I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together ...

Carol Burnett today

Yes, dear Carol, I was glad too, because I was able to see you in person for your annual reflection and audience/question answer event on Tuesday, June 12.
 

Carol Burnett live at the Chicago Theater

Carol Burnett at the Chicago Theater ticket stub

In fact, I was more than glad, because like the full-capacity audience at the Chicago Theater, I am a fan. If you are a person of a certain age (and many people of that age brought their now elderly parents), you grew up with this show, the last installment on that amazing 1970s Saturday night line-up that included classics like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family.

But this blog isn't just a nostalgia kick. Of course, to see clips of Carol singing with names like Ethel Merman and Mel Torme (names millennials might not recognize), or her spinning yarns in her inimitable way about going to the movies on a dime with her grandmother several times a week, fulfilled mine and the mostly older audience's euphoric absorption into their personal retro worlds.

What really got me was Carol (and she wanted people to call her Carol) is her complete humanity. No diva posturing (which she never did in her show anyway), no condescending royal “common touch” attitude. Like she did when she “bumped up the lights” before her show in its heyday, her wit and charm flamed out like the star she is, but rather than scorching, it emanated warmth and love.

She accepted the inevitable compliments graciously, but always managed to focus warmly and personally on the person she was speaking too, which ranged from a gay Catholic priest who admitted he would sing a variant of her song when he left a parish (how gay is that? my conservative priestly brother would cringe), to an odd question from someone who asked if she “had ever played a pregnant lady.” Huh?

When the inevitable political question came up (of course, in this fraught social climate), she admitted that she never worried about being PC when someone asked a question essentially lamenting political correctness and its effect on comedy, because the show was there for a belly laugh, not politics, and definitely not a laugh in bad taste (hear that, Roseanne?). The conservative members of the audience (they were there, I could tell the white Chicago suburban crowd like New Yorkers can tell the “bridge and tunnel crowd”) approved loudly.

But, when one of the soccer mom types who either brought her children or her mother asked her if she had ever experienced a #MeToo incident, Carol was honest. She had not. She admitted she was lucky. She married the producer of the Gary Moore Show (the place where she began her ascent to fame), and overall the men she worked with her were gentlemen. But she really zinged the audience when she said if any guy had tried anything with her, she “would kick him in the balls.” Deafening applause, ensued perhaps an elusive show of unity.

I could go on and on with her stories … her fake lesbian kiss with Julie Andrews meant to be a joke on Mike Nichols, but Lady Bird Johnson ended up as the audience for that one … the chin operation that nearly ruined a retake of a big scene in the movie Annie where she played Miss Hannigan …

And she, a truly gracious lady, acknowledged the late Harvey Korman in several clips and Bob Mackie, the masterful designer of the costumes for that show (she guesstimated he had to produce during the 11 years of that show 17,000 costumes), Bob Mackie, still active and working for The Cher Show, a gay man whose life partner Ray Aghayan died in 2011. When one thinks about the get-ups Carol wore for her beloved characters like Mrs. Wiggins and Stella Toddler, and of course the curtain rod dress in her movie parody “Went With the Wind,” one sees the show as the work of several geniuses who all came together to create (while enjoying a glorious time doing so) a world of joy and laughter.
 

Mrs. Wiggins
Mrs. Wiggins

Curtain dress
The curtain dress

The show was one of those few moments in life where time stood still. But then it was over, like the words to that song:
 

Seems we just got started
and before you know it
Comes the time we have
to say, “So long.”

Carol Burnett Show cast

Now Carol's got her own youtube channel. Check it out!

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