Thirty-odd years ago, Carol Burnett celebrated her birthday with a party that filled UCLA’s Pauley Pavillion. Six thousand of her nearest dearest friends were invited. Well, actually it was a fund raiser for UCLA, so she probably didn’t know everyone. She knew us though. My husband, Bob, went to UCLA with Carol. She was in the Theater Department and he was in the Cinema Department. They met through mutual friends. Shortly afterwards, they appeared together in the UCLA Homecoming Show, Royal Blues on the Royce Hall stage with all 1,834 seats filled.
Carol was hilarious and Bob was the master of ceremonies for the show.
One of the many special things about Carol is that she always remembers her close friends from the old days and so we were invited to her birthday party. This was definitely not your typical “ Let’s- blow-out-a-couple-of-candles-and-cut-the-cake” birthday party. After a lovely dinner, we were entertained by Henry Mancini conducting a large orchestra, then Neil Diamond singing, Sweet Caroline, Beverly Sills performing a special version of I’m Glad There Is You. Of course, there was also a serenade by Julie Andrews and Carol’s three daughters, Carrie, Jody and Erin dressed up as “The Charwoman“ and sang, I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together. There was a lot of love for Carol that night and a lot of fun for all of us.
After the entertainment, my husband and I went up to Carol to give her a hug and wish her a Happy Birthday. Just then, I saw a striking beautiful woman out of the corner of my eye. I did a double take and thought, “Oh my god, that’s Elizabeth Taylor!”
And then from behind me, I heard a man’s voice saying, “Remember me, Bob?” Slowly I turned around and looked directly into a tuxedo shirt front. I glanced up, my mouth dropped open, and I was speechless.
It was Tom Selleck and he was gorgeous.
I had never seen a man so handsome (even better looking than my husband)! I stood there frozen with my mouth gaping while my husband shook Tom’s outstretched hand. Tom thanked my husband for hiring and directing him in his first television commercial and for giving him the wardrobe he wore in it. Tom recalled that it was the only suit he had owned and he wore it for all of his auditions and interviews. He also told us that the residuals from that Safeguard soap commercial kept him fed for years.
Tom was incredibly gracious and chatted with us for a while. I was finally able to recover and I believe I said, “Hello.” But who can remember?
Anyway, here’s Tom’s first commercial. It’s gotten over 78,000 hits on YouTube. In the same spot, my husband also cast three unknown actresses very early in their careers: Teri Garr, Penny Marshall and Patti Deutsch.
Carol and her husband, Brian are close friends to this day and we see them as often as our collective schedules permit.
She’s as warm, caring and intelligent in person as she appears on television. She and I talk about everything from her early desire to be a journalist, mine to be a teacher, how we changed once we hit UCLA, to our mutual love of old movies, art and well, we can really suck the oxygen out of a room.
Oh, and if you haven’t read her wonderful books, do yourself a favor and check them out:
Thank you Adam Light for the Tom Selleck photographs.