During her astronomically successful career, actress/comedienne Carol Burnett has worked with some of Hollywood’s most legendary names, including Lucille Ball and Elizabeth Taylor, whose recent passing Carol is still mourning.
“We worked together many years ago in an HBO film called ‘Between Friends,’” Carol told Billy Bush and Kit Hoover on Access Hollywood Live on Thursday, of her first on-set experience with the violet-eyed beauty. “I had met Elizabeth on occasion through Rock Hudson and friends, but this was the first time we’d ever really connected working together — and she was a hoot.
“She was funny, she was bawdy, you can best describe her as a ‘Dame’ in the best sense of the word,” Carol continued. “She didn’t mince words about anything – she was as honest as she could be, as the day is long, and we just had a wonderful rapport together.”
The two became fast friends and Elizabeth soon pulled a prank on the former star of “The Carol Burnett Show.”
“[Elizabeth] surprised me once – I was doing a guest stint on my favorite soap opera, ‘All My Children,’ and I was in a scene with another woman in a nightclub and we were having our scene,” Carol told Billy and Kit. “The next thing I know, this woman comes up in a mop hat — the scrubwoman outfit that I wore as [my] charwoman [character] — and comes up and inserts herself into the scene. It was Elizabeth!
“They hid her behind the scenes for the whole day – she was waiting to come on and surprise me and it was so sweet,” Carol continued, laughing. “I was able to [finish the scene] and at the end of it she came on and did a whole number with me about my character… as she left, Eileen Hurley, who I was in the scene with said, ‘Who on earth was that?’ and I said, ‘I’ve never seen her before in my life. I think that woman has a pilot light missing.’ That’s what was on the air!”
Carol also revealed she and Elizabeth had a shared passion – daytime soap operas.
“We would take two-hour lunches [on the movie set] because we would watch my soap and then we’d watch ‘General Hospital,’” Carol laughed. “So, we had to do that. It was great… I still watch [‘All My Children’]!”
In addition to Elizabeth, Carol was also close with comedy legend Lucille Ball, whom she bonded with after the famed funnywoman came to watch Carol perform in a play.
“[Lucy] came to see me the second night of an off-Broadway show I was doing — I was 25, and she was in the audience… I peeked out of the curtain and I saw this carrot-top in the second row and I thought I was going to die,” Carol told Billy and Kit. “I was more nervous that night than I was the night before, when we opened with all the critics, because it was Lucy!
“I got through the show and then she came backstage and she called me ‘kid,’” Carol continued. “‘Kid, you were really terrific.’ She was very encouraging and she said, ‘If ever you need me for anything, kid, give me a call. I’ll be there.’”
Carol took Lucy up on her offer several years later when she was offered a special on CBS on the condition that she find a “big star” to guest star with her. After much prompting from her producer, Carol agreed to phone the “I Love Lucy” star.
“They talked me into picking up the phone and calling her and she took the call right away and said, ‘Hi kid, how are you? What’s going on?’” she told Billy and Kit. “I said, ‘Lucy, I know you’re busy, I don’t want to bother you, but they were asking me to call… I’m doing this television show special with CBS--’ and she said, ‘I’ll be there. When do you want me there?’ And that was it.”
The redheaded comedy dream team became close and remained friends until Lucy’s death in 1989.
“Every year on my birthday, [Lucy] would send me flowers and she gave me my baby shower for my second baby,” Carol told Billy and Kit. “She was on my show several times and I guest [starred] on hers, so we were really close.”
She added, “She died on my birthday. I remember getting up and seeing it on the morning shows and it was out of the blue. She’d been sick, but they thought she was going to come home and she died. I got my flowers [from her] that afternoon.”
To read more of Carol’s Hollywood experiences, pick up a copy of her new memoir, “This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection,” available in stores now.