Fugues - - Arts & Icons -

All my life when people have as­ked me how to spell my fa­mi­ly name, I re­ply, “Burnett, like Ca­rol.” Re­cent­ly, when I told the co­me­dy le­gend that sto­ry, Ms. Burnett (no re­la­tion to me) re­plied, “From now on, when people ask me that ques­tion, I’ll tell them ‘Burnett, like Ri­chard!’” It was a thrill, of course, to blab with Ms. Burnett (“Call me Ca­rol”), the LGBTQ and pop icon, who has been fa­mous­ly sup­por­tive of her bi­sexual daugh­ter, the mu­si­cian Erin Ha­mil­ton, and ins­pi­red count­less drag queens such as RuPaul who has cal­led her show Drag Race a new ge­ne­ra­tion’s Ca­rol Burnett Show. “I’m ve­ry flat­te­red!” a clear­ly-hap­py Ca­rol said when I told her about RuPaul. We al­so spoke about Ca­rol’s ti­re­less sup­port for the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ties, her le­gen­da­ry ca­reer, and her up­co­ming concerts in To­ron­to, Ot­ta­wa and Mon­treal. You have long sup­por­ted LGBTQ causes and ap­pea­red at LGBTQ events.

We’re all hu­man, we’re all lo­ving people, eve­ry­bo­dy has the right to their own be­liefs and be who they want to be, who they are. We are all the same. We are all un­der the same – if you want to call it – hi­gher po­wer. That’s what I be­lieve. It doesn’t mat­ter, the co­lour of your skin or who you love. You have been fa­mous­ly sup­por­tive of your daugh­ter Erin.

Pa­rents should sup­port their LGBT chil­dren be­cause they are our chil­dren! We are all the same in­side. In the ear­ly 1970s, one of your guests was le­gen­da­ry fe­male im­per­so­na­tor Jim Bai­ley. What was al­so great was you em­bra­ced him like a se­rious ar­tist. He was. I lo­ved Jim! I first got to know him when I saw him in Las Ve­gas and he just blew me away. You see a lot of fe­male im­per­so­na­tors who lip-sync and they’re ve­ry good, but he blew me away be­cause he was ac­tual­ly sin­ging Ju­dy Gar­land and Bar­bra Strei­sand. His pipes were in­cre­dible. I just loo­ked at him as a fan­tas­tic en­ter­tai­ner and as so­me­bo­dy I would love to have as a guest on my show.

Do you still keep in touch with your friends and col­leagues from The Ca­rol Burnett Show? Yup, Tim (Con­way), Vi­cki (La­wrence) and Lyle (Wag­go­ner). In fact, (in Oc­to­ber) we fi­ni­shed ta­ping a tt­wo-hour two-hour spe­cial that will air on CBS on De­cem­ber 3, ce­le­bra­ting – get this this, I can’t be­lieve it – the 50th an­ni­ver­sa­ry of the start of the show! It was un­be­lie­vable. We show a lot of clips show­ca­sing the whole cast, in­clu­ding Har­vey (Kor­man, who died in 2008 at age 81). Some of the guests in­clude Ke­vin Spa­cey, Jim Car­rey, Ber­na­dette Pe­ters, Kris­tin Che­no­weth, Steve La­wrence, Amy Poeh­ler, Mar­tin Short, the list goes on and on. They joi­ned us to talk about some of their fa­vou­rite mo­ments on the show. We still need to edit it down ano­ther 30 mi­nutes, but we’re get­ting there. What do you think of te­le­vi­sion these days?

I know I’m going to sound like an old fo­gey, but I think the great era has kind of pas­sed, with few ex­cep­tions. When you look back at our era, when you think of that Sa­tur­day night line-up that we had – All In The Fa­mi­ly, MASH, Ma­ry Ty­ler Moore, Bob New­hart and us – not to men­tion all the va­rie­ty shows from that era, like Laugh-In, Flip Wil­son, The Smo­thers Bro­thers, on and on. You could do what no net­work will do to­day. We had a 28-piece or­ches­tra, we had 12 dan­cers, two guest stars per week, and on ave­rage Bob Ma­ckie de­si­gned 65 cos­tumes per week. You do the math over 11 years – 276 shows – he de­si­gned over 17,000 cos­tumes. The costs to­day would be pro­hi­bi­tive, the bu­si­ness has chan­ged so much. I wish va­rie­ty (shows) would come back. It would have to be in a dif­ferent form. But the ta­lent is there. There are people who can do va­rie­ty and sketches. I have to say rea­li­ty shows do not in­ter­est me that much.

Was it tou­gher for you to sur­vive the show­biz trenches as a wo­man?

I ne­ver had a pro­blem be­cause I had it in my contract at CBS that if I wan­ted to push the but­ton, they would have to put it on the air whe­ther they wan­ted to or not. It was a wild contract. I don’t think any­bo­dy had it be­fore and cer­tain­ly not since. I had no pro­blem. I lear­ned and stu­died ve­ry hard when I was on The Gar­ry Moore Show, so that gave me a bit of a leg up.

The on­ly thing was, being a wo­man, if a sketch wasn’t wor­king – if you were Ja­ckie Glea­son or Sid Cae­sar, you’d say to the wri­ters, “Hey guys, this real­ly stinks, get it to­ge­ther.” But as a wo­man, if a sketch wasn’t wor­king, I’d call the wri­ters down to the re­hear­sal hall and ve­ry gent­ly say, “Gosh guys, this isn’t wor­king for me, can you help me out here?” If I tal­ked the way Sid or Glea­son tal­ked, I would be a bitch. That’s how they would call me. But if it’s a boy, well, he real­ly knows what he’s tal­king about. He au­tho­ri­ta­tive. For­tu­na­te­ly, I think a lot of that has gone the way of the Do­do bird. What did your Mom think of your suc­cess?

She was thril­led, but she didn’t live to see me get my own show. But my pa­rents saw me when I was get­ting star­ted on The Ed Sul­li­van Show and The Gar­ry Moore Show. They were proud of me. You are brin­ging to Ca­na­da your show “Ca­rol Burnett – An Eve­ning of Laugh­ter and Re­flec­tion” where the au­dience asks the ques­tions. What is it like to do this tour? I’ve done it for some 20-odd years. I do no more than about six concerts a year, and it’s just what I did at the top of the (TV) show. I throw it open to the au­dience and I have no idea who is going to ask what. It’s 90 mi­nutes of fal­ling wi­thout a net! I en­joy it be­cause it keeps the old gray mat­ter ti­cking. You real­ly have to be on your toes, in the mo­ment. There are frequent ques­tions, like why did you pull your ear? Would you do the Tar­zan call? Is Tim Con­way as fun­ny in real life as he is on te­le­vi­sion? So I have sto­ries about all of these things. You must get as­ked about your Gone With the Wind out­fit all the time.

That was Bob Ma­ckie! The wri­ters had me wea­ring the dra­pe­ries just kind of

han­ging on me, and Bob thought that wasn’t as fun­ny as it could be and he got the brilliant idea of doing the cur­tain rod. I think that is hands-down one of the lon­gest laughs we ever got on our show! How do feel about being cal­led a co­me­dy le­gend and TV icon?

If you hang around and live long en­ough! It’s ve­ry flat­te­ring, but what can I

say? I don’t feel that way. As I say, I’m still wor­king and ha­ving fun. RI­CHARD BURNETT

CA­ROL BURNETT – AN EVE­NING OF LAUGH­TER AND RE­FLEC­TION, in To­ron­to (Oct. 30), Ot­ta­wa (Nov. 2) and Mon­treal (Nov. 4). Vi­sit www www.ha­ha­­rol­bur­nett ha­ha­ha com/ca­rol­bur­nett for ti­ckets. ti­ckets

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