9 things you might not know about Carol Burnett
The comedy legend has ties to fake twins, 'Sesame Street,' 'The Twilight Zone' and the Carpenters.
Image: AP Photo
Carol Burnett remains one of the most beloved entertainers in America. Her career spans seven decades and her influence can never be overstated. The Carol Burnett Show (edited down and dubbed Carol Burnett and Friends in reruns) broke new ground in television sketch comedy and spawned dozens of lasting characters. Like its star, it also had a ton of heart.
1. She had an imaginary twin as a child.
Well, not quite imaginary in the invisible friend sense. In the fourth grade, Carol created perhaps her first elaborate comedy routine when she dressed up as Karen, her fake twin sister. Burnett would dash about the boarding house in which she lived with her grandmother, swapping clothes to pull off the ruse.
Image: AP Photo
2. She had her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame placed out of spite.
As a young woman, Burnett was working as an usher at the Warner Theatre in Hollywood. One day, a couple came in late to see Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. Burnett advised the two to wait until the next show in order to catch the entire movie, as it was so good. Overhearing the advice, her manager fired her on the spot, ripping the epaulettes off her uniform. Years later, when Burnett earned her star on the Walk of Fame, she requested that it be placed in front of the same theater, now called the Pacific. Oh, snap!
Image: AP Photo/DAB
3. She had to drop out of her hit Broadway show due to a taxi accident.
Fade Out – Fade In was a critical and commercial smash upon its premiere in 1964. Set in the golden age of Hollywood, the musical featured Burnett as a chorus girl who gets a chance to be a movie star. She also got to parody screen idols such as Shirley Temple, as seen in the photo. Two months after opening, Burnett sustained a serious neck injury in a taxi cab accident. Betty Hutton filled in as the lead.
Image: AP Photo
4. She turned down a sitcom offer from Lucille Ball.
Beginning in 1966, Burnett made a handful of appearances on The Lucy Show, and Ball became a mentor to the rising comedian. Ball and CBS reportedly offered Burnett a sitcom called Here's Agnes to showcase her talents, to be produced by Desilu. However, Burnett had a clause in her existing contract with CBS to host a variety show and The Carol Burnett Show was born.
Image: AP Photo/Nick Ut
5. She starred in an episode of 'The Twilight Zone.'
Burnett undoubtedly called upon her life experience to portray a theater worker looking for a break in the 1962 episode "Cavender Is Coming." A guardian angel is given 24 hours to help the character — who is named Agnes, coincidentally. Naturally, Agnes learns that money and success aren't everything.
6. Jim Nabors was her good luck charm.
The Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. star would be the first guest on The Carol Burnett Show on September 11, 1967. Because the show clicked with audiences, Burnett had Nabors return as a guest on the first episode of every season through 1977, considering him a good luck charm. Burnett also appeared as "Sgt. Carol" on Gomer Pyle alongside her good friend.
Image: AP Photo
7. She was the first celebrity to appear on Sesame Street.
Speaking of first episode guests, Burnett appeared on the premiere of Sesame Street in 1969. She demonstrated how to wiggle a nose and kissed a rubber ducky.
Image: Sesame Street
8. She successfully sued 'The National Enquirer.'
In March 1976, the tabloid printed a hyperbolic and untrue story of an inebriated Burnett getting into an argument with Henry Kissinger in a restaurant. Burnett sued the rag for libel claiming "actual malice." She won the case and the jury awarded her $300,000 in compensatory damages and $1.3 million in punitive damages in the 1981 trial. (The two parties would later reach a settlement in 1984.) The court also found that The Enquirer did not classify as a "newspaper" under California libel law.
Image: AP Photo/Rasmussen
9. She covered the Carpenters and Carol King on an album.
Considering her Broadway chops and variety show success, it should come as no surprise that Burnett recorded a handful of albums. Carol Burnett Remembers How They Stopped The Show (1963), Let Me Entertain You: Carol Burnett Sings (1964), Carol Burnett Sings (1967), and Here's Carol! Carol Burnett Sings (1968) were rich with show tunes and standards. Her 1972 platter, Featuring If I Could Write a Song "For All We Know", dove into the soft rock of the era, drenched in strings and twinkling piano. She sang King's "It's Too Late," and a bizarre tune about cartoons and cereal called "Saturday Morning Confusion," written by Vicky Lawrence's husband at the time, Bobby Russell.