Friday, December 19, 2008

Sundays with Sullivan: How the Ed Sullivan Show Brought Elvis, the Beatles, and Culture to America

By Bernie Ilson

When forty-six-year-old Ed Sullivan—a gossip columnist for the New York Daily News—stepped on stage at CBS Television Studio for the first time in 1948, no one could imagine the great success that lay in store for The Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan didn't sing, dance, or act, but he became one of the country's greatest showmen, hosting what would become television's longest running variety and music show.

For twenty-three years, from 1948 to 1971, The Ed Sullivan Show was America's premiere variety show, airing live every Sunday night. Sullivan used the one-hour program to bring stars of the entertainment world into living rooms across the nation, turning acts such as the Beatles and Elvis Presley into household names. But Sullivan certainly didn't limit his show to rock musicians. The performers featured on The Ed Sullivan Show were an eclectic array of talent that included everything from opera singers to dancing bears, high-wire walkers to classical violinists.

This book is an inside view of The Ed Sullivan Show and the unusual story of one of the most unlikely television stars who played host to such diverse talents as Van Cliburn, Rudolf Nureyev, Robert Goulet, Richard Pryor, and the Rolling Stones. With his distinctive nasal voice, Sullivan regularly promised audiences a "really big shew" and delivered by offering up virtually every form of twentieth-century entertainment.

Bernie Ilson, one the most famous publicists in the field of public relations, and the press representative for the final eight years of The Ed Sullivan Show, gives the reader a unique inside view of the amazing newspaperman and television host, Ed Sullivan, who anticipated the interest of 35 million viewers each Sunday and presented them with the greatest talent in show business, week after week, for almost a quarter of a century.

Bernie Ilson has been running his own public relations company in New York City since 1963, when his first client was Sullivan Productions, the producers of the Ed Sullivan Show. Mr. Ilson's PR clients have also included Motown Records, the Grammy Awards, Silver Dollar City, Missoula Children's Theater, Tony Bennett, Benny Goodman, Soupy Sales, Liberty Mutual's Boston Pops television specials, the Grand Ole Opry, Hee Haw, The Monkees, Candid Camera, and scores of other clients.

Prior to entering the field of public relations, Mr. Ilson worked as a stand-up comedian and a comedy writer on the NBC Television Comedy Development Program. Just prior to opening his own agency, Mr. Ilson was a vice president at Rogers and Cowan, the leading public relations firm in the world of entertainment.

Mr. Ilson earned a B.A. from Brooklyn College, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in culture and communications from New York University in 1998. He has taught public relations at Baruch College in New York City and is listed in the last ten editions of "Who's Who in America" and "Who's Who in the World."

Mr. Ilson and his wife, Carol, reside in New York City, and have two sons, David and Jimmy, and four grandchildren. Mr. Ilson is also a well-known watercolor artist and has had three one-man shows in New York City. His work has also been shown at the Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.

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