Ed Sullivan

Active - 1933 - 2011  |   Born - Sep 28, 1902 in New York, New York, United States  |   Died - Oct 13, 1974   |   Genres - Music, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Though he is most fondly remembered for his TV hosting duties of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, New York newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan was a show business personality as far back as 1932. Hired by the CBS network as a potential rival for radio commentator Walter Winchell, Sullivan took to the air with a heady combination of gossip and entertainment. Among the future radio luminaries introduced on Sullivan's program were Jack Benny and Jack Pearl (aka Baron Munchhausen). In 1933 Sullivan made his film debut in Mr. Broadway, which he also wrote. His subsequent screenplay and story contributions included the screwball comedy There Goes My Heart (1938) and the Universal "pocket" musical Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me (1940). In 1947, he entered the fledgling medium of television to host a variety hour titled Toast of the Town, later re-christened The Ed Sullivan Show. Though hardly a likely candidate for TV stardom -- he appeared to have a permanently stiff neck, wandered aimlessly around the stage, slurred his words ("Rilllly big shew!"), and frequently mispronounced the names of his guest stars -- Sullivan remained a Sunday night fixture until his series left the air in 1971. As an adjunct to his TV fame, he appeared as "himself" in such films as Bye Bye Birdie (1961), The Patsy (1964), and The Singing Nun (1965), and was parodied by countless impressionists, most notably Will Jordan. To three generations of rock music fans, Ed Sullivan will always be remembered for those five immortal words, "Here they are -- THE BEATLES!"

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  • Wrote a New York Daily News column titled "Little Old New York," which competed with Walter Winchell's column in the New York Mirror; their rivalry was personal as well as professional.
  • Hosted a CBS radio show in the early 1930s, on which Jack Benny made his national radio debut in 1932.
  • Was visited by guests Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II on the first episode of Toast of the Town (June 20, 1948).
  • Is the namesake of the theater from which his show originated; the Ed Sullivan theater is now home to The Late Show With David Letterman.
  • Once persuaded South Pacific star Ezio Pinza to show up on his doorstep on Valentine's Day to serenade Sullivan's wife, Sylvia, with "Some Enchanted Evening."
  • High-profile guests on the Ed Sullivan Show included the Beatles, who earned a total of $15,000 for their three 1964 appearances on the program.
  • Welcomed the comedy team of Wayne and Shuster to the Ed Sullivan Show 58 times; the duo hold the record for most appearances on the program.
  • Was the subject of a 2009 book, Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!, which chronicles the run of the Ed Sullivan Show.