Almanac: Ed Sullivan

Ed Sullivan with The Beatles (Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney), during rehearsal for the band's first American appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show, in February 1964.
AP Photo

(CBS News) And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: October 13th, 1974, 39 years ago today . . . the final curtain for a TV showman.

Ed Sullivan died of cancer that day at the age of 73.

Sullivan was the popular Broadway columnist for the New York Daily News when CBS tapped him in 1948 to host a new Sunday night TV variety show.

Sullivan's show was a success . . . must-see TV for millions of viewers across mid-century America who tuned in Sunday after Sunday to see a most eclectic mixture of acts:

Presiding over it all was Ed Sullivan himself, as stiff and unlikely a stage presence as ever hosted a hit TV show.

On the CBS show "Person-To-Person," Edward R. Murrow asked him about his on-air persona:

Murrow: "Ed, where did you get this reputation as a stone face anyway?"
Sullivan: "I don't know, Ed. I don't think as a youngster I had it, but I guess the first time I went on television, the moment the cameras came barreling in on me, rigor mortis set in."

Smile or no smile, Sullivan enjoyed a loyal following.

He played himself In the 1963 movie musical, "Bye Bye Birdie," which featured a hymn-like tribute to his honored place in our popular culture:

"Ed Sul-li-vaaan!
Ed Sul-li-vaaan!
We're gonna be on Ed Sullivan!
How could any fam'ly be
Half as fortunate as we?
We'll be coast to coast,
With our fav'rite host,
Ed Sul-li-vaaan!

But over time, the appeal of Sullivan's old-style show began to fade, and in 1971 it went off the air.

Three years later, Sullivan himself was gone.

But even today, in our fractured TV universe of hundreds of channels, a certain generation of viewers still fondly remembers those long-ago Sunday nights when Americans virtually as one sat down in their living rooms to watch Ed Sullivan.

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