Beverly Hills, CA

The Ever Approachable Carol Burnett: A Personal Experience

Herbie J Pilato

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[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

A few years ago I had the great honor to meet Carol Burnett on two different occasions.

First, she appeared with the late Tim Conway at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills for a special signing of her second memoir, This Time Together. That book title was inspired by the closing musical theme she would sign (at the end of which she delightfully motioned her famous "ear-tug").

Shortly thereafter, I met Ms. Burnett a second time for another Together signing, this one at the Borders bookstore in Westwood.

At the Saban Theatre, Carol and Tim Conway, who made many guest appearances on the Burnett Show (on which he eventually became a regular), renewed their magic rapport. Each was funny, naturally, and neither showed an ounce of arrogance. They were so cordial to the audience which, of course, has always been a key component of Carol's appeal, in particular, as she consistently displayed such grace (during, for example, the "bump-up-the-lights/Q&A-with-the-audience" opening of her iconic show).

Burnett's Westwood bookstore appearance also proved an especially enchanting experience. She was just as down-to-earth and personable as she had appeared with Tim at the Saban Theatre, and when she signed the second copy of her book that I purchased, she made direct eye contact, shook my hand, and said, "Pleased to meet you, Herbie." As she signed my book, I added, "And God bless you, and all your wonderful performances." She finished signing my book, and concluded, "God bless YOU."

Had that been my only experience of Carol Burnett's class and distinction, I would have certainly been satisfied. But there was more.

I happened to be in line with the Facts of Life actress/comedian, Geri Jewell, who has cerebral palsy, and who has long been a fan of Carol's, and vice-versa. The two had not seen one another since the original days of the Burnett Show (on which Geri had once made an appearance). Now, Geri was surprising her idol on this very day – and I was there to witness it. Carol was so very thrilled to see Geri after so many years, and again, vice versa.

However, afterward, another fan of Carol's in line nearly stole the show of affection.

Unbeknownst to Carol until the very second of their meeting, a young woman had arrived at the Westwood book signing, fully outfitted in a detailed replica of the curtain-rod-dressed costume that Carol wore in her classic Burnett Show sketch, Went With The Wind, the satire of the classic 1939 motion picture, Gone With The Wind.

Upon seeing this fan's "get-up," Carol busted out in laughter and pure appreciation nearly mystified at what she was seeing.

And I was there to see it. That moment, combined with witnessing Carol's touching reunion with Geri Jewell made for a plain-out awesome day.

But awesome has always been party to describing any aspect of Carol Burnett's life and career. There is not a performer alive, who is a more distinguished or more multi-talented individual. Carol acts, sings, and dances with utter agility, diversity, and aplomb in every aspect.

And then there's that astounding, approachable, unbeatable, unaffected personality.

Where does that come from? It's gotta' be Heaven.

Heaven has clearly sent Carol Burnett to save the world, or at least a good portion of it, which she has consistently been doing from her early performances on Broadway (in Once Upon A Mattress), to her outstanding pre-Burnett Show TV appearances on The Gary Moore Show, through her dramatic work on the small screen in TV-movies like the acclaimed Friendly Fire, to feature films such as Four Seasons feature film, to her most recent TV work like Glee.

But surely, The Carol Burnett Show stands out from the pack, as it remains one of the best, if not THEE best comedy variety show in history.

Ever so very, fortunately, The Carol Burnett Show is now available in several different DVD box sets, while the show is also streaming now on Pluto TV.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, writes for the Television Academy and Emmys.com, and is the host of THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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