Can’t Sing, Dance, or Tell a Joke, but He Does it Better than Anyone*

Before cable TV….

Before VH-1…

Before the Internet, and certainly before You Tube, most people born after 1963 remember the Ed Sullivan Show. As corny as Ed Sullivan was, he turned out to be as crazy as a fox. Emcee of a popular television variety show, the stone-faced, humorless Ed Sullivan was infamous for his line, “A really big show” that many imitated – but the thing is, he wasn’t exaggerating.

The show that ran from 1948 to 1971 either introduced to a massive audience, or highlighted, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Jerry Lewis, the Supremes, the Rolling Stones, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Beach Boys, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Sonny and Cher, Ray Charles, and more icons than there is room to share.

In today’s jaded environment, the performance below, for example,  may not seem like any big thing, but trust us, for its time, it really was. The video doesn’t show the “behind the scenes’ footage, but the screaming you hear belonged to feverish, apopletic young ladies who fainted where they sat. How big was it? Right before appearing on show, George Harrison got a bout of tonsilitis and was running up a fever of 102. Given that this was the Beatles’ big chance to take America by storm, he was not going to miss being apart of it.  It was an innocent time, and the very best movie we’ve ever seen on those times was I Wanna Hold Your Hand, a “must see” in our view.


It’s been said that one of Sullivan’s favorite guests was Bill Robinson. He so loved the man that he named his family dog Bojangles for the song that Robinson made famous. Robinson was probably the most famous of all African American tap dancers, and a lot of us of a certain age will remember him in his appearance with Shirley Temple. As you watch the clip below, we ask you not to focus on the times in which he performed, but on his marvelous talent;

In the photograph from 1955 seen at the very top, Sullivan is shown with his wife,  their 25-year-old daughter, and their Poodle, Bojangles.  Bojangles was no average dog, but a prized poodle who was beautifully trained and knew all sorts of tricks. The dog became a bit jaded when it came to visitors. “Come up to the apartment,” Sullivan once said to a caller over the hotel phone. Bojangles barked and barked until the door buzzer rang. “You know Oscar,” Sullivan told the dog, “He wrote South Pacific.”

*Ed Sullivan can’t sing, can’t dance and can’t tell a joke, but he does it better than anyone else.” – Alan King

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