“It’s gonna be a really big shoo…”
He had his own unique way of pronouncing the word, but every Sunday at 8 p.m., over 30 million Americans turned their TV dials to The Ed Sullivan Show and watched him become part of history. From 1948 to 1971, Sullivan hand-picked the greatest names — known and unknown alike — in music, comedy, stage and screen to perform live. Showcasing over 10,000 performers in 23 years, The Ed Sullivan Show became the nation’s premier television variety series and an American institution.
Born Edward Vincent Sullivan in New York City in 1901, he was one of seven children. His parents, Peter Arthur Sullivan and Elizabeth Smith, were both of Irish descent. Sullivan grew up in Port Chester and first discovered his writing talent in high school.
Sullivan worked as a newspaper reporter after graduating high school, starting with coverage of sporting events but eventually moving over to report on show business. His column “Little Old New York” began appearing in the New York Daily News in 1931. From there it was an easy rise to stardom, and Sullivan was soon appearing on TV screens.
In 1942, CBS introduced Ed Sullivan Entertains, and Sullivan’s talent soon led to a spot hosting a weekly variety show on that network called Toast of the Town. That show officially became The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955. Sullivan also continued writing his newspaper column. In 1957 he co-founded the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The first program to break all previous viewing ratings with an appearance by a young Elvis Presley, The Ed Sullivan Show had all the world’s biggest stars jumping at the chance to make an appearance, from Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and Frank Sinatra to Rudolf Nureyev and The Beatles. A typical Ed Sullivan evening could include sogre dancing bears, Robert Goulet, Joan Rivers, a plate spinner, a film clip, Red Skelton, and then The Rolling Stones to close. Sullivan won an Emmy Award in 1971. He died in 1979 and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1984. ♦