Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Elvis Who?

It's coming up on fifty years since the incendiary Elvis appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Among the reflections that inspires is a recollection of the fact that, once upon a time, everyone know who Ed Sullivan was.

Immitations of his stiff poses and odd delivery were a staple of stand-up comic acts. In fact, just about anyone could do an Ed Sullivan imitation by saying "really big shoe," and just about anyone else would get it. Even schoolyard kids. Rich Little practically made a career out of it -- and even did it on Sullivan's show.

Yeah, I know. Rich who? I was born in 1960, and I just barely remember when it seemed like everyone in the neighborhood tuned in to CBS to see who Sullivan had on the show, along with the beloved regulars like Topo Gigio and Señor Wences. But now I'm 46. I bet you could do a dead-on Sullivan impersonation in a room-full of people under 40 and get blank stares in return. Which means most of America.

Oh, well; pop culture's like that. I remember my grandparents talking about Ed Wynn and Clara Bow. Here's something I didn't know, though, from the Wikipedia entry:

Sullivan paid for the funeral of dancer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson out of his own pocket. He also defied pressure to exclude African American musicians from appearing on his show.