Ed Sullivan's show was the last gasp of vaudeville and the birth-gasp of television elongated into one big, beautiful breath. We met The Beatles, Elvis, Topo Gigio, Allen & Rossi, Stiller & Meara, plate spinners, jugglers, mimes, impressionists, Myron Cohen, Jackie "The Finger" Mason, Totie Fields, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, and a multitude of others.
The Sullivan Show was a high-class, weekly version of American Idol with people who'd been beating their brains out in show business for years--not tyros barely out of their Underoos. Sullivan had Phil Silvers, The Doors, and The Stones.
It was a major event when African-American acts would come on in our house. The Supremes. The Temptations. The Four Tops. The Fifth Dimension. Dionne Warwick.
But for all those years, I was a fan of the comedians. One team--Burns and Schreiber--were particular favorites of the show. Square-jawed, straight-from-Texas, Jack Burns. Pudgy, mustachioed, "I Went On To A Featured Role In "My Mother The Car"" Avery Schreiber. They were hilarious.
I say all that to say this: Jack Burns's first comedy partner died. George Dennis Patrick Carlin lived to know how high he flew. That's a blessing. Only Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce were his peers. Richard was funnier and Lenny was braver (Lenny did "ultra-blue" first and paid with his life and his liberty) but George Carlin moved out of their footsteps into his own.
Carlin did for "The Seven Dirty Words" what John McCain has done for the c-word (I'm not as brave as those other guys). George Carlin didn't pretend. When his beloved wife died Brenda died, his grief spilled from him. There was no decorum. There was no restraint. He loved her and he showed it. That created some bizarre moments on television, but so be it. So he was on the Carson Show in a blond wig. George Carlin was hurt and he couldn't pretend otherwise.
George Carlin's humor was sunny and infectious in the beginning. For those who aren't familiar with it, Google +"Al Sleet"--you're in for a treat. His "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television" was the rock through the window. Four out of the seven words have nodding, conditional acquaintance among broadcast audiences: Shit, piss, c**t (thanks, John), and tits. If you've got cable, you've got the entire smorgasbord on top of what he served us.
His HBO specials were major events. Carlin never got stale. He never gave in. He never got cute.
I made a commitment to honesty a little ways back in this blog. Here's to an example of what I've failed to live up to.
Aloha oe, Cardinal Glick.