When people think about the Ed Sullivan Show they associate great entertainment, New York City and, of course, Broadway! Although New York and the Sullivan show are the home base we all know, the show over its 23 years traveled the world. From European locations to casinos to islands, Ed wanted everyone to have an opportunity to enjoy the magic of the performances in person at notable venues. Today we’re going to recount some of the most iconic locations from where The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast.
1. The Ed Sullivan Theater (NYC, New York)
We can’t start this list off without mentioning The Ed Sullivan Show’s stomping grounds, The Ed Sullivan Theater. In 1950, CBS converted the theater into a television studio named CBS-TV Studio 50. Ed Sullivan, who had been hosting his variety show Toast of the Town out of CBS’s Maxine Elliott Theater, moved into Studio 50 in 1953. The studio went on to become the home of The Ed Sullivan Show for the rest of the variety show’s 23-year run. On December 10, 1967, to mark The Ed Sullivan Show’s 20th anniversary, the studio was named The Ed Sullivan Theater in honor of the great host. Like its namesake, The Ed Sullivan Theater has withstood the test of time and was the home to David Letterman for many years and currently Stephen Colbert’s CBS Late Night program.
2. Las Vegas Casinos (Las Vegas, Nevada)
As we all know The Ed Sullivan Show was one of the most-watched variety shows of all time. To spice things up, the show traveled to the entertainment capital of the world and America’s playground, Las Vegas. Bringing the show to Las Vegas not only added a fun location for the broadcast, but it also allowed people visiting from around the globe to attend the show in person. The first time the show was in Las Vegas was in 1958 at the Desert Inn Hotel which is where the Wynn Hotel currently stands. The show made its way back to Las Vegas several times, landing at different venues including the Stardust, Caesars Palace, and Circus Circus. During the 1969 broadcast from Circus Circus, the broadcast took place from the middle of the casino floor with the audience sitting between the poker tables in order to get a view of the smaller stage. The casualness of the set was a huge success! Some of the talent that performed during these Las Vegas shows were The Chambers Brothers, Liza Minnelli, Allen & Rossi, Jack Carter, and Carol Burnett.
3. Hollywood Bowl (Hollywood, CA)
The world-famous Hollywood Bowl was among the final venues the Sullivan Show visited. The City of Stars, Hollywood was where on November 20, 1970 at this historic amphitheater each of the 17,500 seats were filled! Given that the show was coming from the Hollywood Bowl it made for a classy evening with guests wearing elegant evening dresses and tuxedos including the man of the hour Mr.Sullivan looking as sharp as ever. The lineup featured a salute to Broadway along with various duets and dance numbers. This stage held a very special place among the many who appeared on Sullivan as a venue to aspire to after their nationwide show exposure that translated into box office draws. Some of the performers from that iconic night included Cass Elliot from The Mamas & The Papas, Johnny Mathis, The Lennon Sisters, Richard Rodgers, & Shirley Jones.
4. Madison Square Garden (NYC, New York)
Just over a mile down Broadway from The Ed Sullivan Theater is New York’s famed, Madison Square Garden. The Ed Sullivan Show took center court at the Garden five times. However, they didn’t use the Madison Square Garden we all know today. The shows were hosted at MSG III, which was the third version of the arena before being demolished and rebuilt into the Garden it is today. This was a big deal because the Sullivan theater could only hold approximately 728 audience members. Filling the Garden that held thousands highlighted the popularity of Ed Sullivan and his show. Performers at Madison Square Garden included Paul Anka, Teresa Brewer, Wayne Newton, Will Jordan and many more.
5. Circus Krone (Munich, Germany)
On December 25, 1966, The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast its Christmas program from the Krone Circus in Munich, Germany. This was definitely one for the books, from the venue, to the acts, and the enthusiastic German crowd! Sullivan kicked off the show off by stating that the evening’s performances were composed of acts from 14 celebrated world circuses. The show featured acrobats, cycling bears, trained horses, jumping cheetahs and an array of performing elephants. This was not your average Sullivan show and one that the audience would never forget. Viewers, circus aficionados, and television reviewers at the time considered this single episode of the Sullivan Show to be one of the greatest worldwide collections of circus performances they had ever seen!
6. Dublin, Ireland
On March 15, 1959, The Ed Sullivan Show decided to celebrate St.Patrick’s Day in no better place than Ireland! Sullivan introduced the special episode by sharing the story behind his eagerness to bring the show to Ireland relating details about his grandfather and the family’s Irish roots. Later in the show, Ed visits the famous Gaiety Theatre to enjoy local comedian Maureen Potter’s solo comedic performance. Ed then takes a city tour where he meets with Dublin’s Mayor Robert Briscoe in front of the historic Charles Parnell statue where they discuss the historic importance of Ireland on the world’s stage. Sullivan ends his tour at the government house with political leader Éamon de Valera. Both men exchanged their respects and Sullivan thanked him for the warm Irish hospitality shown to him and the staff. Ed’s ancestors would certainly be proud!
7. Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
On December 23, 1962, The Ed Sullivan Show made its way to the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba for its 15th annual Christmas show. The show was a stark departure from the standard holiday fare as the majority of the audience were Navy officers and personnel who, only two months earlier, in October 1962, stood ready for action during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The set consisted of a confined stage with limited production possibilities surrounded by ships and planes – a poignant background for the time. Naval personnel cheered for the performers and laughed even louder for the comedians. Officers filled the audience seats while others watched from a distance seated on top of tanks. Performers who accompanied Ed to Cuba were Louis Armstrong, Connie Francis, Frank Fontaine, and Jack Carter.
8. Festival of Two Worlds (Spoleto, Italy)
On July 19, 1959, The Ed Sullivan Show traveled to Spoleto, Italy to broadcast the show from the famed The Festival of Two Worlds. This is an annual music and opera festival held every summer in the magical town of Spoleto. The episode had a variety of scheduled performances including Louis Armstrong, Ornella Vanoni, the Walton Puppets, and several Italian dancers and singers. Within the show, Sullivan toured the streets of Spoleto stopping at the Spoleto Opera House, a street puppet show, historic Italian ruins, and the Spoleto Cathedral. At the last moment Louis Armstrong, who was booked to perform, fell ill and was transported to the hospital. The show needed a replacement, and famed opera star Eileen Farrell came to the rescue. Ms. Farrell traveled to Italy and performed with Louis Armstrong’s band on the streets of Spoleto singing the blues rather than in her signature operatic style. The show went on to garner rave reviews and delight the Italians and the viewers back home!
9. Metropolitan Opera House (NYC, New York)
The Metropolitan Opera House in New York is home to the most talented and creative singers, musicians, conductors, composers and dance professionals from all over the globe. So it was only right that The Ed Sullivan Show made its way there to showcase its amazing talent. Ed Sullivan prided himself in bringing to his viewers talent and venues that many could only dream of visiting and certainly a performance at The Met was tops on his list. And of course, what’s an opera house without the world’s greatest tenors & sopranos? Among the many gifted artists that performed in the famed Opera house and on the Sullivan Show included Maria Callas, Franco Corelli, Lily Pons, Robert Merrill, Richard Tucker, Risë Stevens, Joan Sutherland, and Jan Peerce.
10. Expo 67 (1967 International and Universal Exposition Montreal, Canada)
On May 21, 1967, The Ed Sullivan Show made its way to Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada. Expo 67 is historically referred to as the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century with 62 nations participating. First stop for the Sullivan Show was the famed Expo Theater catching performances with The Seekers, Petula Clark, and Birgit Nilsson. Ed Sullivan then boarded the Expo tram and gave viewers a tour of the one of a kind Expo 67. The fair was composed of pavilions from more than 30 countries, along with themed and sponsored exhibitions. During Sullivan’s ride he highlighted many attractions including the U.S. exhibit, and the Russian, Israeli, and Czechoslovakian Pavilions. The Ed Sullivan Show was the only program that broadcast from Expo 67 while still open to the public. After Sullivan’s tram tour the show ended with performances from Alan King, choreographer Peter Gennaro, and Canadian pianist Ronald Turini.
The Ed Sullivan Show traveled to many other locations during its 23-year run and used the show’s immense popularity to encourage individuals from all walks of life to appreciate and respect our cultural differences.