Where were you? What were you doing? What did you think?
So often such roundups focus on historical events that bring back painful memories. Those of us old enough remember where we were other dates in the '60s on when JFK, Bobby and Martin Luther King were assassinated. I even remember a date from the '40s, when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Most who read this will recall the Challenger disaster, Princess Diana's death and 9/11.
But remembering what happened 50 years ago today brings me joy. Yes...I watched the Ed Sullivan show with son Steve, who, though only six, instantly became a fan. His joy in the Fab Four has lasted a lifetime...and we've shared many memories of those early days of the British Invasion. And thanks to Steve, I am lucky to own the boxed VHS set, "The Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan shows featuring The Beatles." Yep, that's what it says on the box, bold face included. The set includes not only the February 9 breakthrough, but additionally February 16, February 23 and the following year's September 12 show.
I'm tickled by the legend that follows The Beatles: "And other artists including the original cast from 'Oliver!', Cab Calloway, Cilla Black, Frank Gorshin, Soupy Sales, Gordon & Sheila MacRae and many others..."
Do you remember them?
- I saw a revival of Oliver! in London a couple of years ago, but can't recall who was in the original London cast. I'm as big a fan of Charles Dickens as I am of the Beatles, so I've seen this show several times. Who remembers any of the stars of the Broadway original cast, though? Davy Jones is the one people remember, mostly because he later fronted The Monkees, the group loosely based on the Beatles. Those lucky enough to see the first Sullivan Beatles show in person grew impatient with the opening acts. Jones, however, was tolerated because he spoke with an English accent. http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/07/showbiz/beatles-ed-sullivan-four-lives/
- My dad admired Cab Calloway, a jazz singer from New York's Cotton Club days, whom I suspect might be the inspiration for the black bandleader on this season's Downton Abbey.
- Just last year English singer Cilla Black celebrated her 50th year in the entertainment industry, which Britain's ITV commemorated with a show, The One and Only Cilla Black. Did you know she was born Priscilla White? She was featured in an article in the first edition of the local music newspaper Mersey Beat; the paper's publisher, Bill Harry, mistakenly referred to her as Cilla Black, rather than White, and she decided she liked the name, and took it as a stage name.
- Actor and impressionist Frank Gorshin was a frequent flyer on both the Sullivan and Steve Allen shows, and gained greater fame as The Riddler in the live-action TV series, Batman, starring Adam West.
- Comedian Soupy Sales had a children's television show, Lunch with Soupy Sales, that I enticed Steve, around 4-years-old, to watch. Steve hated it. Sales featured comedy sketches frequently ending with somebody heaving a pie in his face, a trademark that my son abhorred. It scared Steve, for some unknown reason.
- Gordon MacRae had been one of my favorite movie musical stars of my teen years...especially in Oklahoma! and Carousel. He'd also appeared in a 1958 series I liked, The Polly Bergen Show. Sheila was a British actress who played Alice Kramden on the Gleason show, before Audrey Meadows took over that role. The two may be remembered as the parents of actress Meredith MacRae, who played Sally Ann on My Three Sons (1963–1965) and as Billie Jo on Petticoat Junction (1966–1970).
Fifty years from today, it's my bet that the only names from the historic Sullivan series that will be remembered will be John, Paul, George and Ringo. What do you think?