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American Legends: The Life of Ed Sullivan - by Charles River Editors

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American Legends: The Life of Ed Sullivan by Charles River Editors

*Includes pictures.

*Includes in depth accounts of Elvis Presley and The Beatles' historic performances on The Ed Sullivan Show.

*Includes Sullivan's quotes about his life and his famous show.

*Includes a bibliography for further reading.

"Open big, have a good comedy act, put in something for children and keep the show clean. I believe in getting the best acts I can, introducing them quickly, and getting off." – Ed Sullivan’s explanation for the success of The Ed Sullivan Show

"Ed Sullivan will be around as long as someone else has talent.” – Fred Allen

A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ American Legends series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.

From the day television existed as an entertainment medium, giant companies have battled each other for viewers, but in the history of television programming, no show was as consistently excellent in the ratings as The Ed Sullivan Show, a variety show that brought on all kinds of acts, from dancers to artists and singers. It was the longest running show to maintain one time slot, and today it is widely remembered for introducing the nation to the likes of Elvis Presley and The Beatles. When Elvis was on the show in 1956, over 82% of the nation’s entire television audience tuned in, a rating that would make even the Super Bowl blush. Indeed, being booked on The Ed Sullivan Show became so important for performers that Aretha Franklin once noted, “And I was booked once to go on 'Ed Sullivan' and I got bumped and ran out the back door crying.”

The Ed Sullivan Show has been commemorated as one of the most influential programs in the history of American television, and behind it all was the seemingly unassuming man whose name was on it. Even after Ed Sullivan had become an American institution on the strength of his show, one critic from Time asked, “What exactly is Ed Sullivan's talent?” Or as comedian (and frequent guest) Alan King put it, "Ed does nothing, but he does it better than anyone else in television." Of course, Ed Sullivan did have plenty of talent, especially when it came to identifying others’, and over the course of nearly two decades, he became America’s biggest starmaker. While Elvis and The Beatles are most remembered, Sullivan helped open the door to Motown acts, and his show was so culturally significant that Reverend Al Sharpton said of those performances, “I grew up in the 1950s and '60s, when it was almost a holiday when a black act would go on Ed Sullivan.”

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of Sullivan’s fame is that almost everyone tended to agree that he was stilted and unnatural in front of cameras. In 1955, one writer for Time colorfully described Sullivan as “a cigar-store Indian, the Cardiff Giant and a stone-faced monument just off the boat from Easter Island. He moves like a sleepwalker; his smile is that of a man sucking a lemon; his speech is frequently lost in a thicket of syntax; his eyes pop from their sockets or sink so deep in their bags that they seem to be peering up at the camera from the bottom of twin wells.” At the same time, however, the writer conceded, "Yet, instead of frightening children, Ed Sullivan charms the whole family." To a degree, that may have worked in Sullivan’s favor, because it allowed him to come across like an everyday American, even as he was introducing audiences to potential stars with talents that most could not hope to emulate.

Available On:
American Legends: The Life of Ed Sullivan on Paperback American Legends: The Life of Ed Sullivan on Kindle

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Released: 2014

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