February 10, 2004

More Beatles on Ed Sullivan. The last of the four Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan shows is a year and a half after the first three, which occurred on three consecutive weeks. (First show described here.) You'd think the fourth show would look quite different, that the culture would have radically changed, in this year and a half. In fact, The Beatles music was very different. The first three shows featured "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You," and this September 1965 show had "I Feel Fine," "I'm Down," "Act Naturally," "Ticket to Ride," "Yesterday," and "Help," clearly a later Beatle period.

My favorite Beatle moment: After Paul sings "Yesterday," John says, "Ah, thank you Paul. That was just like him."

Perhaps the other performers have advanced a bit, but not much. There's no vaudeville throwback like Tessie O'Shea now, but there's Cilla Black in a gigantic wig, singing "Out of My Head," to a tame big band arrangement. Here's Soupy Sales singing "Hey! Do the Mouse! Do it all through the house." He leaps into the audience doing his new mouse dance: make mouse ears with open hands and stick out your upper teeth and gnaw. He gets all up in people's faces, and mostly they pull back and make an effort to conceal their horror. Barely one in a hundred responds with the appropriate mouse gestures. There's another magician: Fantasio, a serene man in a tuxedo, pulls doves out of scarves while mellow music plays. There's another lame comedy duo (Allen & Rossi).

Ed's still the same. After The Beatles' first set he shushes the audience and says "Now be quiet. Now whom do you listen to when you're buying a carpet?" He introduces Steve Rossi saying "I've asked Steve to sing a very charming song: 'Try to Remember.'" He says to The Beatles, "I'd just like to congratulate the four of you on the way you've handled yourselves."

I must say the commercials have picked up since the earlier Beatles shows. Now we have lots of actors enjoying the products, and even a comic attempt (new All detergent introduced like a movie Coming Attraction). We see the ridiculous George Fenneman (who reminds me of Ryan Seacrest!) riding a strange water-land vehicle to rescue folks at a picnic who are simply unwilling to eat hamburgers in the absence of iced tea. And here's that great classic headache commercial. A woman is happily cooking dinner, when her husband, a man in a suit, comes in the door. She says to him, "Hi, darling, hurry and get ready for dinner. PTA meeting tonight." He completely snaps into a scary, mean guy: "Ellen, please. Don't rush me. I just got home!" The voiceover intones: "Control yourself. Sure you have a headache. You're tense, irritable. But don't take it out on her." Anacin solves the whole problem; apparently, it's a powerfully psychoactive drug. The voiceover assures us: "You're in control again." (Older readers will remember another ad of this type, where the woman cooking is the one who snaps; she says "Mother, please, I'd rather do it myself!")

In the end, Ed tells us about next week: it will be the first color show, with Milton Berle, Eddie Fisher, and Polly Bergen. "And for you youngsters, we'll have the youthful singing trio of Dino, Desi, and Billy." How well I remember when those three ruled the teen magazines (16 and Tiger Beat). Poor Dino--Dean Martin's adorable son--died flying a jet for the National Guard in 1987. One always reads that Dean Martin never recovered. Desi, of course, was the offspring of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Billy was just the other guy. The performance by Dino, Desi, and Billy on that first color Ed Sullivan Show is available on this great DVD.

No comments: