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Trivia / The Ed Sullivan Show

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  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: A lot of the classic Sullivan trademarks, like pronouncing "show" as "shew", knuckle-cracking, and clumsy body language, were actually invented by comedian Will Jordan for his Sullivan impression, heavily exaggerating a few little tics in Sullivan's fairly bland stage presence. Sullivan thought Jordan's impression was Actually Pretty Funny and had him on as a frequent guest, then Jordan went on to make a career of playing Sullivan in movies, TV shows and music videos.
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  • Colbert Bump: The Beatles and Elvis both caused mutual Colbert Bumps, with the show and the musicians both becoming more popular after their appearance. The show introduced the musicians to a wider audience and they in turn gave the show relevance to the youth of the day. Appropriately enough, the Ed Sullivan Theater would later go on to host The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
  • Dueling Works: Several shows on rival networks tried to dethrone CBS's Sunday evening cornerstone:
    • In the early 1950's, The Colgate Comedy Hour on NBC was a very strong competitor, even managing to surpass the "big shew" in ratings for a while, but eventually Ed Sullivan prevailed. note 
    • In 1956, NBC gave dethroning Sullivan another try by scheduling Steve Allen's new variety show directly against him. They gave up by the 1959-1960 season, when they rescheduled Allen to Mondays at 10, but their show still managed to snag Elvis Presley before Ed Sullivan could.
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    • Also in 1956, NBC debuted The Walter Winchell Show, which was fitting since Winchell and Sullivan were Arch-Enemies as newspaper columnists; that one only lasted 13 weeks due to Winchell having trouble booking big stars, who didn't want to alienate Sullivan and many of whom were still mad at Winchell for gossip he printed about them in the past. His only big score was John Wayne, who told reporters "Walter's been nice to me for years. It's about time I kissed his ass."
    • In 1964, The Hollywood Palace stepped up as ABC's answer to Ed Sullivan and proved to be a modest success, lasting until 1970, one year before Sullivan got cancelled himself.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • Topo Gigio is an Italian mouse puppet who made regular appearances on the show, but became a superstar in Latin America thanks to his long running variety show which had various incarnations beginning in the 1960s up to at least the 1980s.
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    • Canadian comedy duo Wayne and Shuster holds the house record for most appearances with 58 shows.
    • British bands, especially The Beatles, were warmly welcomed on the show.
  • Screwed by the Network: The show became one of the casualties of The Rural Purge in 1971. Although Sullivan was angered enough with CBS to refuse to do a proper finale, he hosted occasional specials for them until his death three years later.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Bob Dylan was slated to make his first nationwide television appearance on the show in 1963, but walked out when a CBS executive told him he couldn't sing his intended song, "Talkin' John Birch Paranoia Blues", due to its then-controversial references to communism. Ironically, for all his famous demands to musical performers regarding lyrics or songs, Sullivan himself had no problem at all with the song and defended Dylan and his song choice to CBS. But it was all for naught; Dylan would never return to Sullivan's show.
    • The Cowsills only made two appearances out of a contracted ten because of an incident behind the scenes. Sullivan loved the Rhode Island family band, and had been responsible for the generous contract himself. Unfortunately, during their debut October 1967 performance of "The Rain, The Park & Other Things", singer Bill Cowsill's microphone malfunctioned and his lead vocals were not heard until the first chorus. Although they did a successful second take, their father and manager Bud was furious. He attacked Sullivan's producer and son-in-law backstage and that was enough for Sullivan to null their contract. He understood that the incident was not the band's fault, and gave them one more slot on his Christmas show a few months later, but they never played on Sullivan again after that. The members of the band believe that if their father had not acted the way he did, it would have changed their entire career trajectory.
  • Writer Revolt: There have been a few incidents of performers going against Sullivan's wishes:
    • Bo Diddley made an appearance on November 20, 1955. He was supposed to perform "Sixteen Tons", but played his eponymous hit instead due to misreading the cue card. Sullivan got furious and banned him from future appearances.
    • Buddy Holly, for his second appearance on January 26, 1958, was asked to switch out "Oh, Boy!" for another song, but refused due to having already told his hometown friends that he would perform his hit. This, combined with the rest of the Crickets being absent from the afternoon rehearsal, made Sullivan mad enough to cut his set from two songs to one and attempt to sabotage his performance by turning off the microphone on his guitar amp. Holly fought back by singing and playing as loud as he could to show the audience that the technical fault wasn't his. In spite of this, he was invited back for a third appearance. note 
    • When The Doors performed "Light My Fire", they were told to change the line "Girl, we couldn't get much higher" due to its alleged drug reference. The band eventually relented, and performed it accordingly in rehearsal, only for Jim Morrison to sing the original line on the air. note 


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