I grew up watching Carol Burnett. I will never forget the Gone With The Wind parody when she came down the stairs wearing the drapes and curtain rod as a dress.
Recently, Carol was given the Life Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. During her acceptance speech, she spoke about her childhood.
She lived with her grandmother in a poor neighbourhood in Hollywood, as her parents were both alcoholics and had divorced. Carol and her grandmother would save their pennies to see three or four double features a week. That was six to eight movies. Then she would come home and act out the scenes in her bedroom.
She thought she should become a writer and wanted to go to UCLA, but tuition was $42 a year and they didn’t have that kind of money. Then she ended up qualifying for a scholarship.
She began studying journalism but changed to Theatre Arts and English thinking she might become a playwright. However, Theatre Arts students had to take an acting course as well so she had to sign up for that, too. She didn’t think she was cut out for acting, but one night on stage she improvised a line and the audience loved it. It awakened something in her. She had found her passion.
Then something amazing happened…
“I was a student at UCLA and we were performing at a party in San Diego… a posh party,” Burnett explained. “I did a scene from Annie Get Your Gun, and then after the show, I headed straight for the hors d’oeuvres, and I was putting some in my purse to take home to my grandmother.”
That’s when a man in a tuxedo, along with his wife, approached Carol, said they liked her performance, and asked her what she wanted to do in life. She said she really wanted to go and do musical comedy on stage in New York City but she didn’t have the money.
The man said he would give her a $1000 loan with three rules… she was never to share his name, she had to use the money to move to New York and if she was successful, she had to help others by paying it forward. He also asked that she repay the loan, interest-free, in five years. Which she did. Someone had done something similar for that man years earlier and he wanted to pass the kindness on.
Carol went on to win Emmys and Golden Globes, a Peabody Award, and she was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. Her variety show, which she ran and starred in, aired for eleven years and was named one of “The 100 Best Shows of All Time” by Time Magazine. And who can forget Mrs. Hannigan in the blockbuster movie Annie?
She had a tough start, but she did not give up. She said, “When you have a dream, you’ve got to grab it and never let go.”
And as Joseph Campbell once said, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
Are we following our bliss? And if not, why not?