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Ed Sullivan was a journalist, producer and TV host known for his successful variety program The Ed Sullivan Show.
Watch a short video about TV show host Ed Sullivan and how he came to have his own variety show.
After a stint as an actor, Ed Sullivan started to appear on television and host the "Ed Sullivan Show."
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Born in New York City on September 28, 1901, Ed Sullivan worked as a journalist before hosting variety shows in the 1930s and '40s. He eventually became host of The Ed Sullivan Show, the longest-running TV variety program in history, which featured acts like the Supremes, the Beatles, Jerry Lewis,
"I enjoy what I'm doing. I would have become a water skiier if I could have made money honestly and with integrity."
"Ladies and gentlemen ... the Beatles!"
Elvis Presley and Roberta Peters, among legions of others. Sullivan died on October 13, 1974.
Edward Vincent Sullivan was born on September 28, 1901, in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Part of a large family, he had a twin brother and a sister who died in childhood, and the family subsequently moved to Port Chester. Of Irish Catholic descent, Sullivan's upbringing was filled with a blend of cultural influences. The young Sullivan would become a high school athlete and write for the school paper.
Ed Sullivan pursued journalism professionally as an adult, working for a number of news organizations in the 1920s, including The Associated Press and The Morning Telegraph. He became the Broadway columnist for The Evening Graphic in 1929, and went on to become a columnist for the New York Daily News by the early 1930s.
Sullivan married Sylvia Weinstein in 1930 and the couple had a daughter, Elizabeth.
Ed Sullivan also got into vaudeville theater, producing and serving as master of ceremonies for a number of shows, including World War II events that benefitted relief organizations like the American Red Cross. It was through his hosting of the Harvest Moon Ball, telecast on CBS, that he caught the attention of network execs and was given hosting duties on the variety show Toast of the Town, which debuted on June 20, 1948. Airing weekly on Sunday nights, the program would be renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955 and becoming the longest-running variety program in TV history, with tens of millions of viewers tuning in on a weekly basis.
Sullivan's program was known for its range of acts, including everyone from comedians like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis to icons of musical theater like Julie Andrews to eclectic novelty acts. Sullivan also provided a platform for the emerging genre of rock 'n' roll, hosting artists like Bill Haley & His Comets and Elvis Presley, whose January 6, 1957 appearance was recorded only from the waist up due to his gyrations. Sullivan later hosted the U.S. TV debut of the Beatles on February 9, 1964, which was one of the most watched shows in TV history.
While aiming to appeal to a massive audience and getting into conflicts over his booking practices with certain stars, including Frank Sinatra, Sullivan bridged cultural barriers. He showcased artists from the Soviet dance world and brought on acts who would appeal to younger viewers. In the 1960s, musicians appeared on the show who were symbolic of the countercultural movement, including Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones and the Doors. (The Doors' lead singer, Jim Morrison, defied the show's request to make the lyrics of "Light My Fire" less suggestive during their live performance.)
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