Irish American Museum of Washington, D.C.
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Edward Vincent "Ed" Sullivan



Edward Vincent "Ed" Sullivan was born on September 28, 1901 into an Irish and Jewish section of Harlem in New York City. His father, Peter Sullivan, was the son of an Irish immigrant, the oldest of eight children, who never finished high school. He worked as a customs inspector. His mother, Elizabeth Smith Sullivan, was an amateur painter. Sullivan was a twin, but his brother, Danny, died before their first birthday.

When Ed was five, the family moved to Port Chester, New York. There, his childhood was filled with the music his parents loved, and a blend of ethnic culture that included Gypsies and the Catholic Church.

He attended St. Mary's High School in Port Chester where he worked on the school newspaper and earned letters in four varsity sports. A former boxer, Sullivan turned down a chance to attend college, even though an uncle had offered to pay his tuition, and chose to go into the newspaper business instead began his media work as a newspaper sportswriter. When Walter Winchell, one of the original gossip columnists and the most powerful entertainment reporter of his day, left the newspaper for the Hearst syndicate, Sullivan took over as theatre columnist for The New York Graphic and later for The New York Daily News. His column, 'Little Old New York', concentrated on Broadway shows and gossip, as Winchell's had and, like Winchell, he also did show business news broadcasts on radio.

On June 20, 1948 Sullivan set in motion his most famed role- as the presenter of the TV variety show The Ed Sullivan Show, which was broadcast from 1948 until 1971. The show ran for 23 years, which made it one of the longest-running variety shows in U.S. broadcast history.

The program ran on CBS every Sunday night from 8–9 p.m. ET (originally from 9–10 p.m. ET, until March 1949), and is one of the few entertainment shows to have been run in the same weekly time slot on the same network for more than two decades. Virtually every type of entertainment appeared on the show; opera singers, popular artists, songwriters, comedians, ballet dancers, dramatic actors performing monologues from plays, and circus acts were regularly featured.

In the show's 1948 debut, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis performed along with singer Monica Lewis and Broadway composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II previewing the score to their then-new show South Pacific, which opened on Broadway in 1949.

The Ed Sullivan Show was originally broadcast via live television from the Maxine Elliott Theatre at Broadway and 39th St. before moving to its permanent home at CBS-TV Studio 50 in New York City, which was renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater on the occasion of the program's 20th anniversary in June 1968.