Sources - Impresario: The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan - James Maguire

Impresario: The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan - James Maguire (2006)


One of the CBS executives I interviewed for this book, Irwin Segelstein, pointed out the difficulty of re-creating the past by talking to its participants. “One of the problems with what you do for a living,” he said, referring to writing a biography, “is that everyone gives you a version of what took place from their narrow, self-congratulatory point of view.”

That may be true, and certainly the passage of time changes memory, but the fact remains that I owe a heartfelt thanks to everyone who shared their recollections for this book. The scores of people—family members, performers, Sullivan staffers, and others who knew him personally—who shared their memories for this book added immeasurably.

First and foremost, I am deeply indebted to Betty Sullivan Precht, who generously spent hours on the telephone with me, and whose candor so greatly enriched this portrait of her father; and to her husband, Bob Precht, the Sullivan show’s producer, who not only shared his invaluable recollections, but also provided me with a list of phone numbers, and, finally, reviewed the manuscript and made suggestions; also, to Rob Precht, Sullivan’s grandson, for his nuanced and insightful sense of his grandfather.

I owe a special thanks to those Sullivan staff members who shared their thoughts; their behind-the-scenes insight on the show and Sullivan helped immeasurably: Susan Abramson, Bill Bohnert, Vince Calandra, Emily Cole, Vinna Foote, Barbara Gallagher, Verna Grafeld, Bernie Illson, Kathy Kuehl, John Moffit, Sistie Moffit, Russ Petranto, Peter Prichard, Jim Russek, and Mary Lynn Shapiro.

Equally important were the memories of performers and others who knew Sullivan or his times intimately, including Carl Ballantine, Carol Burnett, George Carlin, Jack Carter, Mike Dann, Larry Epstein, Phyllis Diller, Eric Fettmann, Connie Francis, Bill Gallo, Shecky Greene, Sherry Hackett, Will Jordan, Jane Kean, Andrew Lazlo, Preston Levi, Ray Manzarek, Jackie Mason, Jean Moore, Paul Winchell, Walter Podrazik, Joan Rivers, Irwin Segelstein, Andrew Solt, and Bruce Spizer.

Adding particular insight was Ed Sullivan’s collection of personal papers, some eighteen boxes of correspondence, contracts, and miscellaneous Sullivania stored at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, in Madison, Wisconsin. The days I spent at Madison proved invaluable. Also essential was the time I spent catacombed at the Library of Congress, reviewing the library’s collection of The Ed Sullivan Show.

Additionally, the New York Public Library’s microfilm collection enabled me to read Sullivan’s newspaper writings back to 1919, from his teenage reporting for the Port Chester Daily Item to his last days at the New York Daily News.

Ed Sullivan’s life was written about voluminously in periodicals after his television show’s debut, and I was able to review countless periodicals with the help of two sources: the New York Public Library, which keeps a file of clippings going back to the 1950s, containing everything from Time and Newsweek to Life and Editor and Publisher, as well as many regional newspapers; and the Center for American History, in San Antonio, Texas, which mailed me a thick file of Sullivan-related news clippings.

Among the many books I consulted, a few deserve special mention. Of particular aid were three earlier books about Sullivan and his show: Always on Sunday, Ed Sullivan: An Inside View, written in 1968 by CBS press agent Michael David Harris; A Thousand Sundays: the Story of The Ed Sullivan Show, written in 1980 by Jerry Bowles; and Prime Time, a memoir written in 1979 by Marlo Lewis, who worked with Sullivan to launch his television show. Also helpful was Neal Gabler’s superb Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity. Few books have so captured the culture of New York in the 1930s and 1940s.

Of the myriad books on television history I used, none were as helpful and as complete—and as entertainingly written—as Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television, by Walter Podrazik and Harry Castleman.