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.
October 02
1919—Wilson Suffers Stroke
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. He is confined to bed for weeks, but eventually resumes his duties, though his participation is little more than perfunctory. Wilson remains disabled throughout the remainder of his term in office, and the rest of his life.
1968—Massacre in Mexico
Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, a peaceful student demonstration ends in the Tlatelolco Massacre. 200 to 300 students are gunned down, and to this day there is no consensus about how or why the shooting began.
October 01
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
September 30
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant, East of Eden, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause, dies in an auto accident at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
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