The veteran entertainer had returned to Stage 33 on the CBS Television City lot in Los Angeles – the original home base of “The Carol Burnett Show” – to tape a special celebrating the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking comedy-variety show, which premiered in 1967 and ran for 11 years.
The series had almost been a sitcom called “Here’s Agnes.” But Burnett, a cast member on the variety series “The Garry Moore Show,” had wanted a 28-piece orchestra. She wanted a repertory company and guest stars. She wanted costume changes.
“I had this terrific and unheard-of contract that read if I wanted to push that button, the network would have to give me 30 one-hour comedy-variety shows,” Burnett, 84, said during the October taping. “I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ And they said, ‘Oh, no, no, no. Carol … all comedy-variety shows are hosted by men – Sid Caesar, Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Dean Martin … It’s not really for you gals.’ ”
She added: “Well, here we are, 50 years later.”
The two-hour special, which will air Sunday on CBS, features Amy Poehler, Jim Carrey and other celebrities paying homage to the pioneering sketch show. (The special made headlines recently when CBS said it was editing out Kevin Spacey’s appearance after he was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple people.)
Burnett is also slated to appear at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Dec. 15 for her trademark Q&A sessions. (The Times spoke to Burnett before news of the Spacey allegations.)
When we were auditioning some of them, a lady came in with a dilemma saying she was gonna marry this gentleman who is raising his two young children. He’s a father. She said, “What can I do to make the kids like me? I don’t want them to think I’m some evil stepmother,” and one of the kids said, “Bribery always works.” I mean, that’s just priceless!
What I don’t like is the fact that, again, I’m quoting what I’ve read, that publicists and lawyers would set these girls up. They knew what was going on! Now, everybody’s saying, “Oh, terrible, terrible. This is awful,” and they didn’t say it until it became known. That’s the thing I’m not happy about. I understand why the women didn’t come forward right away.
And it’s rampant, not only in show business but in other fields. It’s where these men with power think they can rule the roost, but I’m glad this is happening.
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