Life Achievement recipient, Carol Burnett, was the life of the SAG Awards last night. The only actor to receive a standing ovation in the press room, the 82-year-old actress and comedienne charmed the Scarlett O’Hara curtains off of everyone hanging on to her every word and story.
Whether it was her thoughts on female comediennes (“We used to be pigeon holed, but there are more and more women comedians who are being accepted.”) or today’s version of comedy (not everything has to be edgy—belly laughs are just as funny), it was her story about her old friend Lucille Ball that melted everyone’s hearts.
Burnett remembered the first time they met backstage at Burnett’s Off-Broadway show, Once Upon a Mattress, when she peeked out of the curtains and noticed “this orange-red hair in the second row.” It was Lucille Ball, of course, and Ball ended up coming back to Burnett’s dressing room after the show and chatting for 25 minutes. “She called me ‘kid’ because she was 22 years older than I,” recalled Burnett. “Just as she was leaving, she said, ‘Kid, if you ever need me for anything, give me a call.'”
Well, it turns out, a few years later, Burnett was asked by CBS to do a comedy/sketch special—if she could get a major guest star. The obvious choice was Ball, but Burnett told producers she was too nervous to ask the legendary comedic actress. “They said, ‘All she can say is no. Just call and ask.’ So I did, and I got her on the phone. She said, ‘Hey kid, you’re doing great, what’s happening?’ And I said, ‘I know you’re really busy, I don’t want to bother you,’ and she said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘I’m going to be doing this special for CBS and…’ She wouldn’t even let me finish the sentence and said, ‘When do you want me?’ And so she was my guest. We became very close friends.”
Burnett also used her time in the press room to reminisce about the baby shower that Ball threw for her decades ago. “It was a black-tie baby shower! With men attending,” laughed Burnett. “It was one of the funniest evenings ever. And her husband then was comedian Gary Morton, and he opened all the baby gifts and did routines on everything. It was just hysterical.”
Burnett then became emotional as she paused to recall a heart-warming tradition between her and Ball. “She would always send me flowers on my birthday,” Burnett revealed. “[Years later], she died on my birthday, April 26. That afternoon I got flowers from her. It said, ‘Happy Birthday, kid.'”
Pretty incredible, right? To see the full video, click below:
For more from last night’s SAG Awards, including the best moments from the show, click here.
Photos: Getty Images; Video: Jessica Radloff