Did you ever hear about this? It happened a few years ago. I met Carol Burnett. THE Carol Burnett. The one that we all grew up watching. The one we all tried to imitate by writing our own Carol Burnett-like comedy sketches, then roping our friends into performing those sketches with you, then begging your dad to borrow his expensive video camera so you could video tape your sketches so you could send it to THE Carol Burnett herself. Or was I the only 10 year old on the planet who did that?
To commence the start of the month of April, the month of Ms. Burnett’s birth, I thought I’d share with you the story about the time I met Carol Burnett…from 100 yards away. Never-the-less, I spoke to her and came so incredibly close to giving her the hug I had dreamed about since I was 9.
Here’s how it went down…
There are moments in all of our lives where we wish we could rewind and play over again. If only life were a DVD, TIVO, or DVR. We can only relish in the moments as they are happening and be thankful that we are allowed to be present at that moment in all of time.
There are two women who have had the biggest influence on me – Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. I’ve grown up watching and studying these two amazing, funny and talented women in hopes that someday I can be the same caliber performer that they are. Someday….sigh…someday.
In 2006 I went to Jones Hall for Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett, a tour that she was doing where she did her classic question-answer type schtick. I was counting down the minutes until the curtain went up. We were introduced with clips from her television show and her “bump up the lights” question and answer format. I knew that that was going to be the format. Other than wracking my brain to think of a question to ask Ms. Burnett, I was very curious as to how she would be able to see people and if she would be able to hear them. Jones Hall is a fairly large space and I came to the hypothesis that they would have stage hands running around handing people mics if they had a question.
I was semi-correct.
Each usher standing at the door had a microphone and if anyone near them was called they would hand them the mic. But sometimes mics were not used and Carol just repeated the question that was asked so everyone could hear and followed it with an answer.
I had a question to ask.
I was sitting in the second row from the back and raised my hand every time in hopes that she would call on me. Finally, she pointed my direction and said, “Yes, you in the back.” I stood up and said two words then was interrupted by a lady who stood up and yelled, “I just wanted to let you know you’re my hero!” Touching. But I was speaking. Hello!
But I’m a nice person so I just sat down. But I didn’t give up. Up went my lanky, pale arm after each answer hoping and praying that she would call on me. I waved it around a little. Nothing. I sat on the edge of my chair and waved it around a lot. Nothing. I told my mother that I was glad there was no one behind me because I was like a first grader waving her arm around, desperate to tell the teacher she knows the answer to two plus two.
Then. It. Happened.
“Yes, in the VERY back.”
My heart started pumping. My palms started sweating. My mouth got dry. She was pointing to me. And everyone knew it. All eyes on me. I stood up. I took a deep breath from down low so I could use my diaphragm to project so she could hear me from two miles away. My “actor’s voice,” my mother calls it. I began to speak. Loud.
“HI!” She heard me!
“I READ YOUR BOOK WHEN I WAS I FIFTH GRADE AND…”
At that point the usher walked over to me and handed me the microphone. Thank goodness.
“…and I watched your show religiously growing up. I’m a big fan. So for my eleventh birthday I sent you an invitation to my birthday party. But I guess you had a previous engagement because you did not R.S.V.P.”
The audience laughed. So did Carol.
“Sooooo, in my optimism and naivety, I drew you a picture that I had wanted to give you when you came to my party. I kept it and I have it here tonight and I was wondering if there is some way I could give it to you.”
That cued a collective, “AWWWWW” not only from the audience, but also from Carol.
“That is just the sweetest thing! Well, of course I would love to see it. If you could bring it backstage one of the ushers could bring you back here and I could take a look at it. I would really love to see it!”
I pulled a face muscle from my enormous smile!
I grabbed the picture (which I put in a silver frame) and a letter I had written her and started making my way to the end of the aisle.
“Oh, and Happy Birthday!…when you were eleven!” Nothing but laughter and “Awws.”
I was verklempt.
The usher led me to the stage right wing. I tip toed across the wooden floor so not to make any noise. There were three people standing there. The stage manager was on head set following along on an outline. I was met with bewildered stares. I stood there holding my picture when a very expensive looking lady standing next to the stage manager turns around and asks me, “Is that the picture?”
“Yes.” I handed it to her.
She looked at it and goes, “That’s just the cutest thing. I’ll make sure and give it to Carol.”
What? No meeting her? I was perfectly prepared to stand there, high-heels and all, to wait for Carol to come off stage and hand it to her myself. I didn’t mind the wait. I guess they did.
“I also have this letter for her if you could give that to her too.”
“Okay. Did you write you address on the letter?”
“Crap,” I thought. “No I didn’t.”
She took down my address and what row I was sitting in.
“Now, are you going to want this back?”
“No. I drew it for her. She can have it.”
“Are you sure? Do you want her to autograph it and give it back?”
“No. I really want her to have it. Is it too much trouble for her to take it? I know she’s probably flying back to where ever and I don’t want it to be any trouble.”
“No, I just wanted to make sure that you didn’t want it back. I’ll make sure she gets it.”
I reached out my hand to shake hers but she was just about turned around. I played it off and slicked the side of my hair. I got a few snickers from on lookers. I fought the urge to ask if I could give it to Carol myself because I wanted nothing more than to meet Carol Burnett. But, even though (as Bob Wallace would say) “I had an angle,” I didn’t want it to come across as some sort of act. I really wanted her to have the picture I drew her. I just would have loved to meet her.
I made my way back to my seat and was stopped by a few people in the lobby asking me if I was the “picture girl,” how old I was, then their eyes widened in amazement that someone so young even knew who Carol is, much less invite her to their eleventh birthday party!
When I got back to my seat I was met with the same reaction. “That was the sweetest thing!” Even though I didn’t get to meet Carol or even see her up close, I was beyond happy.
At the end of the program she played the last “I’m so glad we had this time together” from the last episode of her show and she sang the very end. I began to cry. It was such an amazing, touching moment that I was so thankful to be a part of it.
My mom and I decided to wait at the stage door for a little while to see if she would come out. While waiting I got a few, “Hey you’re the picture girl!” It was a really big crowd. After waiting for about fifteen minutes we decided to walk down the street to Sambuca and have dinner. I was happy – I gave her the picture.
A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail from Carol thanking me for the picture and the letter I wrote her. The little eleven year old inside of me is still hoping that she might just “stop by.”
Maybe I’ll draw her a picture to give her when she comes over.
What an embarrassing picture, huh?