Hollywoodland Oct 14 2010
ED TV
And now, right here on our stage…

Above, a photo of American television host Ed Sullivan. Sullivan first went on air in 1948 hosting Toast of the Town, a New York City-based variety show. The reviews were scathing. Yet Sullivan quickly became a popular personality, although his many critics pointed out that he had no personality. Nevertheless, he remained on television until 1971, still based in NYC, entertaining home viewers and breaking new acts in comedy, music and cinema. But no career is without bumps. Sullivan collaborated with red-baiters and feuded with performers and peers. A complex and, according to many, even unknowable figure, Sullivan died of esophageal cancer at age 73, yesterday in 1974. 

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Hollywoodland Jul 6 2009
JACKED UP
The Jack Paar-Ed Sullivan feud was sometimes polite and sometimes ugly—but it was always must-see television.

Above you see a Whisper magazine cover from July 1961. We mentioned in our previous post on this tabloid that it was published by Confidential owner Robert Harrison, and here you see a more typical visual motif, pretty much duplicating the Confidential style. The tabloid formula always calls for a little sex (which you get in the person of Julie Newmar), a little crime (which you see in the banner about vice), and a little absurdity (Richard Boone the television cowboy is afraid of horses). Those three stories are self-explanatory, so we won’t bother to elaborate, but the centerpiece item about a feud between Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan may require a bit of explanation.

Everyone knows who Ed Sullivan was, but Paar is less famous these days. However it was Paar who really established the modern blueprint of late night talk shows, taking over a Tonight Show that was floundering, and within a year turning it into such a hit that it was renamed The Jack Paar Tonight Show. But there was a flipside to his brilliance—he was an emotional man who shot from the hip and dealt with the consequences later. Once, when one of his jokes was cut, he waited until the next night, replaced his monologue with a verbal broadside at the network, and walked off the show, leaving his astonished announcer Hugh Downs to finish the taping. It wasn’t the first or last time Paar did something shocking—he often cried on air. When you consider that Ed Sullivan was an emotionally distant figure known as “old stone face,” it’s clear he and Paar were probably destined to hate each other—if for no other reason than their diametrically opposed personalities.

Part of the Paar-Sullivan feud revolved around the Beatles. In January 1964 on his show The Jack Paar Program, Paar featured the Fab Four in a series of film clips leased form the BBC. When Sullivan had the real-life Beatles on his program later that year people forgot that Paar had ever broadcast Beatles clips and Sullivan became the man who introduced the band to America. Paar believed this was blatant revisionism, but here his vanity kept him from understanding the obvious truth that film clips are nothing compared to a live performance. Besides, Paar didn’t like the Beatles’ music, and had used the film clips to joke about the band. It was only after they became a phenomenon that he publicly sought to usurp Sullivan’s credit.

There were other occasions when the feud spilled into the open. For instance, Sullivan’s guests received several thousand dollars for their appearances, but Paar’s got a measly $320. He fought his network to try and change that, word got to the tabloids, and the tabs spun it as yet more personal animus between the two hosts, when in this case it could be argued Paar was standing up for his guests and the reputation of his show. But there was no doubt Paar and Sullivan hated each other. They were even talked into having a public debate, but it fell apart. At first, word was Sullivan had backed out, but a bit later CBS exec Douglas Edwards said it was actually Paar who had gotten cold feet. The news set Paar off. He spent nearly fifty minutes of The Tonight Show trashing Ed Sullivan. He began by facetiously describing his rival as a man who was “as honest as he is talented,” and ended by flatly calling him a liar.

The Paar-Sullivan rivalry only lost its steam when Parr retired, and Sullivan’s show declined and was finally axed June 6, 1971. Parr made a brief comeback in 1973, but quit for good shorty thereafter. None of us at Pulp Intl. are old enough to have seen the Paar-Sullivan blood feud, but there's plenty of text about it on the web to give a sense of what it was like. When we try to think of a comparable modern day dust-up between two relevant, powerful, and brilliant personalities we come up blank—and don't even try to put O’Donnell-Limbaugh in the same class. The Paar-Sullivan feud was a clash of beloved titans who, even in the midst of their battles, tried to entertain, educate, and elevate their audiences. American television hasn’t been the same since.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 26
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
November 25
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
November 24
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.
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