lucille Ball was in the audience.
Speaker And I I made the mistake of peeking through the curtain and seeing that redhead in the second row. Oh, I don't know how I got through that one. And she came back afterwards and sat my drift, little dressing room. And we talked for hours.
Speaker Was 20 minutes. She called me kid and she said, if you ever need me.
Speaker You call me if I can ever do anything for you. You give me a call, Ken.
Speaker Years later, I did. And she did a special with me, came on and I couldn't have done this special if she hadn't such. Yes.
Speaker That's great. There's that famous scene at the top of the mattresses show, and I'm just wondering if you could talk about that. It looks quite dangerous.
Speaker I thought once they went Eddie, for I said, can you dance? And I said, no, can you do this? No can do that. I discovered that I could do stunts even though I was never trained. I did the darndest stuff on Gary show. I would jump out of windows. I would fall down stairs. I would do. And then so getting up on top of the 20 mattresses, piece of cake.
Speaker And we worked it out first with one mattress on the floor. What I would do. And then I woke up. But when I was doing Gary Show and Mattress at the same time, after a few months, I never had a day off because we would do. The long weekend, we do two mattresses on Sunday. Then I go right to work on Monday for Gary. So it was constant. So this one man. Now, the whole point is she's not supposed to fall asleep on these mattresses. The pit is supposed to keep her that they put under the mattress. A little peek is supposed to keep her awake. I fell asleep. I fell asleep on stage. I was out like a light because there's this bit where there's a bird in a cage going and I'm supposed to kind of pretend like it's hypnotizing me and I go to sleep.
Speaker I was out now.
Speaker I put people to sleep in an audience, I'm sure. But I don't know how many people have fallen asleep on stage.
Speaker I don't know. And I was about maybe 15, 20 seconds. And the longer I was out, the more the audience evidently was laughing because it makes him think she's really going to fail the test. And what is she going to wake up? And our stage manager, John Allen, I heard him go, oh, it's a wonder I didn't fall off.
Speaker I jumped up.
Speaker And so we did go to the producers and we said, could we please have Sundays off and and make it a different schedule so that we would work Monday night because we would have, you know, because we'd have Monday night off. But I'd be working on Gary show during the day. So that didn't help. And they changed our schedules. So I got Sundays off and it was great.
Speaker That show had an unusual sort of the first right.
Speaker Oh, what happened with Mattress was they were going to close it because it was only going to be on for six weeks and it was a hit and we wanted it to run. So I, I made up I got the cast together and I said, let's have a mock feud with the producers and say that we're mad that they're closing us and they should find a house for us. They should fight about it. They shouldn't close our show. And so the neighborhood kids who loved us, they made up signs. Then they would picket in front of the theater and we would come out in our costumes after the bough and they would hand us the signs and we would picket the theater in our costumes as the audience was coming out. But some of it at the house to house our kingdom for a house don't close mattresses. The softest thing the screen has ever had. Don't do this. Don't do it. And it was in the paper, like on the second page, you know, that I was railing at the producers and we worked and we got a theater uptown and we moved up there to the Elvan Theater, which is now the Neil Simon Theater. And we played there until another show was gonna open in their green willow. And then they moved us to the Winter Garden. And then we were there until they reopened West Side. Then they moved us to the court and then another show was coming in there. Then they moved us to the St. James. And that's where and then I had signed a year contract and then my contract was up there. But we were in five theaters in one year. And Neil Simon said he made a joke. He said, Have you seen Mattress yet? And I said, no, not yet. Well, don't worry it will soon be at your neighborhood theater that couldn't be done today, moving a show that many times, the cost of it and everything. But that was quite a ride.
Speaker I want to talk a little bit about Julian Carroll, the first one. Why? What was it that made you think the two of you would agree with Julie Andrews?
Speaker Came to see me in mattress at the when I was still at the Phoenix Theater downtown and a friend of hers, Lou Wilson, who was I don't know if he was her manager, but a very close friend. And Bob Banner, who was producing The Garry Moore Show, brought Julie to see me. Lou, who was her friend, said, you're gonna fall in love with each other. And Bob Banner said, you're just going to love Julie. It's because, you know, once people say that, you go, wow, wow, OK, you know, maybe so, maybe not. And so after the curtain, they took us to a Chinese restaurant. I remember I had my dog in my purse, Yorkshire put her down in my purse and we were sitting there having the egg rolls and poor Bob Banner and Lou Wilson couldn't get a word in edgewise. Julie, you know, I respect her. And it was as if.
Speaker We knew each other from another life. And so then she was a guest on Gary's show and Kelly Welch was substituting I brought him in because the special material writer on Gary Show was having surgery or something.
Speaker And I told Gary, I said, get can Welch. He can he can substitute for. And so Kenny came in and he was on the first week that Julie was on and he came up with the treatment of Big D..
Speaker Where were these cowboy outfits? And it.
Speaker I was such a homerun and that was a standing ovation from that television audience.
Speaker You just don't get that. And so we just clicked.
Speaker And Bob Banner said, you know, you girls have got to we got to get special. We couldn't sell it because nobody knew. Julie West of New Jersey. She was in Camelot at the time. She hadn't made a movie. And I'm on Gary show every week. So what's so great about that? You know, and so this one day I was with Gary Affiliate's luncheon and I was sitting with the CBS people, Mike Dan and Oscar Katz and so forth. And I don't know, something got into me. And I said, gosh, you know, it's a shame you guys don't want to do the show with Julia me, because we're thinking maybe we're going to go over to NBC because now they're in color and you're not. Yeah.
Speaker You know, now I'm just being silly at the table. So they're laughing.
Speaker And then we left the luncheon and we go down Madison Avenue and it was pouring rain.
Speaker And Mike Sebel, let me. And it was between Christmas and New Year's. So you couldn't get a cab. And it was pouring rain. And I said, Mike, I'm fine. I'll, you know, some trucks gonna pull up some guy and give me a lift. Don't worry about it. Soon as I said that a beer truck pulled up, the guy leans out with the tattoo.
Speaker Carol, you want to last? Where you going? I said up to Central Park Southeast. Go hop in.
Speaker And they lifted me up, put me in the cab of the truck. He dropped me off practically in front of my apartment. I walked into the apartment. The phone was ringing. It was Mike.
Speaker And he said, You got your show.
Speaker It was just me survival. You know, if that can happen out of the blue like that, we're not going to let you guys go anywhere else. So we got to show what I call Bob Banner. I called Julie. I got you know, and it was such a thrill.
Speaker Well, I'm wondering. The show opened the first special with you and Julie on stage and joking about that. You're feeling like how can you be at Carnegie Hall singing next to Julie Andrews? And I'm just wondering if that's true.
Speaker The show was written by Ken Welch and Mike Nichols. Julie brought Mike into it. And I didn't realize that, Mike, but I knew how funny he was with Mike and Elaine, you know, their comedy act and everything. But so when he and Kenny got together, it clicked. And so the number you're so London came up. And what? I'm the Tom boy. She's the lady. So it was a wonderful premise to say, gosh, Julie, I don't belong in Carnegie Hall. It's your gig. It's your thing. And, you know. Don't be silly. Carol, go on and on. And I start to sing your so London. You're so Kensington Gardens and I'm so stand on tone. Then she comes back with your. You're so high. There you are. So how did you partner yourself. And I'm so lemon squash, you know. So it was a fabulous premise and it got this show off to a fantastic start. And did you feel.
Speaker I mean, did you feel that, you know, sort of couldn't believe here you were with Julie Andrews?
Speaker I actually I feel so I feel comfortable, so comfortable regarding a hall like that.
Speaker Well, that's that's good. We practiced enough. Let's see, old Joe. How do you get to Carnegie Hall practice? So we practiced hard enough.
Speaker So the thing is, I think if I had been alone, I wouldn't have felt as comfortable. But to have my charm to play off of. That's why I've always felt I don't like to do anything alone.
Speaker I'd like to look into somebody else's eye balls. And that's what that gives me much more confidence to. Again, it's playing with a better tennis player that you play and they hit you back and and and your game gets better because they're so good.
Speaker One of the things one of my favorite things special is something that you did, which was time. And it's just such an amazing. You just brought such depth to that song. I'm just wondering how you felt about it.
Speaker I was nervous about meantime, so I pretended I was somebody else. I don't know who it was I was pretending to be. I think I was pretending to be somebody who could sing a torch song. Although I love the song. I think it's beautiful. So that that helped. And, you know, the first time I ever sang a torch song was when I was in summer stock, when I was still at UCLA. It was called the Stumptown Players, and I had to do a torch song.
Speaker And what happened was when we do a blackout, we would have change our clothes in the dark because even the dressing lights would go out. So you'd have to have everything laid out, you know, and then know what you were doing and change in the dark. And then the lights would come up. Then you'd run upstairs and go on stage and do your number. Well, I had on a beret and like a French kind of a little T-shirt and a satin skirt with a slit up the shirt like this and fishnet stockings. And I think I was saying something like, thank you, but I've got a dime. Real torchy. I look down in the seams, were running up the front of my legs.
Speaker So I think from then on there was no singing anything. Oh, oh, oh.
Speaker When did this Julie and Carol special won an Emmy as well?
Speaker Julie and Carol Special won an Emmy? Yes. Yes.
Speaker I it actually. Does it seem like it's.
Speaker That special led to a concert tour. Just why is this special?
Speaker It was a great success. And so we were offered a summer tour to go to various venues around the country.
Speaker And Julie became pregnant.
Speaker And so I was encouraged to do it without Julie. I didn't. I wanted my job. But we put together a show with Alan and Rossie, very funny comedy team and 20 boy dancers, and did some of the material that Julie and I had done. I think we had done the nausea of dancers. We did that that I did it alone without without her. And it was a that was 62. That was a yeah. It was a big success. And we wound up at the Sands Hotel and.
Speaker We talked to her. She talked about going on that concert tour and just kind of being shocked at the level of response, do you remember sort of realizing how famous it was?
Speaker Pretty overwhelming, because I had never gone out to do something like this before, because I've been used to doing Gary Show. And then Carnegie Hall was wonderful, but not those huge venues. And the first one was Pittsburgh. And I was something like twenty thousand people. And that was the first time I ever went out, did questions and answers, and I was scared. But I had watched Gary do Q&A for years. They never taped it, though. He that was his up.
Speaker And so it was suggested that at one point I would just come out and throw it open to questions and people would have mikes because it was so huge. And I started to do that and I started to enjoy it. And that's kind of how that that grew.
Speaker But it was 20000 people. It was the first, you know.
Speaker You know, the response afterwards. It was almost like you came out and just throngs of people afterwards mean it must have been a little shock.
Speaker It was I was surprised.
Speaker I was very surprised and thrilled. Yeah. Wow.
Speaker After that concert tour, I think you describe, there was a period before the creation of The Carol Burnett Show that described as the low dessert. And I'm wondering if you can talk about that period. What you were thinking?
Speaker Well, I wasn't worried. I just thought, well, you know, time of that. And by now, I had a daughter. Yeah. Joe and I had a daughter. And then I was expecting another one. But when I got after the tour, after the sixty two tour. CBS wanted me to sign a contract, a 10 year contract with them, which would allow me to do a special a year then to get shots on whether it's Lucy or one of their sitcoms for a year. But this is an interesting one, is that if within the first five years of the ten year contract I wanted to do an hour long variety show, I could push a button and say, I want to do this. And they would have to put it on the air 30 shows. And if they didn't want to do it, they'd have to pay us for the 30 hours, which is was unheard of.
Speaker And I said I would never want to be a host of a variety show. I wouldn't know how to do it right now. We had been working that much and it was the fifth year and it was the week before the New Year when California and we had one week to go. So I picked up the phone call. My then Mike had a high voice.
Speaker Hi, Carol. How are you? I said, Hi, Mike. Have a good Christmas. Oh, yeah. Oh, what can I do for us?
Speaker Well, we want to push that button, any support button. And I said, you know, the button where I can do 30 shows. 30 shows.
Speaker Oh, wow. Let me call you back.
Speaker Wait. Now, you know, we've got to the lawyers got contract out and all of that, you know, say again.
Speaker I see that. That's great.
Speaker Well, you know, we've got this pilot script. That's adorable. That would be great for you. It's called Here's Agnes. You know, it's you know, all I know is variety. And I want to do what Gary did. I want to have a rep company like Sid Caesar. I want to have guest stars. I'm going to have music and singers and dancers who are doing our variety show. And he said, well, to these words, to the fact that women don't do that. Dinah had a musical variety show, but not a musical comedy variety show sketch, a lot of sketches and stuff in high school. That's a man's thing. That's Gleason. That's Sid Caesar. That's Milton Berle. That's Dean Martin. It's not. It's a bit it's all I know how to do. They had to do it. They had to put us on the air.
Speaker And I remember Joe went back to New York to talk to him about certain things in the fall. And my cat. They have this big bulletin board behind his desk that sometimes they close up, but they have the fall schedule with these little cards that says what's on, you know, with the thumbtacks and by. And they had us on Monday nights at 10 and opposite Big Valley. And I spy. And this one. And that one. And then they had January and there was a big question mark up in our slot because they expected us not to know. But we still to a fair play third.
Speaker So and we didn't expect we know what to expect, except that this is what we wanted to do. That's how that happened.
Speaker So you were aware at least that you were breaking some new ground in being the first woman? Did you feel any pressure responsible?
Speaker I. I felt no pressure or responsibility. What I knew was that I had to have one. That's all that was good. And I knew I could. And I knew what I wanted. I knew I wanted that rep company. And I knew I wanted the certain things that Gary taught me and had. And so we just went about trying to get the best people and put on the best show and have the most fun. And that was what that if I felt a responsibility, that was it.
Speaker Can you talk a little bit about the casting?
Speaker Just briefly, how why you chose Harvey and how we'd seen Harvey on The Danny Kaye Show? I thought he is the best since Carl Reiner. And we've talked about him even before. We knew we were gonna do a show, isn't he? Yeah. I mean, he's holding his own with Danny Kaye and sometimes topping it, you know. And so when we were gonna do our show, Danny went off to air this season before we were going to go on. And so we kind of get hurt. And so I was leaving the building television city and I was going to my car and I saw Harvey in the parking lot. I attacked him.
Speaker I jumped at him. You've got to be honest. I think I might have been him over the hood of a car. I'm not sure. But I said, oh, please, you got to be on.
Speaker You got to be on our show. And they worked it out. And he was me then. We were looking for a young girl. We were gonna do a segment on our show called Carol and Sis, which thank God, went the way of the dodo, but that was why we were looking for somebody younger that to play play with us. And I was pregnant with Joanie. I was about 13 months pregnant with Jodie. So, yeah, I wasn't feeling too swift. And I was at the desk looking through mail and I open this letter from this girl that had been. Circulated through CBS, and somehow it found me that very day and it was from Vickie saying everybody says I'm do I look like you and I just want some advice. And they she included a clipping of herself about how she's no the young Americans. And she gets good grades and she sings and plays instruments and so forth and is funny and is going to be in a contest. For the title role of Miss Fireball of Inglewood, and I looked at the date, and that was that night I got the letter. On the day of the night of the contest. So in the article, it listed her father's name, Howard Lawrence, in Inglewood.
Speaker So I picked up the phone call you information, got Howard Lawrence's number and her mother answered the phone, Lou.
Speaker I said hi. I said, is Vicky there? And she said, Who's calling? I said, I'm Carol Burnett. I got her.
Speaker She just took this. Vicky came on the phone.
Speaker Vicky got on the phone. Oh, hi, Marcia. She's somebody's making a joke. I said, no, I got your letter. The contest is tonight. And she said, Yeah. I said, Are you happy with what you're doing? Would you mind if we came to see you? She said no. Great. So Joe comes down the stairs and I said, get ready. We're going to go to Inglewood. You said, what? I said, we're going to Inglewood to see the Miss Fireball contest. You said, are you crazy? I said, I'm pregnant and I want to go see them as fireball contest. We went and that's when we saw Vicky. And that's when we got it in mind to hire her course. The rest is history here. Jeff, you first. The first few years, she hardly said boo, you know, but we kept kept with her. And Harvey was so good with her and taught her accents. And, you know, I would mentor her. He was just great. And then she just blossomed. She just blossomed. Lyle we got because we thought we wanted to foil for me to go gaga over. Which also eventually went the way of the dodo. And because Lyle not only was good-Looking and perfect for the idea that we had it first, but he turned out to be a very good sketch player. And he would do things and come up with shtick and all. And so he he just became a regular sketch player. Con-Way.
Speaker Well, we were so stupid. We would have in mind maybe twice a month. That wasn't till the ninth year we thought. Why do we have him as a regular? I mean, anyway, magic really happened when Conway joined. And then when he and Harvey got together, it was gold. We would do two shows on Friday, one around five o'clock and the air show at eight. But we tape them both in. Conway would do the the dress rehearsal to the ink. The way it was written, and then afterwards we'd take notes and make cuts or do whatever for the next show and the next audience coming in, and he would go to our director, Dave Powers, and say, did you get all the shots and so forth? Dave always did. And then Tim would say, okay.
Speaker In the sketch where I walked to the window instead of being on way shot, be on a head to toe. That's all he would tell him.
Speaker So we never knew what he was going to do. He'd give him a hint. You saw that you wouldn't miss the bet that he was going to do. But he would go off on a tangent. And sometimes a sketch that would originally be four minutes long would be twelve because of what he would be doing, which was great, because then we could take another sketch out and bank it for another week or whatever or another. No. Or what? You know, so I always I mean, it was such fun to watch in my dressing room. I have the monitor on, especially when he was with Harvey.
Speaker It was his goal in life to destroy Harvey, the critical part of the show. Mean I know myself watching and waited for the times when people would crack up. Did you enjoy that or do you seem to really fight it? No, I.
Speaker I'm never one for wanting to crack up. Ever, ever. That's why I admire Caesar's Hour so much heat. You know, they were very, very strict about that and rightfully so. When it was Tim and Harvey, it was just a time where people knew it just couldn't be helped. And it's like giggling in church or laughing in the library or whatever. So we just. OK. Can't help it. This is it. But it was always real and nobody ever cracked up on purpose.
Speaker Nobody you talked a little bit about. Q and A's and how that was originally sort of born. But is it true that you originally didn't want to tape them?
Speaker I didn't want to tape the Cuban A's because I didn't think the audience would believe that they weren't written, that they weren't pre screened.
Speaker And I was worried about that. And so I said, well, OK, I'll I'll try it. But don't don't put any plants in the audience. And if it bombs and it doesn't go well, that's so be it. And so it just kind of started out slowly and it worked. And people I guess, realized you couldn't write that stuff.
Speaker You going to drink some of the craziest things you learn?
Speaker Your tenure. Me too.
Speaker Yeah. Just just so that people felt comfortable asking you just the most sort of outlandish things I thought was great.
Speaker I loved it. The more outlandish, the more fun it was. And there were some that I remember and that when I go around the country and do Q and A's, that I'll show a clip of some of my favorite Cuban aid that we did. And one of them is that this woman said, what was the most embarrassing question you ever had? And I said, wow, I think it was whether or not I'd had a sex change. I think that was about the most embarrassing. And the next person I called on said, well, did you? Correct. I love that another lady just wanted to know how we cleaned the floor with. And another one, we had to go to the bathroom. And another one wanted to get up and sing. And I got her up and she sang. She took over the show. She was wonderful. And that's one of my favorites, because then I started to sing with her.
Speaker And at the end, because I knew the song and she had a certain way to end the song and I had a different way. And so we kind of petered out and she looked at me and she said, you screwed it up again.
Speaker You can't write that stuff. I loved it.
Speaker Do you think that your your audience throughout these years in some way, I mean, do they feel like they feel that they would feel comfortable saying something like that to you? What does that say about you?
Speaker I I'm always thrilled when I get a letter or somebody comes up and says, you know, I used to watch your show with my family.
Speaker We would it would be appointment television and we would be together and we would say, Carol's on hour. You know, look at what Tim and Harvey are doing there. I think we kind of became a family. I think the fact that it showed that we were having fun made everybody feel.
Speaker At ease with us.
Speaker And so how did you work with the writers? Did you have a role with them or in terms of like saying I like movies?
Speaker I would. I really loved doing movie takeoffs because I was raised going to movies with my grandmother. So I would go to the writers and I'd say, you know, I'd love to.
Speaker What I would love to do is a Betty Grable musical take off. And within three or four weeks.
Speaker When I was little, I would go home after I'd see these movies and I would go with my girlfriend, dial me, and we would act out these movies. So I called Betty Grable. She'd be June Javor or the summer. And now I have this show. I go to the writers, to Betty Grable. So I would have the costumes. I would have a blonde wig. I would have an orchestra. The dancers, the singers. The leading man that this. I mean, I had died and gone to heaven. I was still the kid. But now I'm in all the stuff and. OK, then maybe let's do Mildred Pierce. Let's do a takeoff on Joan Kroc. Let's do this or that. And it would happen. It's I mean, I'm the luckiest woman who ever lived. As far as I'm concerned, it just it also wouldn't happen today. So I'm very grateful that I lived and had the opportunity at that time to do what I loved the most. If I were younger today, I could never do that because they wouldn't do it. You'd never have that kind of opportunity to do that on television today, ever. And so and I'm very grateful for how old I am and where I was.
Speaker When you talked a little bit about some of the things that you did in the early years of the show. And a couple of them went the way I said.
Speaker And I'm just wondering about kind of the evolution of the show, because it did seem to kind of change and grow along with you. Can you just talk a little bit about that?
Speaker As we all matured and had the experience of doing all of these shows and playing back and forth and finding characters, and then we'd find a character and it would be OK or we'd like it, but then it would start to great. At first when we did George and Zelda, I thought that was funny. And then she got she gave me a headache. And so I figured if she gives me a headache, she's gonna be giving the audience a headache. So by Zelda Carroll insists was really kind of a dumb little sitcom within a variety show. And as Vicki was progressing and we were giving her more and more stuff to do, that just kind of faded away. And I didn't miss it at all. Then certain things started to come about that were pretty fascinate. I always loved the movie Take US and we got we got better with those. But then came the family with Eunice, Annette and Momma. And that happened as a result of Dick Clair and Gentlemen man writing this sketch about a brother who is successful, who comes home to this dysfunctional family, and they're just not really that interested in what he's doing or they're overwhelmed by him. And that was one sketch with Roddy McDowall. It's got to be on. And so there was Eunice and Momma. And Ed was always gonna be Harvey. I think I was going to originally play Mama and we were gonna get some maybe one of the guest stars to fly Eunice or whatever. And I remember say I kind of identify with Eunice somehow. I you know, that that frustration, that her dreams never come true. And that was kind of like my mom. And then we're gonna get to play the mama. Well, somebody came up with. Well, you know what? Maybe it was Bob Mackie or somebody, you know, said, why don't we just pad Vicki and take her makeup off and stick a wig on her and glasses. It's only going to be one show, one show. And then we read the script. It was a Monday. And I just start talking like this. It just somehow, because of my Texas and Arkansas background, came out like that and it just felt south, western or southern.
Speaker And Vicky started talking like, Tucker, tune out like that. And and Harvey picked up on it. So that was Monday. And Roddy, of course, with his British accent, was very funny. But then we figure he'd been gone for years and been traveling in Europe. You know, he's successful. And when we did it for the run-Through on Wednesday. All of the riders in the crew, Dick and Jenna, who had written it. What printed all those accents come from? I said it just sounds right. And they said, great, they've written it for the Chicago area or someplace where they'd been raised. And that was fine. And we did it. And it was so. Well written. And what I loved about those characters and the way Dick and Jenna wrote them were they were little one acts. There were no jokes. Not that I'm against jokes. But for that particular those particular people, it was the way we played it. That got the laughs. And there was one time and then I said, we've got to do with let's make this a department so that every so often we will do these people. And one time, Maggie Smith, wonderful. Maggie Smith was a guest. And she was in one of these sketches with us where she played a schoolteacher. And she had called us all into the school room after school to talk about our son, Bubba, who was a bully. And so, of course, it's very funny. And Harvey is talking about Bobo's kind of a sissy and exists and that and so forth. And I'm screaming, I didn't want boys. I wanted pretty little girls and momma saying, well, I told you if you married him, you'd have freak's for children. And one of us got the idea to just as an acting experiment, do the sketch without being UNICEF and momma.
Speaker Do it like real people coming in about their son, who's a bully. And it was frightening. It was so real.
Speaker You would start you started cry about I had about what this poor what made this poor kid into a bully. Were these three people. And playing it straight, it's a great acting exercise to take those sketches and play them straight and see what, and then to see how to make them funny.
Speaker What was part of what was going on? Do you think you were consciously trying to, you know, wanting to dig a little deeper with character rather than just doing you know, not that you were just doing slapstick before, but it does seem like the show was. You were changing.
Speaker I think we all were changing as we got older. And I loved doing Younus because there was this heartbreak there. Even though she was funny, you know. So we did have to dig a bit. And then there were some other sketches that we did that we never gave a name to or anything. But there was always this poor creature. I think we called her Jane, who would sit on a stoop and maybe drink a little too much and talk about her life. She was funny, but there was there was an underlying heartache in there.
Speaker And, yeah, you know, what about the. Just bear with me, I'm just gonna. No problem.
Speaker Just love him. OK?
Speaker He's very in to. I don't know if it is a Buddhist or but he's a he's a meditator. He's very into.
Speaker Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I was wrong. So, first of all, I just saw you were about to tell you the first the first time I was ever asked to do a stunt.
Speaker I was on the Garry Moore Show and I wanted to keep the job. And they came to me and they had a sketch that was written by Neil Simon called Playhouse 90 Seconds. And it was literally 90 seconds long. And Durward Kirby and I and Gary were in it. And it was Jack and Jill take off on Jack and Jill. And it was it took place in a hospital room and Durward was in bed with his head all bandaged. And I'm Jill. He's jacked. And the doctor said, So tell me, Jill, what happened? And I said, Well, Jack and I went up the hill. To fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down and monkies crown, and then the doctor said, Well, Jill, calm down. What are you going to do? And I my line was I'll just go tumbling after. And I'm supposed to jump out of a window out the window and you hear the crash and all that. So the director came up, he said, Carol, you know how to jump out because we'd been rehearsing it in a studio, you know? But without the. So now we were on stage and there was the set and the window. And I said, oh, sure, sure, I know how to do that. I don't want to jump out of it. I've never done it before in my life. So comes a time to do it. I just barreled ahead and I think I jumped and I went straight out the window and I landed on a mattress and which the crew had put down for me. I had not fought. To look further than jumping out the window, to even check, to see that the what was I thinking I was going to land on probably splat on the floor.
Speaker I didn't even check. So I sat up after I had landed on the mattress. And then this loud voice, I said, oh, gosh, thanks so much for the mattress.
Speaker And everybody started to howl and laugh at me and everything. And Bob Banner came up and said, Oh, yeah, you're doing a lot of these stunts. I mean, one of the first things you have to do is to learn what's gonna be safe to do, not me. I was gonna go splat, you know, hope for the best. So that's that's being very naive and stupid.
Speaker I just threw myself out. Yeah.
Speaker Go back to we were talking about Carol Burnett Show yesterday, just a few more things. Charwoman and where she came from, I didn't know I had read somewhere that you yourself were cleaning person.
Speaker No. Know the chairwoman.
Speaker Actually, years and years ago, David Rose had a hit record out called the Stripper. No, dad at dad that. Oh, but that. OK. And I remember listening to it on the radio and the disc jockey said at that time, this is what they call them.
Speaker He said, that's the Housewives favorite song. That went number one of the chart. But all the housewives loved this. So I envisioned a housewife listening to the stripper ironing, doing how tall or sweeping and doing bumps and grinds and so forth.
Speaker So when I was going to do special with Robert Preston, I came up with the thought of taking it one step further and making it a cleaning woman.
Speaker And as drip tease place after the show, after everybody has left and there's just the naked naked lady naked light bulb in the middle of the stage and that she comes in and a radical sweater and the combat boots and a mop and a pail and looks set to cut out Gypsy Rose Lee and let's cut out of the beautiful stripper and imagines that she's that stripper in her mind.
Speaker And so I did a mock strip tease to that song, The Stripper, and I had a long, long glove and it just just pulled all of that off and did all of these sounds and hits and then bumps and grinds and so forth, and then did a full out thing where I just took the sweater off and that was it. And then came back and sat on the bucket and sang a sense along. And so that's so that's how the strip. That's how the stripper. That's how the charwoman kind of was born.
Speaker And just briefly, I mean, why do you think you became such a signature? Did you were you so attached to her that she became a signature?
Speaker I was never really I didn't get any more attached to the charwoman than any other character that I kind of like to repeat doing. But she kind of became it just grew and became a good little logo and signature. And then I would do her maybe once during the season.
Speaker Then I would always close the season with her doing something many, many, many characters.
Speaker Do you feel closest to you?
Speaker Well, I think probably I'm close to Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth. That's probably the closest characteristic. Oh, I don't really feel that I am any particular character. Whatever I do, it's a part of me. But the ones I enjoy the most are were Younus. And it was just as I say, it's such a it was a pitiful mess about her that I and I could dig deeply into her and see that she was never going to do anything about her fate in life, which was the tragedy. She's so she was always complaining. But then she had that terrible mother that she had to deal with and kind of. Well, they were all so dysfunctional. Anyway, I enjoyed whenever I was with Tim and when we did Mr. Tied Ball and Mrs. Wiggins, he wrote those characters. He wrote a lot of sketches that we did. And usually when he would write, it was based on life. He knew a guy who had this kind of a secretary who it started out when he would press the button, she would press the button at the same time and they don't press a button at the same time. Hello. Hello. How are you? And that's how that first one came about.
Speaker And I remember.
Speaker I wasn't supposed to be Mrs. Wiggins. I think we were going to have somebody else be her. And I said, you know, I kind of see her. I would like to. Can I do her?
Speaker I said.
Speaker I think originally she had been envisioned as an older woman with gray hair and and like an older lady and so forth. And so I went to costume fitting.
Speaker And Bob Mackie had a sketch drawn up of Mrs. Wiggins with this blonde hair, this low cut floral, awful looking top with the push up bra and this black tight pencil skirt and high stiletto heels. And I said, she's just great. And it showed me that I could play her like that and also play her as if the I.Q. Fairy had never paid her a visit. OK. So I put on the outfit, but the skirt that Bob put put me in was an old skirt from the rack and it bagged in the behind. And I said, I'm flat, so flat back there. And I said, Bob, I think we're gonna have to just take this sand.
Speaker And he looked and he said, no, stick your behind into it, into where it's bagging. It was very tight at the knees. And that's how. That walk developed. So that's also added to the character. The fun part and the toughest part. If you see any other reruns or anything, you see me doing a lot of this. That's to keep from laughing, because when you don't have an IQ, you can't have a sense of humor. You don't get anything goes right over the head. So, Tim.
Speaker We never knew what he was going to say to Mrs. Wiggins. I mean, there was we've had this beginning a middle and an end, but always in the middle.
Speaker I never knew what he was going to do. So when he would throw a line out there and the audience would be cracking up and so would the cameraman and this Mrs. Wiggins can't laugh. So I would be literally biting my finger. All right. Just to keep from. Going just going crazy cause she can't laugh. No.
Speaker So the show was on, obviously, during the late 60s and the 70s. Yes, there was a lot of things going on in the world at that time. And I'm just wondering if it was sort of a conscious choice not to be very political, or do you feel like you got away with more candy, felt that your show actually got away with a lot more than people realize that I did?
Speaker Well, I never really at that time got terribly political. It wasn't a point that I wanted to make. A sketch came out and we thought it was kind of funny that we would do it, but it wasn't. Let's do something political every week. I did, however, get involved with the NRA. And I got involved through Alan Alda. He took us out to dinner one night and I had heard about it and stuff, but I wasn't. I don't know. I never felt that I was being put upon as a woman or anything. So I you know, sometimes it's wrong and it's wrong. When you can't identify it doesn't mean that you can't learn to identify. And so Alan laid it all out on the table and I became quite active in the movement. Yeah.
Speaker Do you feel that in any way, subtly or not so subtly influenced your choices professionally, whether it's sketches or or.
Speaker I stopped letting people make jokes about me.
Speaker That would be negative towards a woman. I mean, they would make flat chested jokes and this and that. And I went along with that forever. And also, I was a lot more mature. I was changing in the way I was performing. I wasn't the cook that would faint in Lyle's arms as I was pretty close to the first four, four years or four years. Every time I saw Lyle, I would go back to the crazy cook that I was doing Gary Show. No, I'm doing all of that. But that worked then. And but you can't keep doing the same thing. You got to grow a bit with the Times. And I had three daughters. And so I was still, I think, goofy.
Speaker And I would do the stunts and. But then again, we would do some sketches that were that you could really think about and that were not necessarily fall down. Funny.
Speaker See that also you referred to the pollution just as that.
Speaker Yes, I was very upset with it. See, I was raised in Hollywood when the skies were blue. That's how far back I go. And when you could look at the mountains and you feel like you could reach out and just touch them. Now, sometimes can you kind of are aware that they're there, but you can't see them. And knowing that we were breathing that crap.
Speaker I, I would just say something after, you know, let's see what we can do about fighting pollution was a kind of little public service announcement that I would do out after at the end of every show.
Speaker Singing on that show a little bit well. You did a lot of great sidestreets, songs know comedic fashion.
Speaker Oh, well, I love music.
Speaker I think that's why I wanted to do a musical comedy. That was my first love and wanting to do that. And when I was a little girl, my grandmother and my mother and I would sit in the kitchen and momma would play the ukulele and I would sing lead. And my grandmother would sing the third harmony. And Momma would fill in with harmonies way out there, but really good. And I did like to sing. I was terrified, though. I'm singing as myself. So what