Updated: Feb 4, 2020
TRIBUTE TO CAROL BURNETT This Time Together Too
I must have discovered Carol Burnett when I was about three or four years old. I watched television like it was my job and my mission in life, to absorb as much entertainment and information as humanly possible, with what was available at my finger tips in the early 1960's. I was intrigued at an early age by the images and scenes I saw on television on a daily basis. News reports, Cartoons, Movies, TV shows especially talk shows where you could see your favorite celebrities talk and perform. I was interested in everything dealing with the arts. Comedy especially inspired me as a child and certain comedic actors caught my early eye, including, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coco, Lucille Ball, Jerry Lewis and Carol Burnett. I was born in 1960 and my sister Becky was born in 1962. As an older brother, it was my duty to make my sister laugh and unfortunately sometimes make her cry, but mostly laugh I hope. I would reenact scenes and clips from funny television shows and movies and cartoons, and talk funny and make funny sounding voices and walk funny and just act genuinely goofy so I could see my sister and my parents laugh. I was born with a funny bone and any time there was something funny on TV I had to see it and mimic or reenact it in some way. I was very persistent and usually got my way when it came to what we watched on TV....my parents usually had first choice on what we watched on TV...but if there was something that peaked my interest or caught my eye I was usually able to persuade them.
My father had a very good sense of humor and introduced me to comedians like Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Monty Python. Our house was always filled with laughter and camaraderie…with friends and family and neighbors enjoying each other’s company and just enjoying life. I was a very dramatic and animated child with a lot of energy and would do or say anything for a laugh and a smile. I was a practical joker and was always pulling pranks. My family life awarded me the opportunity to be that person I was which enabled me to talk my sister and brother into performing skits and sketches with me that we would improvise and create for family nights and for neighbors. I was always looking for inspiration and ideas from television and movies.
As pleasant as this all sounds I had a hard life outside of my family life. At school I was always the victim of bullying, because I was skinny and more than likely gay. Life was a struggle outside of my family life but I survived and wish the world could accept everyone without making fun of them or being drastically cruel. I think that’s why I was drawn to comedy so much. Laughter is the best medicine. Carol Burnett, Jerry Lewis and Charlie Chaplin were my favorite comedic actors from as long as I can remember. I remember seeing Carol Burnett on television shows like The Gary Moore Show, Ed Sullivan, The Twilight Zone, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Johnny Carson, etc…Whenever Carol Burnett was on TV it was a special event because she was just so darn funny. When Carol Burnett’s television show debuted on CBS in 1967 it was a dream come true, Carol Burnett was guaranteed to be on TV at least once a week. Unfortunately, I grew up in a Mormon family and we had to get up early on Sunday mornings for church. The Carol Burnett Show was on at 10:00 pm on Saturday nights, which was well past our bedtime curfew. I was seven years old at the time, but over the years, I figured out how to sneak up after 10pm and watch the TV with the sound down low so I would not wake my parents up while I watched the Carol Burnett Show. My sister Becky would join me from time to time and we would have to try hard to keep from laughing too hard and wake our parents up or even falling asleep in front of the TV because we were tired.
In 1973, my sister Becky was diagnosed with Leukemia and at the same time, my parents were in the middle of a divorce. All at once, my perfect little happy Mormon family was being torn apart and I was so confused and didn’t really understand what was going on or why. Becky didn’t deserve this and my family didn’t deserve this…we were good people. At the time, I wasn’t mature enough to understand that we all die in our own way and in our own time for various reasons. You also have no or little control of who you fall in and out of love with. It’s just hard to take when it happens to you and you are young and confused and scared.
Becky moved in with my mother and my younger brother, Mike and I stayed with dad. It was very unfortunate, sad and tragic that our family was separated during this time and going through so much turmoil. I could wish and pray with all my might that things could have been different but it was what it was and eventually I would see it was all meant to be. Time heals all wounds but at the time you are going through this kind of turmoil, it hurts like hell. My brother, Mike and I would visit Becky and my mother often in Upland, California and occasionally Becky would visit us back at our home in Huntington Beach, California. However, as time went by Becky was spending more and more time at the hospital. Mike and myself would visit Becky in the hospital from time to time and we would visit Becky and my mother and our relatives in Upland occasionally. What was amazing during this time was Becky’s spirit soared and anyone that knew her and loved her felt her inner spirit roar. There was something extraordinarily special about my sister and during the final months and weeks before she died Becky touched so many people with her charisma and karma that it made everything seem normal and natural and somehow special, and not so tragic.
Living with my mother allowed Becky so much more freedom to express herself and live her life and her final days the way she wanted than what she would have had to live through living with my father and following his extreme Mormon traditions and rituals. Becky was now free to stay up late on Saturday nights after 10:00pm without getting in trouble. My mother made sure of that. Since Becky got sick and my parents divorced, I noticed my father clutching to the extreme Mormon beliefs that we were somehow required to have and after all that prayer and blind faith, it appeared that none of it was working. I could feel my father being defeated and there didn’t seem like anything could help. I was still clinging to the hope that my mother and Becky would come back home and we would be a happy family again but that was not meant to be.
We were all in a sad, dark place except for Becky and me. Despite all the divorce and cancer and other life affecting issues I never gave up hope that something good was going to happen. And Becky never gave up either. During all of this, Becky never lost her sense of humor and gained an insight into life that made her remarkable and unforgettably memorable. All of a sudden, the idea of my perfect little Mormon family being torn apart and shattered was tragic, but Becky was a guiding light and an inspiration and gave me a sense of hope for whatever was meant to be. There was something special going on that by chance or purpose was meant to be and I felt it in heart and soul. I owe my sister my life with what happened next. She used these unfortunate series of events to leave a legacy that I cannot deny and feel like I am not worthy of to this day. Before my sister died, she made three special wishes. 1) To meet Carol Burnett, 2) meet Jerry Lewis and 3) go to Disneyland. As a family we went to Disneyland at least once a year and we were able to go one last special time with Becky for an unforgettable experience before she died. Jerry Lewis was not available but Carol Burnett went above and beyond the call of duty to bring something special into Becky’s last few weeks of life. My Aunt Marilyn contacted CBS studios to let Carol Burnett know there was a very sick girl that wanted to meet her before she died. Carol Burnett responded by inviting my sister, my mother and my Aunt Helen and Aunt Marilyn to come visit her television show. They all had a wonderful time backstage and watching rehearsals and visiting with Carol Burnett and her cast and guest stars.
About a week later, Becky became very sick and was in the hospital. Her condition had deteriorated to the point where she was bald and blind from the chemotherapy, covered in soars and wounds, and had very little time left to live. My whole family was at the hospital that day and I was able to visit with my sister one last time. She had always been my best friend for my whole life and now as she was moments and minutes away from death somehow she was touching me in the most remarkable way, suspending time. There was so much more going on spiritually that could not be ignored. My sister was up to something…seriously…it would take me many years to figure what was going on but as my life unfolded and time went by, I slowly began to recognize and realize that Becky was beginning something very special that would change and affect my life forever. She had a plan that she was putting into place and it would take many, many years to figure out what it all meant. In my own little fantasy hopeful world I wanted this to have a bigger meaning...because of the intensity of my prayers I knew in my heart that my prayers were slowly being answered. Whatever was going on was a mystery but I had an instinct that something special was happening and I just had to keep praying, because in my heart I knew Becky had a plan or was a part of a greater plan. I was 14 years old at the time and this is how I felt. I was young and naive and vulnerable and…Mormon…and gay.
Those last moments Becky and I had in her hospital room were awkward, difficult, confusing, and forever meaningful and appreciated beyond words. How does a 14-year-old boy say goodbye to his sister and best friend he has known all his life? It was all so sad and yet, at the same time so very special. Becky appeared to have a glow surrounding her, which I may have imagined but it felt real. Physically she was covered in soars and wounds and her eyes were swollen shut. The glow that I was seeing somewhat shielded me from my sisters physical appearance and allowed me enter her soul and spirit in an innocent childlike way and say my final farewell. I felt the forces and presence of angels preparing their work to escort my sister into the next life. At the same time my sister was preparing me for my own mission for the rest of my life and I am so grateful I knew I should feel that way. It is one of those things that can’t be explained by mere words. It is felt in your heart and soul and feed by hope and desperation for something greater and better than we can even imagine.
The last three wishes my sister made were for me, she was leaving me a legacy that would unfold as time went by. She knew I loved Jerry Lewis and Carol Burnett and I really, really loved Disneyland. Without a doubt my sister was fucking with me in a great and yet miraculous way. She set my future life in motion and even though I never understood the depth and truth of life or the secrets of life, I would spend a lifetime trying to figure that out. Go figure. We may have shared some of the same interests but my sister was sending me a message to help calm and soothe my soul through these trying and tormented times and somehow prepare me for my future. Several years later I would make my motion picture debut as an actor in a Jerry Lewis directed movie called, Cracking Up. As fate would have it, I helped fulfill my sister’s third wish.
After I left my sister’s hospital room, I was whisked away to a relative’s house nearby while we waited for my sister to die. I was not going to have it. I was not ready to say goodbye to Becky and no matter what, I felt in my gut I needed to be near her. I insisted to my Uncle Tom that he needed to take me back to the hospital…I needed to be near Becky. As we arrived at the hospital there was a limousine parked at the entrance. I knew that that limousine belonged to Carol Burnett. I just knew in my heart that Carol Burnett was coming to the rescue in the nick of time to comfort my sister. My Uncle Tom and I rushed to the elevator and as soon as we got to my sister’s floor, we were taken to a small room where my Aunt Marilyn was waiting and she was very silent. She didn’t know what to say to me and just then my mother and father walked in and we all hugged as they explained that Becky had just passed away. Then my mother explained to me that as my Uncle and I were coming up the elevator Carol Burnett was going down on another elevator…we had just missed her. Carol Burnett arrived at the hospital putting her television show on hiatus to visit with my sister not knowing the extent of what was about to happen.
Vickie Lawrence was a regular on Carol Burnett’s television show and she was pregnant at the time... So; on that weeks’ episode of The Carol Burnett Show, Carol and Vickie were singing a melody of nursery rhymes and lullabies and Carol brought a tape recorder to Becky’s hospital room with a copy of the medley and pushed play. Carol started to sing along with the songs as my sister slowly passed away literally in Carol Burnett’s arms as she sang lullabies to her.
I was so touched and blessed that my sister’s last minutes of life were so special and magical. What a way to go with so much class and dignity. There was something else going on that day. It was my Grandfather Lance’s birthday. Becky and Grandpa Lance had become very close over the last couple of years because my mother and Becky moved near my Grandparents after the divorce and they spent more time together. As far as I was concerned, this was more than just a mere coincidence. I was confident that my prayers were being heard and answered in unusual ways. With all these coincidences and extraordinary events my juvenile mind exploded with infinite ideas and interpretations that made no sense but felt like a puzzle I was being groomed to assemble and resolve.
I have to admit that during this time I prayed like a motherfucker. I poured my guts out to God. “Please God…why is my sister dying, why is my family falling apart, why is this so upsetting to me and getting me so riled up and hopeful that there could be something good coming out of all this despite how tragic it all is.” I had a very immature and uneducated idea that because of the way my religion felt about homosexuality I was bad and deceived and evil somehow. I knew in my heart that I was a good, nice guy despite what my sexual orientation was. I knew in my heart that God did not hate me because of my sexuality and would not punish my family because of my inner thoughts and feelings….I knew God was greater than that. I just prayed and prayed and prayed my ass off. For some strange reason I had faith up the yang yang...I knew that no matter what life threw at me I could take it. Then this happens. I had been praying for answers, signs, anything to help me understand what was going on, and then suddenly something extra special starts to happen to ignite my hope and imagination. Becky died on my Grandfathers birthday. I knew in my heart that God could hear my prayers and this was something I could have faith in. I was still just a child but for some reason I was enraged and curious and rebellious and unforgiving. I was not going to let this feeling go. At the time and even to today I feel like God had answered my prayers in some small way that maybe only I understand, and this gave me a sense that somehow, someday, I had a responsibility to share my story. But that’s a good thing because I have always sought guidance, comfort and inspiration from the thing or entity that I call God and spirituality. I had faith in God that no matter how ridiculous and cruel life seemed at times that there was an ultimate light at the end of the tunnel. These were signs and I could not ignore them because I asked for them. I prayed for signs every day to help make sense of my life and what was happening to me and my loved ones. I am not the only one out there who has been so disparate or damaged that you ask God for a sign to help make sense of everything. That’s what we do when times are tough. Whether you believe in God or not, hope is universal.
At the same time I knew in my heart that I was a homosexual but could not admit it and felt that I was probably cursed and deceived by Satan based on my Christian/Mormon upbringing. Even though that is what my religion would have me believe, I knew in my heart that God was much more graceful, kind, and caring and did not hate or despise me because of my sexuality. I knew in my heart that God was cool and had a plan that humans could not comprehend or fully understand at this time but had faith that the time would come. At least that is what I hoped for even though the world seemed to be against me or at least my religion made it clear that I was un-special and insignificant. I knew better. For some reason I was chosen to explore the more out there aspects of God and the importance of this Earth life. I was being prepared for something special. I only needed to realize it and appreciate it.
As time went by my mother kept in touch with Carol Burnett and from time to time, members of my family and I were invited to visit Carol Burnett on the set of her television show and watch rehearsals and tapings. I actually requested invitations a couple times myself and every time I would visit her show for a taping I would negotiate my way onto the stage. Carol Burnett opened every show with an audience question and answer segment. Every time I was there, I would raise my hand and tell her that I have a double jointed hip and I heard she had a double jointed hip and like clockwork, she would invite me onto the stage and we would pop our joints out and do the bump together and get a laugh. I probably did that about three or four times but every time my segment was cut from the show so I never got to be on TV. It didn’t matter though because thanks to Becky I was living our dream. Brian was onstage with Carol Burnett…Wow.
I began to write letters to Carol Burnett and we would correspond occasionally. This was very special to me because for some reason Becky had brought Carol into my life and I felt I needed to pursue and continue this interesting and unusual relationship, and Carol Burnett gracefully and graciously obliged. At the time, I was seventeen years old and very impressionable and curious about what life had in store for me.
Then something very interesting happened to me. I went with a couple of friends to the mountains near where we lived in Upland, California. I was living with my mother now. We hiked around a little bit but we just weren’t feeling it so we left to go back home. I was driving my mother’s Volkswagen bug by myself and my friends Monty and Greg were following me from behind in Monty’s car. For some reason I stopped at the top of the incline until I saw them appear in my rear view mirror. I turned my radio off, which I never do, and proceeded to drive down the incline just as it was starting to rain. As I maneuvered around one of the curves down the mountain, I lost control of the car and I skidded and tumbled upside down and over and over until my car finally came to a stop upside down at the edge of a cliff. The car was upside down and completely crushed but I escaped without any life threatening injuries. I was very lucky to be alive. All I did over the next several months was pray and pray and thank God for saving my life. I prayed and prayed and prayed with all the sincerity and innocence of a 17-year-old boy who had nothing but gratefulness and hope that God would actually listen to and answer my prayers. Even though my life had been thrown into disarray I knew in my heart that my sister and God were looking out for me, protecting me, and getting me ready for something wonderful. That may sound naive and grandiose but that is how I felt at the time. I had an inner vision and impulse that something greater than I could not fully comprehend was happening and I needed, for some unknown, mysterious reason, to know what that reason was. I was insistent and persistent in my prayers. Something was going on out there spiritually and I felt there was a reason why I needed to know what that reason was. I never let that hunger fade.
A few months later in April, My Grandfather Lance died on my sister Becky’s birthday. They had gotten so close in the last couple of years of her life that this felt like something extra special and essentially an answer to my prayers. I knew in my heart that this was much more than just a mere coincidence but something significant and a sign. However, what it meant and what kind of sign it was was still a mystery. I can make my own conclusions and theories but ultimately…I didn’t know what the heck was going on but I knew it was something I needed to pay attention to.
Becky died on my Grandfather Lance’s birthday and he died on hers. I had been praying for signs or reasons or answers to what were going on with such intensity and this was more than enough for me. I had no reason to ask for signs anymore because I felt like this was an ultimate and genuine sign. I didn’t know what any of this really meant but it I knew it filled my heart and soul with hope and acknowledgment that my prayers had been answered or at least beginning to be answered. I didn’t know what that ultimate answer was but I knew I had to keep praying and hoping my prayers were being heard. I was so very grateful and thankful for everything I considered to be signs and gifts from god but I was so young, confused and naive that I was overwhelmed.
In my heart I knew there was something greater going on than anything I could comprehend at the time. I needed to let God know through prayer that I was sincere, honest and determined. Prayer had gotten me some pretty outstanding and interesting responses as far as I was concerned so far and that is all that mattered to me. I only prayed for the things in my heart and I knew without any doubt that God would always be there for me whether I realized it or not. Needless to say but I was slowly becoming obsessed with my sister and so many of the things that happened over the last several years. I needed to find answers and reasons for everything and I knew that I just had to keep praying.
I few years went by and I graduated high school early and had a lot of time on my hands. Everyone in my family knew I wanted to be an actor and one day my Grandmother Lance gave me a newspaper article about grants and scholarships for people interested in pursuing theater and the arts. Innocently I wrote a letter to Carol Burnett letting her know I was interested in attending The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, California. I asked if she knew of any grants or scholarships I could apply for and the next thing I knew Carol Burnett gave me a student loan so I could attend the Academy. I had applied for a government student loan as well and before you knew it, I was attending The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
While I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts I met my partner for the next 30 years. I couldn’t help but feel that both Carol Burnett and Becky had something to do with that but fate folds out in unexpected ways sometimes. After the Academy, I began to pursue my career as an actor. It took me awhile to figure out how to get work and where to find it but slowly I started getting some extra work, bit parts and production work on movies, television shows and commercials. I still corresponded with Carol Burnett from time to time to keep her up to date on my progress in the entertainment industry.
One day I was watching television and I turned the channel to the Phil Donahue show. The Phil Donahue show was a popular talk show in the 1980’s and his guests that day were Carol Burnett and actor Charles Grodin. Carol and Charles were not there to promote their latest movie or television project. They spent the next hour talking about how we can all be nicer to each other, how to be more compassionate and understanding. It was very corny and out of the ordinary but I knew what they were talking about, I knew Carol Burnett was on to something and it resonated with me.
Then one day in 1983, I had two movies that I worked on that were being released in theaters on the same day. I decided I was going to have a Brian Morton movie double feature festival and see both of my movies on the same day. The first movie was called, Space Raiders and was produced by Roger Corman. Roger Corman was famous for producing low budget movies with unknown but future famous actors and creating classics with Vincent Price and Jack Nicholson to name a few. I worked as a production assistant, stand in and extra on Space Raiders and it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I was on a movie set almost every day for a month doing various jobs and seeing firsthand how a movie is made.
I lived in Santa Monica and took the bus to west Los Angeles to watch Space Raiders at a movie theater on Pico Blvd. This was the first time I ever saw myself on a movie screen even though it was only for a few seconds. I was so happy and grateful. I kept thinking about my sister and how Carol Burnett helped me get my start and got me to this point. This was a very sentimental day for me.
After Space Raiders I took another bus to Westwood where I went to go see Star 80. Star 80 is the true life story of Dorothy Stratton who was a former playboy model and actress that was brutally murdered by a jealous and mentally unstable ex boyfriend. I had a gay crush on Dorothy Stratton and thought she had the potential to be the next Marilyn Monroe at least. I knew she was murdered by her ex boyfriend but I didn’t know all the gory intimate details.
I worked as an extra on Star 80 and was excited about being able to be part of such an interesting project. My scene was filmed at the L.A. airport and I spent all day standing next to the actors playing Dorothy and her ex boyfriend, Mariel Hemmingway and Eric Roberts. It was a very intense scene and took about 6 hours to film a 60 second scene. The most memorable thing for me that day was that during a break I peed next to the director, Bob Fosse in the bathroom.
This was the second movie in my Brian Morton double feature event. The whole day I couldn’t help but think about my sister and Carol Burnett and how all this lead to this day. I found a seat near the front of the movie theater just as the movie was about to start. It was opening weekend and the theater was packed. There were only two empty seats left in the theater and they were right in front of me. Then all of a sudden Carol Burnett and her date sat down in the seats right in front of me. Reality check and stop the clock. What just happened? As Carol is getting situated in her chair, I tap her on the shoulder and said, “Hi Carol, my name is Brian Morton.” She immediately turns around and gives me a huge hug and says how glad she is to see me and then turns to her date and says, “This is Brian Morton.” He greets me like he knows who I am and I am already overwhelmed by everything that has happened in like the last 30 seconds of my life. Just then the opening credits of the movie start and we have to go back to our seats and watch the movie, so quickly I explain to her that I am an extra in this movie. She congratulated me and then the movie began.
Needless to say, I was immediately transported to the Twilight Zone. I had been thinking about Carol Burnett all day long and then this happens. I tried to concentrate and enjoy the movie as much as I could, peering over Carol Burnett’s head. I realized early on that I was only somewhat familiar with the life story of Dorothy Stratton and as the movie progresses it becomes very dark, sadistic and brutal. Dorothy Stratton’s ex boyfriend tortures and brutally murders her. Bob Fosse is a brilliant director and the brutality and graphic violence that was needed for this film hit me very hard because he captured it in a very cinematic and brutally honest way.
For the next two hours I sat behind Carol Burnett in a movie theater on my double feature Brian Morton day. I was confused and dumbfounded. There were so many things I wanted to talk to Carol about after the movie was over but for some strange reason I freaked out and fucked up big time. The very end of the movie was very brutal and violent. I can’t explain why but just as the credits at the end of the movie started I bolted out of the movie theater. I had such a once in a lifetime opportunity to socialize and touch base with Carol Burnett after the movie and I blew it. I have not seen or talked to Carol Burnett since. Over the years, life happened. But no matter how much I try and underplay the influence Carol Burnett has had in my life I cannot deny that she has been a divine inspiration for me and provided me with unexplained drive and determination. As life and fate and karma would have it I hear about or see Carol Burnett on almost a daily basis with infomercials and reruns of her TV show and guest appearances on television from time to time. A constant reminder of why I grew to luv her in the first place...she makes me laugh.
Carol Burnett’s mentor and close friend was Lucille Ball. Every year Lucy would send Carol a dozen roses on her birthday. Lucille Ball eventually died on Carol Burnett’s birthday and later that day Carol actually received a dozen roses. Somewhat dramatic to say the least in a spiritual metaphysical concept of thinking. My brother Mike was born on my Grandmother Morton’s birthday. Becky died on my grandfather Lance’s birthday. My grandfather Lance died on Becky’s birthday. I call this the Birthday club. Kindred spirits bonding and collaborating in unorthodox and paranormal and spiritual and even unexplained ways.
Over the years Carol Burnett and I have stopped corresponding with each other. I would still send her letters from time to time to keep her updated on me and my family but eventually there were no more replies. I will forever consider Carol Burnett an angel that came into my family’s life when it was unexpected and overwhelmingly and genuinely appreciated. There can be no denying that something wonderful happened and started with the union of my sister Becky and Carol Burnett. I feel very lucky to be a part of that.
My mother and my aunt Helen went to lunch with Carol Burnett once and Carol said that she felt an unusual connection with my sister Becky and because it affected her so much she discussed this situation with a psychic who told her that my sister and her were mother and daughter in a previous life. This was the story I was told and when my mother told me I was inconsolable. I don’t know what to believe about previous lives or the spirit world or heaven or hell but I never give up hope that someday we will know the truth about humanity and our past and our future, and the universe and the meaning of life. When my mother told me what Carol Burnett had told her I had to leave the room and cry. I knew in my heart that Carol Burnett had been brought into the picture for some reason but it was all so obscure and nonsensical. But I knew in my heart that everything was going to be alright. There had to be a reason for everything even if I didn't understand it at the time.
In 1992 I was working at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida at an attraction called, Superstar Television. This was a few years after I moved from Hollywood. What was cool about working at Superstar Television was that I worked as a production assistant on an attraction that featured scenes from famous television shows like Johnny Carson, Cheers and The Golden Girls. We used Green screen technology to put audience members into the actual scene from that television show. I felt right at home. One of our scenes at Superstar Television was from I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethyl are working at a candy factory and have a major mishap with the candy making machine. They are trying to wrap chocolate candy on a conveyor belt as it goes faster and faster. This is where the comedy ensues. In our show we used green screen technology to erase Ethyl and replace her with an audience member. I would take the audience member behind scenes before the show and show them how to be Ethyl and stuff candy into their shirts and mouth as the candy machine got faster and faster.
I liked my job at Superstar Television a lot. Even though I wasn’t working in Hollywood anymore I was still entertaining and performing and learning my craft. Then an opportunity to audition for The Muppet Show at Walt Disney World as Fozzie Bear came up and I got the part. Before rehearsals started I went on vacation to California to visit my family for about a week. When I returned to work I noticed a few things that weren’t there before I left. There was a statue of Carol Burnett in front of the Superstar Television Theater attraction where I worked and an autographed cement hand print with the message,” LUV, Carol”…I always spell love, luv as well. I found out that while I was on vacation there was a big Carol Burnett event and while she was there, Carol Burnett performed as Ethyl in the I Love Lucy candy sketch. Our timing was so way off but the spirit and the vibe was in sync. Cosmic or Karma or serendipity or coincidence or circumstance…life happens. We weren’t meant to be at that certain time together but the meaning was not lost on me. Sometimes something extra special happens that is truly hard to put into words. You don’t have to be a celebrity or anyone extraordinary to see signs and gifts from God or whoever or whatever entity you give credit for life and existence. God hears everyone's prayers...no matter what. You just have to have hope and an ounce of joy for life in your heart to embrace the beauty and significance of life. Every single human being has the power to pray or meditate or contemplate to whatever essence you give credit to life for. Everyone is free to ask for signs or answers or whatever your heart desires. It may seem like I have just imagined or exaggerated my story to some people, but this is my story and this is what happened to me and I hope that is an acceptable and honorable explanation of what my experience was. It is very important to me to be genuine and as honest as possible no matter what anyone else thinks.
I don’t consider myself to be special in any way other than I think we are all special in our own way. I simply asked God for help and I believe God did just that in his own special way so that I might understand that he heard my prayers and pleas. I honestly believe every single human being has the same opportunities and possibilities I have had through prayer and meditation. Over the years many more interesting and unusual things have happened to me that has kept me driven and in constant pursuit of answers and reasons for any number of things.
The most noteworthy of these things is that I think I discovered the secret to ancient monuments like Stonehenge and the more recent crop circle phenomenon. Of course I shared these ideas and theories with Carol Burnett over the years and that may be why she has not responded to my correspondence. Understandable, but my connections to Carol Burnett continued. Another Carol Burnett encounter happened when I was working at a mall in Santa Monica, ca...during a break I was walking down the walkway past a book store when I saw academy award winning actress Glenda Jackson. I love Glenda Jackson, one of my favorite movies of all time is called, “A Touch of Class”, which Glenda Jackson won her second Best Actress Oscar for. I walked up next to Ms. Jackson as she was looking at a book and said, "Hello Ms. Jackson...my name is Brian and we have a mutual friend." She drew her eyeglasses down and said in that fantastic theatrical voice of hers, "and who would that be?" When I said Carol Burnett she let down all her defenses to tell me what a wonderful lady she was. They had worked together on a Robert Altman movie called, Health, a few years earlier. What a wonderful serendipitous encounter this was.
I was aware that Carol Burnett had written several books and from time to time and I would go to the library and scroll through them once in awhile. One of her more recent books was called, This Time Together. This is a collection of precious memories from her television show and other antidotes and stories of special moments of her life. For some reason this was the first book written by Carol Burnett that I actually checked out of the library and eventually bought. During one of my lunch breaks at work I began to read this book.
When I opened the book up I saw that it was dedicated to Brian. In the break room at work I began to cry. I knew that Carol’s husband’s name is Brian but this was not dedicated to her husband specifically. Immediately I knew I was going to be in for a good inspirational read. I read chapter to chapter until I came to the chapter titled, A Girl Named Kathy. After a few sentences I realized this was about my sister Becky. I had no idea that Carol had written such a beautiful and touching memoir of her relationship with my sister and I was totally taken by surprise. Carol had changed the name of my sister, Becky to Kathy. My mother’s name was changed from Frances, to Paula. I doubt that Carol knew that my mother’s best lifelong friend was named Kathy and one of my sister’s best friends was named, Paula. Apparently, Carol Burnett didn’t know how to contact my family and let us know about this special story in advance but what a pleasant surprise. I came about it by accident and thought it was the loveliest thing I have ever read. I have my own story I wrote about my sister and Carol Burnett that I wrote over 20 years ago but never pursued to get published. I always thought it was a very personal and special story but for many strange and unknown reasons I was reluctant to share even though I had written it down. One major reason was that I did not want to exploit my family’s special relationship with Carol Burnett. Once I saw that Carol took it upon herself to share this unique story in one of her books, I took it as an honor and I am so grateful that this story has been told and now my story can be told and shared as well. For some reason I needed permission…to exploit or just plain share. In some cosmic, spiritual way this was Carol’s way of giving me permission to share my story.
Of course I tried every way I knew to try to get in touch with Carol Burnett to update her on everything and just to touch base with her and thank her for the story about my sister. None of my old contacts were still valid so I tried other ways to contact her via Internet searches. Nothing. Time went by and then one day my Aunt Marilyn died. She was the one that contacted Carol Burnett in the very beginning about my sister Becky.
Before my Aunt Marilyn's funeral I wanted to think about what I would say. There was a younger generation of her grandchildren that may not have been aware of the story about Becky and Carol and I thought maybe they would appreciate hearing about it. I decided to go to my local gay bar and have a couple beers and think about what I wanted to say. I walked in the bar and one of the bartenders named Deanna, was off duty and just hanging out with friends at the bar. She greeted me and then bought me a beer. People don’t usually buy me beers so I was very grateful and surprised. This is a video bar and it seemed like for the next hour or so I was there, every video they played was my favorite of all time. My point is that I felt inspired and motivated about how I would eulogize my Aunt. Deanna set a mood and I slipped right into it.
Every time I would see Deanna at the bar after that I wanted to thank her for buying my beer because it was an overall experience that night that inspired me about how I would share my story with family members at the funeral. She helped facilitate my actions and I was grateful grateful for that because sometimes I need all the help I can get. Deanna was usually busy but one night I found a slow moment to share my experience with her and told her a short version of my Carol Burnett story. She had to get back to work and as I grabbed my beer and started to walk away she said, “You can’t leave till I tell you about my Carol Burnett story.” Deanna told me about how every Saturday night her family would gather around the television and watch the Carol Burnett show. It was a special night that everyone looked forward to and she thought brought the family closer together. Then Deanna found out that her parents were getting divorced and that this would be the last season of the Carol Burnett show. Deanna and her brothers and sisters wrote Carol Burnett letters to ask her to keep her show on for at least another year so her family could stay together. Such an innocent and bittersweet request sent by children that saw something special in Carol Burnett that maybe she could create magic and make everything perfect again. I know the feeling so well. Deanna and I were immediately kindred souls. Vicariously she was able to get that Carol Burnett experience through me and my story and give her story some street creed. Even though Deanna and her brother’s and sister’s never received a response from Carol Burnett I feel like I was able to give her a sense of closure because of my story. Carol Burnett is that great and universal and will forever be known as the queen of comedy and laughter but also now known as a giving and special human being.
I believe my own story of my sister and Carol is as touching and inspirational and compelling as Carol Burnett’s version and can’t wait to share it with the world. What an awesome, talented and inspirational person Carol Burnett is to have touched so many people in so many ways. Perhaps with my story I can add a human side that has not been known about Carol Burnett that will only enhance what we already know.
Just when I think there can be no more Carol Burnett coincidences I am watching television and come upon a Lucy Show rerun with Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett appearing in a talent show. Carol Burnett comes on stage in a swimsuit and a sash that says, Norton, Horton, Gorton.” Me being me I was like damn...so close...why didn't the sash say Morton. Just then she turns around and the back of the sash says, “...and Morton.” This is actually one of my Carol Burnett antidotes where I have actual video proof of my story.
From time to time, I would try to contact Carol Burnett without any luck. Then one day recently Deanna told me that Carol Burnett was going to be performing at our local community theater in Sacramento. My mother and I had attended several Carol Burnett engagements over the years and after the show we would be invited to go backstage and visit with Carol. This Carol Burnett tour was a showcase of her career highlights and included questions from the audience.
I envisioned I would raise my hand and say, “Hello Carol, my name is Brian Morton” and everything would be wonderful. I would go onstage and do the bump with her and have a special moment, just like old times. In reality it was a very large theater with thousands of people and I was in the nosebleed section in the back of the theater. Immediately I saw that the microphone was being passed to people that were close to the stage and near the ends of aisles. This was not going according to plan so as soon as I saw what was going on I got out of my seat and found an attendant with headphones and let them know that I knew Carol and I wanted, needed to at least say hello. Before I knew it Carol was closing the show and taking no more questions. I was crushed. It didn't occur to me till later that I should have just shouted out at the top of my lungs, "Hey Carol...it's Brian Morton." But that didn't seem appropriate with the mood of the evening.
I rushed out of the theater and went towards the artist entrance/exit to see if I could get backstage but when I got there it was already packed with hundreds of people that wanted to meet her or get an autograph or something. Then security came out to say we needed to clear the area because Carol Burnett had already left the building.
I was disappointed but felt like this wasn’t the right time or forum to contact Carol even though I had my hopes up. What was I going to say, “Hi Carol, my name is Brian Morton…do you remember me and how my sister died in your arms?” What we experienced was so much more personal and special I honestly don't know what the most appropriate and dignified way to approach it is. Still, I wish I had a gut reaction that told me I should just shout out as loud as I could..”Hey Carol…I am Brian Morton.” But I knew this was not a cool thing to do per this forum. Our time will come.
That is when I decided to write this story about my experiences with Carol Burnett and how I have a special place in my heart for her for being an angel that came into my family’s life when it meant so much. I write about my Carol Burnett experiences in my book, A Wing, A Prayer and A Promise but my book is written chronologically and I have not supplied the final chapters of my book yet so I decided to compile my Carol Burnett story in one chapter now, in order to share my story…during times when a goodhearted and sentimental story like this needs to be shared. I hope that through this story I will be able to reach out to Carol Burnett in a more personal and private way but still be able to share this interesting story with the world. I know without a doubt that I am not the only eternal Carol Burnett fan out there and perhaps I can give them street creed as well, knowing that there really was something extra special about Carol Burnett all along…it wasn’t just your hopeful imagination…beyond the gift of laughter and sorrow and hope. I'm pretty sure that Carol Burnett is not aware of my complete story especially since this is the first time I have actually put it all out there. I hope that ultimately I am able to share this with her and her fans. I would like to think my story highlights some insight into the persona/celebrity we know as Carol Burnett and give extra credit to such a wonderful talent that made the world laugh and forget about their troubles at least for an hour once a week. I hope you have enjoyed my story and if you want to know more check out my website at http://www.cropcircleguy.net