Hollywoodland Jul 6 2009
JACKED UP
The Jack Paar-Ed Sullivan feud was sometimes polite and sometimes ugly—but it was always must-see television.

Above you see a Whisper magazine cover from July 1961. We mentioned in our previous post on this tabloid that it was published by Confidential owner Robert Harrison, and here you see a more typical visual motif, pretty much duplicating the Confidential style. The tabloid formula always calls for a little sex (which you get in the person of Julie Newmar), a little crime (which you see in the banner about vice), and a little absurdity (Richard Boone the television cowboy is afraid of horses). Those three stories are self-explanatory, so we won’t bother to elaborate, but the centerpiece item about a feud between Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan may require a bit of explanation.

Everyone knows who Ed Sullivan was, but Paar is less famous these days. However it was Paar who really established the modern blueprint of late night talk shows, taking over a Tonight Show that was floundering, and within a year turning it into such a hit that it was renamed The Jack Paar Tonight Show. But there was a flipside to his brilliance—he was an emotional man who shot from the hip and dealt with the consequences later. Once, when one of his jokes was cut, he waited until the next night, replaced his monologue with a verbal broadside at the network, and walked off the show, leaving his astonished announcer Hugh Downs to finish the taping. It wasn’t the first or last time Paar did something shocking—he often cried on air. When you consider that Ed Sullivan was an emotionally distant figure known as “old stone face,” it’s clear he and Paar were probably destined to hate each other—if for no other reason than their diametrically opposed personalities.

Part of the Paar-Sullivan feud revolved around the Beatles. In January 1964 on his show The Jack Paar Program, Paar featured the Fab Four in a series of film clips leased form the BBC. When Sullivan had the real-life Beatles on his program later that year people forgot that Paar had ever broadcast Beatles clips and Sullivan became the man who introduced the band to America. Paar believed this was blatant revisionism, but here his vanity kept him from understanding the obvious truth that film clips are nothing compared to a live performance. Besides, Paar didn’t like the Beatles’ music, and had used the film clips to joke about the band. It was only after they became a phenomenon that he publicly sought to usurp Sullivan’s credit.

There were other occasions when the feud spilled into the open. For instance, Sullivan’s guests received several thousand dollars for their appearances, but Paar’s got a measly $320. He fought his network to try and change that, word got to the tabloids, and the tabs spun it as yet more personal animus between the two hosts, when in this case it could be argued Paar was standing up for his guests and the reputation of his show. But there was no doubt Paar and Sullivan hated each other. They were even talked into having a public debate, but it fell apart. At first, word was Sullivan had backed out, but a bit later CBS exec Douglas Edwards said it was actually Paar who had gotten cold feet. The news set Paar off. He spent nearly fifty minutes of The Tonight Show trashing Ed Sullivan. He began by facetiously describing his rival as a man who was “as honest as he is talented,” and ended by flatly calling him a liar.

The Paar-Sullivan rivalry only lost its steam when Parr retired, and Sullivan’s show declined and was finally axed June 6, 1971. Parr made a brief comeback in 1973, but quit for good shorty thereafter. None of us at Pulp Intl. are old enough to have seen the Paar-Sullivan blood feud, but there's plenty of text about it on the web to give a sense of what it was like. When we try to think of a comparable modern day dust-up between two relevant, powerful, and brilliant personalities we come up blank—and don't even try to put O’Donnell-Limbaugh in the same class. The Paar-Sullivan feud was a clash of beloved titans who, even in the midst of their battles, tried to entertain, educate, and elevate their audiences. American television hasn’t been the same since.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 04
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
March 03
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
March 02
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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