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This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection

by Carol Burnett


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This touching and hilarious memoir is 100 percent Carol Burnett—funny, irreverent, and irresistible.

Carol Burnett is one of the most beloved and revered actresses and performers in America. The Carol Burnett Show was seen each week by millions of adoring fans and won twenty-five Emmys in its remarkable eleven-year run. Now, in This Time Together, Carol really lets her hair down and tells one funny or touching or memorable story after another.
In engaging anecdotes, Carol discusses her remarkable friendships with stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and Julie Andrews; the background behind famous scenes, like the moment she swept down the stairs in her curtain-rod dress in the legendary “Went with the Wind” skit; and things that would happen only to Carol—the prank with Julie Andrews that went wrong in front of the First Lady; the famous Tarzan Yell that saved her during a mugging; and the time she faked a wooden leg to get served in a famous ice cream emporium.

This poignant look back allows us to cry with the actress during her sorrows, rejoice in her successes, and finally, always, to laugh.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307461193
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/22/2011
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 142,068
Product dimensions: 5.04(w) x 7.86(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Carol Burnett has been an actor on Broadway, on television, and in the movies. She has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, The Mark Twain Prize for Humor and the Kennedy Center Honors, among other singular achievements of a woman comedian who was nothing less than a pioneer and a role model for stars like Tina Fey, Amy Pohler and Amy Schumer.

Read an Excerpt

During the past few years, I’ve zigzagged across the country appearing in various theaters performing Laughter and Reflection: A Conversation with Carol, Where the Audience Asks the Questions. It’s just the audience and me. The evening lasts ninety minutes, beginning with seven minutes of old Q & A clips from our TV variety show to give the audience an idea of what the evening is going to be like. Then I come out onstage and ask for the lights to be bumped up, so I can see everyone.

Lights up.

Me: Tonight is all about any questions you might have for me . . . about our show, the people I’ve worked with, moments that stand out in your memory that you’re curious about—anything at all. So just raise your hands, and here we go!

It’s always a little scary, because I’m working without a safety net. There are no “plants” in the audience, because if the event feels pre-planned, it takes the fun out of it. The audience can tell it’s off the cuff, and through the years people have been pretty enthusiastic—and aren’t at all shy about raising their hands. When I call on someone I never know what the question will be. I have to say, it keeps the ol’ gray matter ticking and the blood pumping.

However, through the years there have been questions that were asked over and over, which gives me a breather by allowing me to count on being able to tell some set stories. If these questions weren’t asked (for instance, if the audience was sitting on its hands), often I could bring up the subject myself and tell the story anyway. (Whew!)

What follows are some of these stories that I’ve shared over the years in response to various questions. Some have to do with our gang on the variety show, embarrassing moments, famous people, not-so-famous people, family, and so on. Since I’m not planning on doing too many more of these story evenings in the future, I figured I’d write up my favorite stories for my grandkids and anybody else who might enjoy them—who might have some fun and laughs and maybe some nostalgic moments as well.

Many years ago, in 1986, I wrote a memoir called One More Time, which was couched as a letter to my three daughters, telling them all about my growing up in a dysfunctional yet loving family. That book didn’t take my life beyond age twenty-six. This time I’m emphasizing episodes and anecdotes that have brought me to the present time, although I’ve also included a few stories from childhood that bear repeating. Originally I began writing this book as a simple series of anecdotes, but as I got into it I found that I went into more detail than I usually do onstage. I also found myself writing about things that I haven’t talked about onstage but which resonate with me. Some of them are even serious. These thoughts and feelings just kind of poured out onto the page. They might not be as amusing as some of my other remembrances, but they’re memories I’d like to share. So what follows is a kind of memoir peppered with anecdotes here and there. I hope you enjoy it.


Rumplemayer’s and the Mean Hostess

During the summer of 1959 Once upon a Mattress was enjoying a healthy run, and a few of us in the cast decided to splurge one Saturday night after the show and treat ourselves to a sundae at the most expensive ice cream parlor in New York City: Rumplemayer’s, in the St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South. Even though Mattress had been running for a few months and I had done some television, I was far from being recognizable in public. Nonetheless, I was flush with the excitement of being in a hit stage show and raking in $80 a week to boot. I could afford a Rumplemayer’s treat.

Rumplemayer’s was a pretty posh ice cream parlor. You could spot familiar faces there anytime after the bows had been taken and the lights had dimmed on Broadway for the night. Some folks went to nightclubs or bars, but those who had a sweet tooth and who also wanted to be seen went to Rumplemayer’s. I remember having peeked in a few months earlier and spotting Marlene Dietrich in a gorgeous gray pantsuit at the counter, elegantly digging a long-handled spoon into a whipped cream goodie.

On this night four of us pushed our way through the re olving door and stood casing the scene as we waited for the hostess. It was crowded, but there were a couple of empty tables in the back. The hostess, in a blue dress with a white collar and cuffs and sporting a very tight bun in her hair, approached us with menus. She took a closer look, and smoke began to come out of her ears.

“EXCUSE ME! But just what do you think you’re doing?”

She was looking straight at me.

“Pardon me?”

“I SAID, what do you think you’re doing?”

Before I could speak, she went off on a major tear. “Young woman, don’t you realize that we don’t allow ladies in RUMPLEMAYER’S wearing SLACKS? SL-ACKS”—she made it two syllables and pronounced them like a dirty word—“are FOR-BID-DEN!”

She was actually screaming at me. Her pipes could’ve given Ethel Merman a run for her money. I wondered if maybe her bun was too tight. Suddenly I noticed that the place had become strangely quiet: fewer clinking spoons, less slurping through straws. More than a few customers were watching us, evidently waiting to see if the hostess was going to shoot me. I was feeling like an axe murderer and at the same time awfully humiliated. I was dressed in a nice pair of black slacks, not jeans, but apparently that was still enough of a social gaffe for her to send me up the river and put me in solitary.

My friends and I were frozen in place, but this lady wouldn’t quit. I looked for the swastika on her sleeve as she continued her harangue.


I was about to slink out backward when the image of Marlene Dietrich came to me out of nowhere. She had been in SL-ACKS and nobody had yelled at her. And all this hostess needed to do with us was to nicely explain the rules. It could have gone thusly:

Hostess: (quietly) I’m awfully sorry, miss, but Rumplemayer’s has a dress code, and ladies are not seated if they’re wearing slacks. I do hope you and your friends will come back and see us soon. Here’s a mint.

Me: (quietly) Oh, of course. I’m sorry, I didn’t know. We’ll definitely come back another time, and thank you so much for the mint. (We exit with dignity.)

End of Scene.

Simple. No problem. But noooo.

Astonishingly, she was still at it, not only for our benefit now, but clearly for that of the entire restaurant: “I DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU KIDS GET OFF THINKING YOU CAN BREAK THE RULES WHENEVER YOU WANT!”

You could’ve heard a pin drop. At this point, the image of Dietrich in pants was looming full screen in my mind’s eye. I opened my mouth to speak.

“Please forgive me,” I said sweetly (but projecting so that every customer could hear), “but I have a wooden leg, and I’m too embarrassed to wear a skirt.”

Dead silence. I felt the entire restaurant getting ready to line the hostess up in front of a firing squad. She felt it, too. She led us to a back table. I dragged my wooden leg all the way across the room without bending my knee and ate my hot fudge sundae while sitting stiff-legged the whole time.

The revenge tasted sweeter than the sundae.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Jimmy Stewart 5

Early Days in Hollywood 11

Tweety, Mama, and Chris 13

Alfred Hitchcock and the Epaulets 15

Remembering the Early Days in New York 21

Stretching Pennies 23

The Dress 25

One Rainy Night 27

The Rehearsal Club Revue 30

John Foster Dulles and the Blue Angel Nightclub 32

Once upon a Mattress and George Abbott 37

Rumplemayer's and the Mean Hostess 41

Garry Moore's Variety Show 44

My Dog Bruce and The Office 50

Walking Alone at Night in New York City 55

Nanny and the Auditions 57

Nanny's Visit to New York 60

Aunt Iney 65

Viewer Discretion Advised 68

Fans 71

Lunchtime at the Turkey Farm 72

Tarzan and Bergdorf Goodman 74

John Steinbeck and the Twenty-fourth Floor 77

CBS vs. My Variety Show 79

Our Rep Players 83

Vicki Lawrence 85

Harvey Korman 91

Lyle Waggoner 99

Tim Conway 703

Conway's Cancellation 107

Australia 109

Bob Mackie 111

Jim Nabors 115

Talking to the Audience 118

The Writers' Room 125

Cary Grant 127

Cary, Harvey, and Tim at the Racetrack 133

Adrienne Lenore Weingardt 136

Carol Channing and Food for Thought 138

Lucy 147

Lucy, Zero, and Carol + 2 144

Dinner with Lucy at the Farmers' Market 149

Jody and Ray Charles 153

Erin and Diplomacy 156

My Chum Julie Andrews 158

A Very Bad Hair Day 165

Julie, Mike Nichols, and the Lady in the Elevator 170

Laurence Olivier 173

Walter Matthau 175

The Front Page and Mea Culpa 181

Restaurant Reservations 184

All My Children 186

Keeping Up with Pine Valley While in Europe 189

Joan Crawford 191

How Not to Make Small Talk with Royalty 196

Stanwyck and the Leprechaun 200

A Girl Named Kathy 203

The End of the Run 211

Annie and John Huston 214

Turbulence 219

Living in a High-Rise All Alone 222

Body by Jake 225

Dating 228

Marlon Brando 230

Mr. Computer 235

Beverly Sills 239

Questions and Answers on the Road 243

Brian 246

Pets 249

Hal Prince, Hollywood Arms, Carrie 254

Obituary 259

Carrie and the Fib 262

What's Next? 264

Acknowledgments 267

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