Carol Burnett Show’s Tim Conway Dies At Age Of 85

Tim Conway, one of the stars of The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s, passed away at the age of 85 in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Tim Conway (left) with the cast of
The Carol Burnett Show in 1977

Tim Conway, one of the stars of The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s, passed away at the age of 85 in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

The longtime funnyman had recently suffered complications from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH).

From PEOPLE:

Conway is survived by his wife of 35 years, his stepdaughter, his six biological children and two granddaughters. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family would like donations to be made to The Lou Ruvo Brain Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The beloved actor is best known for his work on The Carol Burnett Show, winning viewers over with characters like the Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball, whose accent he has said was inspired by his Romanian mother. He was known to ad-lib his sketches — even surprising his scene partners — and won a Golden Globe Award for the series in 1976, along with Emmys in 1973, 1977 and 1978.

He appeared as a guest star on The Carol Burnett Show for eight seasons before becoming a regular in 1975.

“They used to do 33 shows a year on Burnett,” he told the L.A. Times. “She said why don’t you just be a regular on the show? I said I will tell you what. I will do 32 shows and leave one week open at the end, so I can guest on somebody’s show. I always guested on her show, but I did have the right to go somewhere else. My job on every show was to break everybody up.”

God, he was funny…

That Time When The Mary Tyler Moore Show Went Gay

    The year was 1973. Homosexuality was considered a mental illness, you could be arrested for being gay in most of the country, no openly gay or lesbian person had ever been elected to public office. And Mary Tyler Moore, America’s sweetheart, put a gay man in front of viewers for an entire episode without anyone noticing until the last minute -- and then acted like it was no big deal. When it was, in fact, a very, very, very big deal.
Cloris Leachman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Journalist, historian and all-around smart-gay Matt Baume devotes this installment of his popular Culture Cruise web series on an episode of the iconic1970s sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The year was 1973. Homosexuality was considered a mental illness, you could be arrested for being gay in most of the country, no openly gay or lesbian person had ever been elected to public office. And Mary Tyler Moore, America’s sweetheart, put a gay man in front of viewers for an entire episode without anyone noticing until the last minute — and then acted like it was no big deal. When it was, in fact, a very, very, very big deal.

The episode, titled “My Brother’s Keeper,” aired on January 13, 1973. In the episode, “Phyllis” (played by Cloris Leachman) set out to set up “Mary” (Mary Tyler Moore) with her brother, “Ben.”

It turns out there’s no chemistry there, but Mary’s best friend “Rhoda” (Valerie Harper) ends up finding a connection with Ben. The problem is – Phyllis hates Rhoda, and can’t stand the idea of her brother with Rhoda.

Of course, in the end, Ben it’s revealed that Ben is gay.

What’s important here, though, is how the writers of TMTMS handled the moment. As you may remember, television (or most of America, for that fact) was not welcoming or warm-hearted when it came to ‘the gays.’

As Baume points out, if a gay person was on TV, they were usually portrayed as murderers or perverts. Note the infamous “The Homosexuals” documentary that aired in 1967 that declared “the average homosexual, if there is one, is promiscuous.”

What Baume does so well here is put what could be viewed as just another ‘gay punchline’ into perspective and gives us context on the whys and hows this was actually an important moment.

At the time the episode aired, Minneapolis (where TMTMS took place) outlawed homosexuality even though that same year saw the debut of Minneapolis first Pride event. And 1973 was the year homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses.

I won’t spoil it for you, so watch the video.

Follow Matt Baume’s Culture Cruise on YouTube here, where he regularly takes a deep dive on LGBTQ themes in TV, movies, books, games and more.

Daily Dance: Melissa Gilbert “If They Could See Me Now”

"Little House on the Prairie" star Melissa Gilbert struts her way through the Broadway classic "If They Could See Me Now"

I’m not laughing at child star Melissa Gilbert but laughing with her as I enjoy this clip from 1978 where the Little House on the Prairie star kick-ball-changes her way through the Sweet Charity hit “If They Could See Me Now.”

I just love 1970s variety show dancing. It takes me back.

At this very moment in time, I was learning to dance myself with most of the vocabulary you see here.

According to the YouTube page, Melissa Gilbert herself has seen the video and her response was: “OMG! Adolescence at its worst!”

Ah, good times 🙂

#TBT – “The Rookies”

I hadn’t seen the opening of The Rookies probably since the show aired from 1972-1976.

Looking at it now, three things immediately jump out at me that I’d never noticed:

• Check that famous Police Academy shot – same one used in the original opener for Charlie’s Angels

• Speaking of Charlie’s Angels, Rookies cast member Kate Jackson went on to big-time stardom with that mega-hit from the 1970s

• And one more Kate Jackson connection – Rookies cast member Michael Ontkean starred as Jackson’s husband in the 1982 “coming out” pic Making Love.

That flick was probably the first mainstream portrayal of gay life I’d ever seen. I can remember like it was yesterday sitting in a movie theater with my freshman college roommate, Matthew. Neither of us had come out yet, and the silence driving home that night was ripe.

Ah, 1970s TV. See what you do to me.