Sunday, April 28, 2013

Friday Dance Party: Birth Of The Charwoman

The day Lucy died, Carol received delivery of a
flower bouquet for her birthday, from Lucy.
On the heels of a very busy week for your Dance Master (yours truly), let's enjoy a goofy little number from an old variety special.  Our stars share much in common, not the least of which is last Friday's date.  Carol Burnett turned a whopping 80 years old, and on the same date in 1989, Lucille Ball died at the age of 78.  If anybody was near a television any time during the 60s and 70s, they could not escape these two redheaded firecrackers. Would you want to?
Burnett and Ball are both considered trailblazers in the world of television.  Carol proved a woman was capable of headlining a weekly variety series. Lucy created a characterization so indelible, it could survive countless co-star and premise changes.
Carol broke some molds with her long-running variety show, as one of the first females to host one. 
Burnett's first Emmy in 1962. She has personally won 4.
Her variety show won 25.

She had lots of experience with the genre, having won an Emmy for her regular appearances on the Gary Moore Show, and another for her concert special at Carnegie Hall, opposite Julie Andrews. 
Ball's Emmy count also numbers 4.
Her various shows have won even more.

Lucy, meanwhile, was already a TV titan in the 60s, and continued to mine the comic potential of the character she had created in the 50s in I Love Lucy.  Her sitcom morphed several times, but always contained the same slapstick style which suited Ball best.  (Lucy, by the way, had her own Dance Party several years ago, a clip from her film career which preceded her TV stardom).
Lucy's third TV incarnation (or was it fourth?), Here's Lucy, again featured occasional appearances by Carol. The two stars traded guest shots on each other's shows throughout the years, a display of great friendship and generosity.  You cannot find two male stars of the period doing the same. 
The clip below has a bit of historical significance, particularly for Burnett.  Through much of the 60s, she headlined a series of variety specials, and was a regular guest star on the sitcoms of the period (including Lucy's, which at the time was called The Lucy Show.  She also appeared more than once on her pal  Jim Nabors's sitcom, a clip of which appeared on this Dance Party a while ago when Jim surprised nobody by marrying a man).  This special was called Carol +2, and costarred Lucy and Zero Mostel. 
The success of this special ignited talk of a weekly showcase for Burnett's talents.
The ratings for Carol +2 were particularly impressive, and Burnett's mentor Ball offered her a sitcom, to be produced by Desilu, the studio which Lucy had acquired after her divorce from Desi.  Carol was not interested in a sitcom situation, but soon landed in the genre which fit her talents best, vaudeville.
The Carol Burnett Show spoofed famous films, annoying commercials, and soap operas.  It was a true variety show; our gal sang, danced, took pratfalls, and ad libbed with the audience.  Happy 80th, Carol!
Enjoy this week's Dance Party, which is certainly not the best illustration of either woman's talents, but interestingly, it introduces one of Burnett's best loved characters, the charwoman.  Who knew she had a name?