by Jim Bearden
If you’ve watched television any time in the last 40 years, you probably recognize the name Carol Burnett. She is famous for her acting skills, both in comedies and serious dramas, but there’s much more to her than the parts she has played.
You may know that she overcame a difficult childhood. Both her parents were alcoholics, her father left when she was very young, and she once had to depend on welfare. You may admire her because of her courage. When the National Enquirer published a false story about her, she sued the publisher for libel and won. Then she donated the money from that lawsuit to the University of Hawaii to start a fund for responsible journalism. But there’s still more about her that deserves attention and respect.
In the early 1960s, Carol Burnett performed on “The Garry Moore Show” on television and in the Broadway play “Once Upon a Mattress”. My younger sister, Julie, was in her early teens at the time. She admired Burnett’s talent, and was very happy and surprised to encounter her, by chance, in a restaurant.
The restaurant was “Ports o’ Call” in Dallas, Texas, where my parents took Julie on a vacation trip. It was set up so that the entrance lobby was like the deck of a sailing ship, and the dining rooms were the “ports” down different gangways. Just as they entered the lobby, they saw Carol Burnett in a group of people coming out of one of the dining rooms.
My sister collected autographs in those days, so she always had her autograph book with her. She boldly asked Carol Burnett for an autograph. Ms. Burnett graciously agreed, and waited for my sister to get her book out. Julie, who was by now a little nervous about meeting one of her idols, spilled the contents of her purse all over the lobby floor.
In a situation like this, some celebrities might have said they had other people waiting and other places to be, and excused themselves. Others might have waited while the awkward admirer got things picked up. But Carol Burnett got down on the floor with Julie, helped her pick everything up, and reassured her not to be embarrassed.
When everything was back in the purse, Ms. Burnett helped Julie up, signed her autograph book, talked with her a few minutes, and then went on her way. She left behind not just one admirer, but a whole family of them. Carol Burnett showed that a famous person can also be a great role model in everyday life.
Editor’s Note: The author’s web site is: http://www.sky-pilot.org