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Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan's America Hardcover – November 5, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (November 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520258673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520258679
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,207,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Variety show host Ed Sullivan, part idiosyncratic non-performer and part brooding showman, played so great a role in molding the television industry, says Nachman, that his keen eye for talent not only entertained 47 million viewers each week but also produced and nurtured American cultural life. Author Nachman (Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 60s) chronicles the evolution of the Ed Sullivan Show from 1948 to 1971, illuminating its immense influence and locating the heart of the long-lived program in its host's capacity for pursuing acts of all kinds. Nachman's work relies on a wide range of interviews and comprehensive research, and his attention to detail makes a vivid, discerning portrayal of American history through the lens of popular culture. Though the book drags at times, fans of the show will appreciate the opportunity to relive memorable performances with insight into backstage politics and fighting, including the complex orchestration of acts from Topo Gigio and Señor Wences to Elvis Presley and the Beatles. The real star of the show is Sullivan himself, and Nachman's compelling analysis of his showbiz genius and unexpected anti-personality appeal.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“A memory-lane extravaganza, smart, witty and finely researched.”
(Howard Rosenberg San Francisco Chronicle 2009-11-08)

“A fun, affectionate portrayal of the showman. A long time in coming, it’s the tome that Sullivan always deserved.”
(Harry Haun Playbill 2009-08-31)

“A vivid, discerning portrayal of American history through the lens of popular culture.”
(Publishers Weekly 2009-12-14)

”This work is a ‘don’t miss’ of nostalgia.”
(Liz Smith Wowowow.com 2009-10-19)

“Detailed portrait of Sullivan . . . that ought to interest scholars of American popular culture and media history.”
(Journal Of American History 2011-06-20)

“An amusing, anecdote-rich book. . . . It’s full of ‘remember when’ moments ranging from the bizarre to the insulting.”
(Nicholas Read The Calgary Herald 2010-03-07)

“Nachman does full justice to the pathos of his subject.”
(Philip Marchand National Post 2009-12-19)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. R. Johnson on October 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Arts commentator Gerald Nachman has found the ideal framework for telling the colorful story of popular culture in America - through the backstage judgments, decisions and integrity if that old television classic, "The Ed Sullivan Show".

"Right Here on Our Stage Tonight: Ed Sullivan's America" describes how it all happened there.

Nachman has the scope and experience as a writer to leap from the narrow realities of a weekly variety show to the implications of what this gathering of talent meant to America over the long term. Sullivan's vision was pivotal, Nachman notes, in bringing millions of viewers their first taste of ballet, opera and theater, interspersed with crooners, dog acts, gymnasts, comedians and a singing nun. It was vaudeville's last gasp. "Ed was a weekly Santa Claus bringing a bag of marvelous things into American homes," Nachman writes.

Old Sullivan shows, now available on DVDs packaged in various themes, provide a history of entertainment and popular music from the dreamy 1940s and 1950s to the rock revolution that Sullivan helped deliver to the heartland. Oddly, as Nachman points out, Sullivan never quite grasped what rock was all about - but he knew his young viewers wanted it. "Cozy hours hosted by Perry Como or Dean Martin were passé," Nachman writes of the era after Elvis Presley appeared on the show.

"The Ed Sullivan Show" - originally called "Toast of the Town" - gave Nachman a convenient focus for what otherwise might have been a sprawling collection of show business anecdotes. His assiduous research and breezy story-telling make for a riveting cultural history. His background as a newspaperman ensures that he never lets himself get bogged down into pop sociology. The story tells itself and Nachman puts it in context.
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Format: Hardcover
As artists transitioned from radio to television in the 1940s it often made for a tough segue. Many of the entertainers were old vaudevillians who had already transitioned from the stage to radio, such as Burns & Allen, for whom the transition to television was a natural progression. As Nachmann points out, to a certain degree Ed Sullivan fell into that category. A former journalist and radio personality, Sullivan appeared on the surface a likely candidate to transition to television, but there was a problem. Sullivan lacked the natural charisma or warmth of an animated and vibrant entertainer like Milton Berle or Lucille Ball. Sullivan's made-for-radio face and wooden stage persona hardly captivated audiences. As a result the "Ed Sullivan Show" nearly bombed in the ratings at its inception as Sullivan tended to freeze or become lost for words. Most viewers tuned in to Sullivan because of the name he had made for himself, and when they did the found that like an old vaudevillian, Sullivan knew how to keep an audience entertained - keep the show moving along with a wide variety of acts.

As Nachmann points out, Sullivan had a genuine knack for spotting rising stars and the "Ed Sullivan Show" was a genuine star making machine. Nachman mentions the obvious stars that broke out on Sullivan's stage including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and so many others. "Right Here On Our Stage Tonight!" catalogues Sullivan's nearly 20 year reign on television - dominating the ratings Sunday night at 8 PM.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By babyboomerlarry on April 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book is really written for those under the age of fifty who never saw the Ed Sullivan Show or read any previous biographies on the man. The author indicates that he interviewed sixty people but they were saying what has been said before.

Nachman. the author, constantly repeats himself besides a few factual errors with event time occurrences. He also elbows in his opinion a wee bit too much especially at the end when he summarizes what he thinks the reader has learned.

I've read two other books by Nachman, Give him credit that he has learned to shorten his prose and redundancies. The first book was over 600 pages, the second over 500 and this one a mere 412 pages. For a person such as myself who watched Ed Sullivan from the early 1960s and on as well as read an earlier full biography there were maybe 75 pages of new interesting information.

So, if you are new to Ed Sullivan and are curious- then this book is as good as any other but expect a long read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Alexander on February 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gerald Nachman, whose previous books, "Raised on Radio" and "Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 50's and 60's," were informative and enjoyable reading, lived up to those standards with "Right Here on Our Stage Tonight."
With fascinating anecdotes and perceptive insight, Nachman proved himself worthy of the daunting task of summing up a massive achievement in variety television.
Ed Sullivan, a decidedly complex person with uncomplex talents (couldn't sing, dance or tell a joke to save his life), forever stamped an image of the TV variety show with his cornucopia of singers, musicians, comedians, plate-spinners and elephants. All of that is covered in great detail in Nachman's book. My only complaint (and this is more my own interests than Nachman's writing) is several chapters are devoted to Sullivan's life prior to TV. However, they are necessary in showing how Sullivan - the mostly unlikely of TV personalities - became the icon that he definitely deserved.
Chapters on comedians, the Beatles, Elvis Presley and behind-the-scenes look at the staging of the show make this an invaluable read. And I especially enjoyed Nachman's little "sidebars" by seemingly average people who grew up watching the Sunday Sullivan shows with their parents, grandparents, etc. In some households, the Sullivan show was probably more devoutly followed than regular weekly attendance at the church/synagogue of one's choice.
If the cost of the book is a deterrent to reading it, interested readers should check their local library and urge their librarians to obtain a copy.
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