Carol Burnett Is Still Mad That She Had to Open for Elvis Presley on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’

Last night, Burnett returned to the scene of one of her worst-ever bombs
Carol Burnett Is Still Mad That She Had to Open for Elvis Presley on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’

Anybody who was forced to open for Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show would probably bomb, but only performers who live as long as Carol Burnett get to carry around that frustration for 60 years.

At 90 years old, Burnett is still one of the brightest stars in TV comedy, recently co-starring in the Kristen Wiig-led comedy-drama miniseries Palm Royale on AppleTV+. Burnett has seen countless trends, stars and shows come and go during her prolific career spanning eight decades, but, of all the pop-culture royalty Burnett brushed up against throughout her historic life in show business, none was more iconic than the King of Rock and Roll himself — and none upstaged her more memorably, either. 

Last night, Burnett returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater, a venue she knows as well as its namesake. In a conversation with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, Burnett recalled her appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show early in her career when she was booked to perform on the same bill as Elvis, a daunting task for even the most talented performers. Said Burnett, “Nobody wanted to see me! … I bombed, it was terrible! It was awful!” 

Sixty years of consistent work later, I think it’s fair to say that Burnett has made a full recovery.

Colbert asked the comedy legend about her many memories of the many magnificent acts that graced the stage where Colbert now hosts The Late Show, and, with seven appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and plenty more on its successors, Burnett had some fantastic stories of show-business past. “I was on when Elvis was on when he was in the army,” Burnett said of The Ed Sullivan Show, “and they put me on first.”

Predictably, Burnetts performance failed to appease the ravenous crowd that came to see the biggest star on the planet, but she doesnt hold any ill will toward Elvis. “I met him, he was very sweet, and I got his autograph for my kid sister,” Burnett explained — thankfully, she never introduced Elvis to her young sister, otherwise she could have been overshadowed by her brother-in-law at every family event.

As Burnett noted, Elvis and his following inspired her comedic love song “I Made A Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles,” which parodied Elvis hyperbolic popularity among young women by substituting a fittingly dull politician in a young womans song of longing. The song was so popular that the then-Secretary of State even answered a question about it and his possible relationship with Burnett during an episode of Meet the Press, coyly replying, “I make it a policy never to discuss matters of the heart in public.”

Neither Burnett nor Dulles ever actually revealed whether or not they met in person, or if he made her walk down Lonely Street to Heartbreak Hotel.


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