Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 60-65,000 Words
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Michael Harris was a public relations executive at the CBS Television network for many years, eleven of these assigned to The Ed Sullivan Show. He was the first person to greet the Beatles on their first visit to the United States. Michael is married to novelist Ruth Harris and has one other book available for your Kindle, The Atomic Times: My H-Bomb Year at the Pacific Proving Ground, a memoir of his military service.
Originally published in hardcover and paperback in 1969 as Always on Sunday, Ed Sullivan An Inside View, this re-released Kindle version has some additional material added. The new subtitle, An Inside View of Ed Sullivan, the Beatles, Elvis, Sinatra & Ed’s Other Guests, is also a more complete explanation of the content.
Ed Sullivan’s variety show was an American institution, running Sunday nights for twenty-three years, from the dawn of television in 1948 until 1971. Even relatively young readers have probably seen clips of Sullivan introducing Elvis Presley, the Beatles, or saying, “We’ve got a really big shew.” Always on Sunday gives us a broad view of Sullivan, who turns out much more complex than I would have guessed. Some stories you might have heard for years are debunked - not all of Elvis’ appearance were from the waist up for example. Although the book focuses on the period from the debut of The Toast of the Town (the original name of the show) until the late-60s, when the book was originally published, it gives a decent overview of his life prior to the show and insight into what made Sullivan tick. For example, he was an early supporter of equal rights and booked appearances by stars regardless of race when that was uncommon.
One part of the book I found interesting was Sullivan’s reaction to television critics. Many of his reviews were negative and he was prone to react with a scathing letter in response. Many of these were long while others were succinct. One rather pointed response to syndicated columnist Harriet Van Horne read only: “Dear Miss Van Horne, You bitch. Sincerely, Ed Sullivan.”
I did wonder how many people would actually be interested in learning more about Sullivan. I’m no spring chicken and was a month shy of becoming a teen when the show went off the air. Although I didn’t watch The Ed Sullivan Show as a kid (blame it on overly religious parents who banned Sunday television watching) I was still well aware of Sullivan and his place in pop culture. When I asked my twenty-something daughter if she knew who Sullivan was she said: “Yes I do. He had a variety type show with musical guests, some of which included Elvis, the Beatles, and the Doors.” She’d be disappointed; the book doesn’t mention the appearance by The Doors (this would have happened after the original publication of the book) but it seems Sullivan’s legacy is still known among younger generations. Anyone interested in pop culture history or the early days of television should find Always on Sunday an enlightening and entertaining read.
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four stars