Memoir Book Review – This Time Together – Laughter And Reflection by Carol Burnett

Legendary entertainer, Carol Burnett has been an actor on Broadway, television and the movies. She was the star of the long-running The Carol Burnett Show, which ran from 1967 to 1978 on CBS television. Her awards include twenty-five Emmy’s, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Kennedy Center honors. Highly anticipated, Burnett released her new book entitled This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection.

A quick review of the book’s Table of Contents prefaces an enjoyable read. Each chapter averages 3 to 5 pages and is a story in itself. Burnett’s tales are a great escape while waiting at the doctor’s office or other service appointments.

Burnett chronicles meeting legendary stars including Lucille Ball, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. Peer into the quirky personalities of Joan Crawford and Barbra Stanwyck as Burnett describes her odd encounters with the women. Black and white photos capture some of Burnett’s celebrity experiences.

You sense a simpler Hollywood, New York City and world in general, as Burnett describes her rise to fame in the 1950’s and 60’s. Burnett recounts living with four other female showbiz hopefuls in a midtown Manhattan brownstone. They pooled their money to buy a “community dress,” one that each could wear to stand out during cattle call Broadway auditions. The dress was orange and while Burnett never landed a job because of it, she did receive several callbacks for “the girl in the orange dress.” She finally gave up when another woman wearing an orange dress got the callback instead. “I switched to yellow after that,” says Burnett. Read too how an unidentified truck driver sealed the deal for Burnett’s variety show with television executives.

A hostess at a famous, upscale and crowded New York ice cream parlor loudly chastised Burnett upon entering in 1959. Wearing pants instead of the standard skirt or dress, Burnett cringed as the patrons fell silent, attuned to the encounter. Burnett concocted a reason for her attire that left the room (particularly the hostess) feeling less than human. “The revenge tasted sweeter than the ice cream sundae,” says Burnett.

She narrates being a guest on the popular 1960’s Password game show with host Allen Luden. Learn what clue her contestant partner gave her that caught everyone off-guard; and caused the show to go from being taped live to pre-recorded.

In the late 1970’s while filming a movie in Florida, Burnett discovered a mom and pop eatery-great food, few customers. She and her assistant ate there often. Burnett hosted a cast party there, including guests Lauren Bacall and James Garner. A local review exposed the restaurant’s celebrity attraction. The next time Burnett’s assistant called to reserve a table, the owner said “Oh dear, I’m so sorry but we’re full.” Burnett comments, “Is this where the saying “No good deed goes unpunished” comes from?”

Burnett honors her repertoire cast of Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Wagoner. It’s interesting to learn that Korman was once fired from the show in a rare confrontational encounter with Burnett (a weekend reprieve healed the wounds; and Korman returned).

“One More Time,” Burnett’s 1986 book dedicated to her three daughters, detailed her life up to age 26, so “This Time Together,” a book that resonates Burnett’s genuineness, is a welcomed update.

The serious anecdotes arrive late in the book, including Burnett’s account of befriending a dying little girl named Kathy, and reflections of her daughter Carrie Hamilton who died in 2002 of lung cancer at the age of 35.

Burnett acknowledges that she’s had “the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, both personally and professionally.” She’s grateful for much in life, including her husband Brian, children and grandchildren. She’s healthy and enjoys doing an occasional guest shot on TV, or sporadically, a movie. She knows her career; especially her television show was a gift. She says that today’s TV market would never gamble on a weekly variety format. She believes shows today aren’t given enough time to establish an audience. She’s grateful that her time happened when it did; and fittingly ends the book with the statement, “I’m so glad we had this time together.”

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