Not sure what to ask Carol Burnett?

April 02, 2010|By David Zurawik

Burnett is a splendid storyteller, and she is very generous with her rich recollections from the worlds of TV, stage and film. Here are a few suggestions for questions you might ask her, based on my interview with her.

•Ask her about life at the Rehearsal Club, where she and other "young ladies" interested in a life in the theater lived when they were starting out in New York City in the 1950s.

•Ask her what she learned from Sid Caesar, the 1950s king of sketch comedy - and Milt Kamen, Caesar's understudy on his landmark "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour" TV shows.

•Ask her about the Stage Deli in 1950s and 1960s New York. (Think "Broadway Danny Rose.")

•Ask what she did with the tickets she won to a little play opening down the street one night titled "My Fair Lady." Far from being the staid and boring era of conventional memory, the 1950s was one of the most exciting and revolutionary epochs of American popular culture, and she was at the heart of it.

•Get her talking about Julie Andrews and Beverly Sills, two giants with whom she has brilliantly collaborated.

•Ask her about the 24-year-old costume designer named Bob Mackie whom she hired for her show. "He did 50 costumes a week for us, five-oh," Burnett told me. "Can you believe it? He looked like he was about 12 years old, but he had the eye of a great director. I wouldn't do anything without him."

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