Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This Time Together

I just finished reading a book with this title by Carol Burnett. In the 1970’s, I watched her show with my mother on Saturday nights. Although a lot of her antics with Vicky Lawrence, Harvey Corman, and Tim Conway had to be described to me, I still thought they were funny. When I was in college studying music therapy, I did a required semester of practicum with a group of adults with psychiatric disorders at an outpatient facility. After singing songs and having a few laughs of our own, we ended our sessions by singing “I’m So Glad We Have This Time Together” and pulling our ears just like Carol. I also saw her as the less than kindly orphanage matron in the movie adaptation of the Broadway musicalAnnie and in the comical role of Jamie’s mother in the television comedy Mad about You.

Carol Burnett was born on April 26th, 1933 in San Antonio, Texas. Her parents were both alcoholics, and she and her younger sister were raised primarily by her grandmother. When her parents divorced, they moved to an apartment near her mother in an impoverished Hollywood neighborhood. After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1951, Carol won a scholarship to UCLA where she studied journalism but changed her major to theater arts. She performed in numerous university productions. In 1954, she and her boyfriend, Don Seroyan, were each offered a $1,000.00 interest free loan so they could try their luck in New York. This came with the stipulations that the loan would be paid back in five years, her benefactor’s name would never be mentioned, and if she became a success, she would help others achieve their dreams.

She married Don Seroyan in 1955. They were divorced in 1962. In 1963, she married television producer Joe Hamilton, a divorced father of eight, and they had three daughters. They were divorced in 1984. In 2001, she married drummer and music contractor Brian Miller.

After becoming well-known on Broadway, she appeared on television in The Garry Moore Show. She then moved to Los Angeles where she did her own show on CBS for eleven years. The Carol Burnett Show combined music, comedy, and dance. Some of the sketches were film parodies while others were character pieces. She also did a variety of television specials with Julie Andrews, Beverly Sills, and others. Besides Annie, her films included Pete ‘n’ Tillie, Friendly Fire, Life of the Party, The Four Seasons, and Noises Off. She also appeared in other television and stage productions. In 1986, she published her first memoir, One More Time.

This Time Together is a collection of anecdotes about Carol Burnett’s life growing up and her career as an actress, comedian, and singer. She talks about how as a teenager, she was fired from her job as an usher at a Hollywood movie theater because she encouraged a couple to wait until the beginning of the next run of a film before seating them. She describes how in New York, she and other boarders at The Rehearsal Club staged a review in order to gain exposure, inviting agents and celebrities. She tells the story of how she avoided being thrown out of a posh New York ice cream parlor for violating the dress code by telling the hostess she had a wooden leg and was too embarrassed to wear a skirt. There are poignant stories like the time she and Vicky Lawrence made a recording of themselves singing lullabyes for a little girl dying of cancer and how she was with the child and her family at her death. She mentions her marriages and break-ups with Don Seroyan and Joe Hamilton and her marriage to Brian Miller. She talks about how in 2002, she and her daughter Carrie collaborated to make her memoir One More Time into the Broadway play Hollywood Arms. Carrie died of cancer before the play opened.

I was lucky to find a recording of Carol reading her book on audible.com. When I listened, it was as if she were telling me her stories, not just reading them. She did great impersonations of other actors with whom she came in contact such as Julie Andrews and Joan Crawford. I even got to hear her do her famous Tarzan yell. I wasn’t too impressed the few times she sang on this recording, but that may have been because she didn’t have any accompaniment. She did a better job on stage with an orchestra behind her. I recommend this book to anyone who likes funny, heartwarming stories about celebrities, and if you want a real treat, get a recording of Carol reading it.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver


  1. You do really good book reviews, connecting famous peoples' books to your own experiences. Thank you.

    1. Hello, I'm glad you liked this post. In case you're a new visitor, please check back often. I try to update this blog at least twice a week. Thank you for posting.

  2. I certainly remember Carol's TV show. She seemed to enjoy each joke. Too bad her private life had so many problems.

    1. Hi Bruce, yes, Carol Burnett had problems, but she didn't seem to let them get her down. Thanks for posting.